Meeting the needs of many unique learners in a classroom is a never ending challenge for teachers everywhere. Individual students learn best in different ways and master new concepts and skills at varying rates. Teachers want to make it possible for struggling students to succeed, however they want to challenge gifted students as well. Is it possible to do both; if so, how?
Gifted students love to be challenged; they want to explore topics that interest them in-depth and make discoveries. Although not everything involved in compulsory education is going to interest them, they generally are high achievers and oftentimes go above and beyond the expectations set for them in an educational setting. If teachers keep this in mind, accommodating the gifted learners in their classrooms is not as difficult as it may initially sound.
A recent trend in and fairly recent approach to education is differentiated instruction. Differentiated instruction is designed to accommodate a large group of students with a variety of learning styles and interests and provide them with the best possible opportunity and situation for learning. Teachers create objectives and design lessons that involve students meeting these objectives in a variety of ways, anywhere from writing papers to putting together brochures or presentations to creating and performing skits, to taking online tours of museums and historical sites. In many cases, learning is group or center-oriented. Although structured, these types of learning welcome collaboration and creativity as they allow students many possibilities and put few if any limits on where their learning can take them unlike more traditional ways of teaching such as lectures and worksheets.
Meeting the needs of gifted students along with all other students in a classroom is best attained by introducing topics and subjects of study in such ways where students can choose learning activities and projects of varying levels of difficulty and challenge. It is likely that gifted students will choose the more challenging projects and activities. This way no students are singled out and all students are given opportunities to meet learning objectives that compliment their preferred learning styles. It is also a great idea for teachers to meet with students in small groups of students who either prefer the same learning style or who are close to the same ability level to assess and encourage them frequently.
Gifted students and every other student in a classroom is important and it is essential that a teacher does everything he or she can to meet all of their individual learning needs. This is best achieved by offering many different choices in learning and not putting constraints on students that stifle them. Students with higher abilities need to be allowed to soar and explore with guidance as long as their learning is productive and they direct their talents and abilities in positive directions.