By: Shakila Mohammed
All students have the right to access equal and quality education that addresses their strengths and weaknesses. Most of the schools have a policy in place for inclusion and equity, but is there a way to scrutinise the provision being made for gifted and talented students? Though there is a need for provision for all students, further conversations are needed about students working above their grade level expectations.
Motivation and strategy are the two most important variables in any student’s learning process. Research has shown that setting goals enhance self-regulated learning in students. The definition of self-regulated learning is a student’s awareness of how they learn and adapt to their thinking. Also, the learning experience helps them monitor and improve their achievements during self-regulation. As educators and leaders, there is a need to scrutinise the cognitive and motivational needs of a student to better prepare the classroom goals and the strategy-based instructions that will lead to high achieving students and others showing better progress academically.
Normal classroom provisions
Teachers believe that high achievers are predominantly better at their tasks than the average student in their class. They need little or no support while achieving their targets; hence they are left to fend for themselves most of the time. The only times they are challenged are if the teacher manages to provide an activity as an extension. The other standard provision is grouping them in the same ability groups. Grouping of kids in classrooms is a visible practice in most schools. Grouping can be helpful if used appropriately, but unfortunately, this becomes an excuse to leave the ‘bright’ kids to work independently, with little or no support. This often leads to boredom, stuck to the knowledge learned previously, and showing no growth. Worse still, this might lead to students showing signs of declining ability.
- This is an alarm trigger which necessitates rolling back the initial approach and reflect on the planning; how can the teacher plan to maximise all students’ intervention? Could the teacher have a small group discussion to teach or scaffold their knowledge and challenge them to achieve better skills by the end of the lesson?
- Could the teacher create a peer support group to work together, to provide them with higher-order skill development questions?
- How do we achieve this during COVID-19 distance learning?
This is a pervasive question asked by educators; the fact of the matter remains the same, that these students need motivation and challenge. Create conditions in your distance lessons to provide them with these opportunities; group discussions help ask those critical questions and guide them.
The school needs to work with the different departments, within, to align all the building blocks, so the web is created to provide high-quality support, coaching, and motivation.
Step 1: Identifying the student’s needs academically (academic level) and emotionally (motivational level). This is most crucial to help develop and set individualised targets for a student.
Step 2: Create an action plan that can provide all three areas of provision: support/ coaching/ motivation
Step 3: Setting up an Advanced Learning Plan that contains SMART objectives to be achieved in all three areas.
Step 4: Create a regular monitoring system to ensure that the provisions are not falling through the cracks. This will also help identify any special needs, effectively and timely to be addressed.
Keeping these kids motivated and engaged is the utmost necessity. Some of the possible ways to ensure that these students are motivated are;
Internal means of provision
❖ Accelerated learning:
Assouline, Colangelo, and VanTassel-Baska (2015) indicate that academic acceleration can be divided into two broad categories: content-based, when a particular student is accelerated by subject area, staying in the standard grade with same-age peers, or moving to a different classroom for part of the school day; and grade-based acceleration when a highly able student is moved into a higher class with older students. This process is incredibly successful with students who are intrinsically motivated and push for academic and cognitive excellence.
❖ Project-based learning
Collaborative learning improves the interaction among students and provides a medium for them to exchange information and knowledge. This process keeps them motivated as they are working on a project and developing a sense of responsibility with their roles. By introducing more Project Based Learning, educators can create a more extraordinary task for the students and organise their subtasks. Making room for independent growth.
❖ Critical Role of Teachers:
The impact of well-informed teachers’ who are aware of their students’ needs has a substantial effect on students’ learning and progress; hence, teachers’ continuous professional development is very important. The advanced learning program can be successful only if all the building blocks are aligned to meet the students’ needs. The school’s framework is at the centre of the analysis and to ensure successful inclusion, the main focus must be on increasing human and physical resources. Some of these resources are IT infrastructure, books, classroom resources, STEM, etc. Teachers play the most crucial part as they are directly involved with the students. Providing them with the tool of knowledge on achieving maximum success with the bright and gifted, is of the utmost importance.
External motivation and cognitive development
How often do you notice that these high achievers in the classroom avoid challenges and try to stick to more straightforward tasks? Why do you think they refuse to challenge themselves or attempt to discover skills that they might possess? As educators, we need to create a system where they are exposed to different academic and non-academic stimuli to help them identify their skills. This will keep them intrinsically motivated to outperform themselves.
Some tips on how we can modify our curriculum to provide for the high achievers:
Studies suggest a direct relationship between entrepreneurship and achievement motivation. Exposing the students to skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, optimism, courage, curiosity, adaptability, and many more that go along with creating a business builds that growth mindset, which is the essential element of intrinsically motivated individuals. Moreover, project-based learning is a fun way to indulge in learning for students of varied abilities. Introducing the students to various professionals and professional skills from multiple fields is another way to keep and extend their motivation.
❖ Creating a more challenging environment
Creating and finding ways to challenge their cognitive ability by ensuring events and activities that are external. Social motivation influences the effort and memory of a student. A study by Burguillo (2010) shows that competition-based games improve course performances. Intellectual competitions like quizzes, reading, debates, or art-based competitions like; singing, art, music, or dance competitions depending on the needs of the school and the initial identification process. The school can create an events calendar that links the needs of the high achievers as well.
Studies show that no matter how intelligent or creative an individual is, when mastering a skill, persistence matters. As educators, we must ensure that every child is provided with an environment that challenges and motivates them to develop their skills and grow academically and personally.
Assistant Principal, KG- Elementary
Liwa International School for Girls