Gifted Education and Gifted Students: Author Q&A
Gifted Education and Gifted Students: Author Q&A
PUBLISHED: Thursday, April 09, 2020 by Andilynn Feddeler

Although most teacher education programs offer classes on special education and English language learners, teachers often do not receive any training in the needs of high-ability students or gifted education practices. Gifted Education and Gifted Students: A Guide for Inservice and Preservice Teachers prepares inservice and preservice teachers to educate high-ability students, addresses learning targets through a combination of research and practical strategies, and is perfect for both individual and collaborative learning. Learn more about the book and teaching gifted learners in this interview with the authors, Kelly C. Margot, Ph.D., and Jacque Melin.

Q: What does it mean to intentionally teach gifted learners?

A: These children are qualitatively different from other learners in your classroom. They need the same attention you would give students in special education—they are just the other side of the bell curve. Often, gifted students learn more quickly and with greater depth than their same-age peers and as a result, need an instructional pace that moves quickly through the prescribed curriculum to more complex, abstract, and open-ended content, processes, and products. Gifted students have unique learning needs that require our attention. They have the right to learn something new every day and to grow academically, socially, and emotionally.

Q: What can educators do to better meet the needs of gifted learners?

A: As educators, we need to value, appreciate, and support the skills and talents of gifted students and pay attention to their individual struggles and challenges. All teachers should become familiar with definitions, theories, and various identification instruments used to serve gifted students. We should know how to plan and implement researched-based practices and strategies to differentiate instruction for gifted learners and to accelerate their learning when appropriate. 

Q: What would the ideal classroom environment look like for these learners?

A: An ideal classroom environment for gifted learners would be safe, flexible, encouraging, challenging, and stimulating to where each student could use and develop their unique talents and skills. The classroom would be student-centered, highly participatory, project-based, community-focused, and would encourage problem solving, decision making, critical and creative expression, as well as promote academic rigor. Teachers would implement differentiated and accelerated instruction matched to students’ learning profiles and learning rates.

Q: How do you envision inservice and/or preservice teachers using your book?

A: We would love to see small groups of inservice and/or preservice teachers read and discuss each chapter of this book together. When teachers read and work together, they can share knowledge and skills to look at aspects of current systems that are working and/or are not working for gifted students. We have developed questions to ponder and opportunities for practice within each chapter to assist and enhance discussions. These discussions will help you to think critically about the content found in the book and to develop new ideas and strategies that will engage and motivate your gifted learners.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from your work?

A: As a former district gifted/talented coordinator for many years, I remember being challenged by teachers and other administrators in my district about various topics regarding gifted students. Each time we would introduce or use a new program or strategy that would better meet the needs of our gifted learners, controversy seemed to be inevitable—some teachers did not support the identification process for selecting our gifted learners and were concerned about equity and the appearance of elitism; elementary teachers and principals were initially afraid to use cluster grouping for fear of parent backlash about how their child was identified for placement in a particular classroom; there was little support for some highly gifted students whose parents approached us about grade skipping; many teachers did not understand research-based best practices like grouping and acceleration for gifted students. We hope this book will help educators better understand solutions to issues such as these and empower advocates of gifted learners.

There are more than 3 million academically gifted students in the United States, and there are no federally mandated and very few state requirements to serve gifted students. These students come from all racial, ethnic, and cultural populations, as well as all economic strata (NAGC, 2018). It often becomes the responsibility of classroom teachers to both identify and provide for these students. So, it is important for all educators to familiarize themselves with the research, theories, strategies, pedagogy, and practices available to enhance learning for gifted students.

Kelly C. Margot is an assistant professor at Grand Valley State University. She received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of North Texas. Jacque Melin is a former gifted/talented coordinator and principal in Rockford Public Schools and an affiliate professor at Grand Valley State University.