Any school that wants to refine individualized opportunities for gifted students will need to record what it is teaching as a part of improving the curriculum. So, how is all of this planned, coordinated, and communicated to students and families? One answer is thru a focus on curriculum development and developing parallel content, skills, and assessments for gifted students as a form of differentiated education.
Scope and Sequence Benchmarks and Curriculum Development
In general, to develop a better understanding of what schools teach and why they teach it, they begin with a study of each department, recording what content is taught, what skills are taught, when it is taught, and how it is assessed. Once this is complete, GATE teachers can supplement the content, skills, and assessments used for gifted students while staying within the school’s scope and sequence!
There are several key concepts in this kind of mapping in preparation for modifying a curriculum. Here is an example of a plan for collecting this data that could be used in any school serious about improving the curriculum for all students in general and refining individualized opportunities for gifted students in particular.
Real-time calendar data collection. Each teacher in all grades will record the “macro,” or big picture, content topics taught, skills that have been mastered, and the assessments that have been used during each month of the school year.
The school should develop a common recording tool, hopefully one that is technology-based, for recording this kind of information:
- Course Goals which are based on Department and School Goals
- Fundamental Skills and Departmental Best Practice Standards (National, International, Collegiate, etc.)
- Interdisciplinary Opportunities
- Major Texts and Books Required
- Major Topics Covered
Content (which indicates what the students will know) will be recorded in terms of topics and concepts. School leaders will examine the “fundamental question” philosophy to help define the content. The scope and sequence can be unique in that entries can be established by asking “fundamental questions,” such as, “What is important about ____?, How does _______ work?, What makes _______ happen?” This is important work that should be done in departmental meetings.
Skills are usually defined as verbs, and the list of skills for students who have been identified as gifted can be more robust than those for traditional students. Skills should always be planned based on the course goals (e.g., reading, writing, logic, thinking skills, researching skills, problem solving, speaking skills, symbols, leadership, respect, etc.). Skills can be defined as “life-long skills” (which can be recorded as LLS) such as the ones above, and/or “academic or content skills” (which can be recorded asCS), such as learning how to write a long research paper.
In assessing the skills, “mastery” skills benchmarks will be the appropriate assessment tools schools use that will articulate what activities (behaviors) their students will successfully perform and can do (performance and authentic assessments) by the end of the course, proving that they have achieved the stated LLS or CS skills.
scope and sequence. Think of a table of contents in a book. The chapter headings describe the scope (or range) of topics and the sequence (or order) in which they will be read.
Assessments This is a vital consideration for GATE. It is critical that schools examine the kinds of assessments used at the various grade levels to make sure that they are spiraling the skills and not merely repeating them, which would not be productive for gifted students who can tend to become bored easily as it is. While most people would not think this way, assessment can be the single most important factor for differentiating instruction for gifted students!
This is where an understanding of developmental characteristics comes into play. As gifted students become more cognitively developed, moving from concrete thinking to more formal operations as they grow, schools need to develop tools for assessing their abilities more appropriately. The departments should establish rubrics and other instruments to assess the students’ progress toward successful performance of each of the content and skill topics to supplement the more traditional grades assigned to tests and paper assessments.
These new assessments will be shared with parents to give them a better understanding of their child’s growth along with the traditional grade reporting.