How Graduate Programs Approach Differentiated Instruction for Gifted Students Post-COVID

Andrew Passinger
Andrew Passinger
Middle-Senior High School Assistant Principal/Pandemic Coordinator; M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction, Gifted Certification
Two gifted students work on a project together on a laptop in a school library.

While some people argue that all students face a crisis in their learning at some point, gifted and high academic achievers do indeed struggle in their education in unique ways. This group of students has a challenging and diverse set of needs, and therefore instruction must be altered to meet their abilities.

The question of equity within programs and schools, especially low-income versus high-income, rural versus urban, and disabilities, for example, is always under the microscope. But how do educators specialize gifted direction in a post-COVID world and how are graduate programs preparing educators for this?

Education Gets a Chance to Reimagine

So often, there is a focus on negative perspectives during the pandemic, but several positive aspects have jumped to the forefront. Teachers have a chance to work on implementing differentiated instruction for gifted students through reviewing curriculum, instruction, and assessment; this occurs during a time when these are all being digitized and placed online.

Through this review, teachers can reshape their content to help focus on skills development in their classrooms. They can adjust instruction and monitor assessments to meet individual physical, mental, and emotional needs.

Rather than being part of the educational decline, instructors can participate in life-changing experiences, particularly for gifted and high academic achievers. But teachers must be properly trained for quality online learning in order to best meet students’ needs.

Never a Better Time for Acceleration

With hopes that the pandemic will come to a close sooner rather than later, providing acceleration opportunities for gifted students has never been easier with online platforms, such as Google Classroom, Seesaw, Zoom, etc. Gifted students who show mastery of the content within a current unit can move much more quickly toward accelerated, increasingly more in-depth educational experiences.

Teachers can quickly post new digital material without preparing the physical materials, such as copies of study guides and quizzes, which allows for advancement in a significant way. This is considered telescoping the curriculum to allow students to move throughout the course based on their levels of comprehension and mastery.

This reshaping of courses can also align with those of the national standardized testing, which have also allowed for digitization. Accelerating students by grade skipping or course telescoping will enable them to access more complex classes, such as Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment college courses.

Implementing acceleration is quickly completed with the numerous digital diagnostic tests offered, the benchmark programs incorporated in classrooms, nationally normed achievement tests, and continuous input from parents, teachers, and students.

An integral component of supporting gifted students post-COVID is having a defined team of current and future teachers who can connect curriculum and instruction vertically within the departments of strengths for individual students. Laying out the program and direction will allow a smooth and equitable transition for student progress.

Utilizing the Pandemic to Innovate and Enrich

Numerous school districts across the country are developing virtual academies, which can be a solid supplement for gifted and high academic achievers motivation. The newest technological advances and networking provide another avenue for post-COVID learning.

In the future, educators can rapidly adapt to gifted children’s requirements by creating courses to build upon their strengths. They can also extend courses for differentiation purposes and add depth of content, which promotes deeper cognitive development and provides a more robust educational experience.

Powerful differentiation can occur in one-on-one, student-centered approaches to promote the talents of each individual in conjunction with the regular learning environment. In cases of students already reaching mastery in the traditional classroom, students can focus on the virtual learning classroom to avoid doubling the amount of screen time yet effectively providing gifted support.

These virtual academies benefit teachers of gifted students in that they can access the students’ time efficiently and effectively without pulling students from classrooms. This is the very essence of differentiating in the classroom without a form of labeling. Plus, this enhances every aspect of enrichment without acceleration or curriculum compacting.

Expanding upon the individual component and serving students’ special interests can be discovered quite efficiently through virtual meetings and digital surveys. Through this, gifted support teachers can focus on those sensitive areas connected to student giftedness:

  • Emotion
  • Imagination
  • Creativity
  • Psychomotor skills
  • Intellect

Applying this type of information for the future design of lessons can support engaging learning experiences.

Multiple positive features exist with an online development regarding gifted instruction. Students can access a much stronger network worldwide to promote collaboration and real-life experiences by way of cultural understanding.

Grouping gifted students boosts the academic achievement of all involved, even if there are some failures involved. Again, this benefits the gifted support teacher by knowing students’ interests and abilities to provide appropriately tiered lessons.

Training Teachers for the Future

Educators live the immediate crisis pertaining to the pandemic and student learning, but what are the effects for future learning? Understanding curriculum and how to create equitable classroom practices will be of the utmost importance.

Tying that curriculum to appropriate assessment for struggling and vulnerable students — and all students are struggling, from those with disabilities to those gifted students who need to be challenged every single day — will be an integral step in instructing future teachers. Not only will they need to deal with ongoing COVID-19 pandemic implications, but they must be flexible and open-minded to changes in the ways they approach learning.

Training programs need to focus on active engagement in all facets, whether online, in the classroom, or through individual interactions. Participating in a strong curriculum and instruction program is essential. Adding a gifted certificate or endorsement will promote positive and rigorous skill-building for our most talented learners.

Interested in working directly to impact gifted and talented students? Check out our available curriculum and instruction gifted instruction graduate programs!

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