Thursday, August 30, 2012

What Should Be on the Tombstone of Gifted Education? Part 4 - The Use of Extracurricular Activities

English: Knowledge Path
Knowledge Path (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Louis R LaMont

In Part 3, the use of assignments with the gifted and talented was discussed in terms of the level of assignment provided to them versus that of the standard curriculum.

Most of the assignments provided in the curriculum are geared toward a basic level of thinking and reasoning.

Skills such as absorbing knowledge, comprehending information, and the application of concepts dominate schools today.

Gifted students require a more sophisticated technique of structuring assignments that would allow them to create knowledge and analyze information to synthesize solutions to problems.

One remaining issue with the gifted and talented curriculum is one that is rarely discussed at all in discussion of any level of student at the public or college level. All students require the use of problems to solve with the knowledge they are taught.

In the standard curriculum, the use of knowledge stops with simple academic application. A student might solve a genetics problem by simply crossing two animals together on paper and predict the outcome. However, is the student exposed to the effects of this knowledge and skill on society?

Since the standard student is not brought to this level of thinking, their skills in using genetics knowledge will stop with the teacher's assignment sheet. The gifted student must be allowed to develop their skills in the solving of problems of society. This could take the form of research into a medical problem based on genetics.

Gifted students could shadow researchers and doctors that would allow them to apply the knowledge learned in class to real issues. Students would be given a simple problem to solve in the overall issue being researched. This is just one example of the type of outside use of learned knowledge that gifted students could explore.

Another method that could be used by gifted students to explore a broader range of issues is to allow them to write about their experiences. This type of writing goes beyond the simple regurgitation essay citing facts and figures about a topic.

The writing of professional experiences allows students to be able to experience what true professionals experience about their research work and, most importantly, tie together the knowledge learned from their shadowing experiences and incorporate it into their sense of purpose and into their moral structure. At the end of their experiences, the entire experience will cement itself and never be forgotten by the student.

Unfortunately, neither secondary nor college students have these types of experiences in school. At the secondary level, the district curriculum is undemanding and stops short of providing extended experiences that allow students at any level to integrate the taught knowledge into their lives in any meaningful way.

For the gifted student, this lack of extended experience further threatens their ability to maximize their potential in high school so they can gain the most from their college experiences. Students at the college level should have the same kinds of experiences, but often their educational experiences are not much more in-depth than those found in high school.

Coming in Part 5: Writing the Tombstone.

The Prairie Science Academy exists to seek out students who are highly motivated to begin a career in the sciences and provide a series of accelerated educational experiences. Our graduates finish the PSA program with a two-year head start on all public school graduates with the same goals.

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