Curriculum Design for Gifted Students

Subject: Education
Pages: 13
Words: 3574
Reading time:
15 min
Study level: PhD


There has been the need to recognise gifted students in schools in terms of the way their curriculum should be structured. Curriculum for gifted students should be a bit different from that of the average and challenged learners. In terms of quality, teaching the intellectual capacity of talented students is above that of average learners. Talents and gifts in education enable this group of learners to enjoy thinking hard and developing new knowledge every day.

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Gifted learners often find motivation in handling challenging work. The paper gives an overview of the subject of curriculum design for gifted students. It provides a concept map together with a formative and summative assessment of students’ ability. Finally, it provides examples of lesson plans for gifted students followed by their analysis to help deduce a valid inference in terms of curriculum structure for gifted students.


For any curriculum developer, proper research on the abilities of each learner is crucial. Based on the proposals by Bloom (1956), Maker (1982), and Williams (1993), the curriculum developer should be able to dig through the past academic and behavioural performance of individual students before making alterations. The interest of individual learners should also be brought on bond since it is at this point that the teachers and curriculum developers realise the ability levels of learners. Gagné (2011, p.3) observes how the curriculum should be designed with high consideration on how it is likely to meet the specific needs of the gifted learner.

According to Maggio and Sayler (2013, p.21), the target consumer for the curriculum is the student. Therefore, all energies and plans in the content of the curriculum should address the students’ intellectual and effective needs (Porath, 2013). Rule and Montgomery (2013, p.255) observe how affective needs of learners can only be realised if the curriculum addresses their past successes and failures. Olthouse (2013, p.246) confirms that variation in abilities will not only direct the curriculum developer to enrich the academic content. It will also enable teachers to the scheme for their teaching programs with these learners in mind.

Lesson plans and schemes of work will therefore be more inclusive than exclusive. According to Olthouse (2013, p.246), gifted learners require learning to provide them with challenging circumstances and learning content every day. There exists a wide disparity in talent and ability among students. The curriculum developer should understand the nature of students that he or she targets. Little (2012, p.695) affirms that dissonance may develop if the curriculum is developed without consideration of the different abilities of learners. For example, talented and gifted learners are quick to understand and to react to new information.

On the other hand, average students take time to synthesise new content (Little, 2012). Teaching the same content to these two groups with disregard to their abilities will result in conflicts and failure. Both the curriculum developer and the classroom teacher will not achieve their goals. Hence, the whole purpose of teaching will flop. Siegle, Wilson, and Little (2013, p.27) reveal how national educational goals will also not be achieved through talent development.

However, Flynn, Duncan, and Evenson (2013, p. 24) assert that it is important to evaluate the competence of the learners’ previous teachers in the delivery of the right and necessary curriculum at various levels of learning that the learner underwent. The ability of the teacher to deliver a particular content is important in ensuring that learners understand the syllabus and that they appreciate the content (Siegle, Wilson, and Little 2013).

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Although teachers undergo almost similar training, their ability to deliver the content in diverse topics also differs. Rule and Montgomery (2013, p.255) add that teachers should also appreciate the affective need of individual learners in accordance with their abilities. Below-average learners need close attention and increased repetition of similar content for them to understand the content of the curriculum (Van Tassel-Baska, 2003).

Flynn, Duncan, and Evenson (2013, p. 24) affirm that average students will delight in ordinary delivery methods such as lecture strategies and will understand the content without much repetition and/or follow up. However, Wallace (2011, p.111) affirms that talented and gifted learners will delight in a onetime contact with the curriculum content. They do not need close follow ups by the teachers. They will appreciate facing a challenging content that is derived from what they learnt.

Rubenstein (2012, p.678) asserts that gifted students also enjoy searching the details in certain contents. It is therefore important that the teachers and the curriculum developers appreciate the cognitive needs of gifted students (Wallace, 2011). This may affect the knowledge level and understanding of the learner. Rubenstein (2012, p.678) observes that a talented student may be as motivated as his or her teacher in learning.

Concept map

In a mixed ability class, the concept delivery should be able to meet the need of all learners. Such a class will have the core ability levels, the two extensions of extremely good or gifted learners, and the below-average learners. Rakow (2012, p.12) observes that the designer should appreciate that learners are gifted differently when developing such a curriculum. Hence, they should be handled differently. For example, the content that the curriculum provides for this unit should be all inclusive. In the curriculum, there should be the core concept that every learner in the unit should understand and/or be tested (Tomlinson, 1998; Porath, 2013, p.65).

This strategy is meant for all learners who have managed to come up to that particular level. The gist of this content should be prepared with the average learner in mind. The content should not be too simple to understand or too hard to make out (Rakow, 2012). It should be average and well expounded to be understood through the ordinary methods of delivery. The state curriculum goals, values, and objectives should also be featured. The average student, the talented one, and the below average should understand and appreciate this content (Tomlinson & McTigue, 2006).

For instance, when teaching this class, the teacher should ask average oral and written questions. It is also important to ensure that most of the learners in the class are able to answer questions from this area of study (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2003), for example, if the curriculum content dictates that learners learn about domestic animals. For learners that are on the lower extreme end, the curriculum should also take care of them.

This lot should not be left behind. The teacher should therefore ask oral and written questions that relate to their levels of ability (Stedtnitz & Speck, 1986). For instance, if the teacher is teaching about domestic animals, there should be oral questions that ask the learners to mention some of the domesticated animals that they know. There should also be questions that ask the learners to discuss what domesticated animals feed.

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Questions on the importance of domesticating particular animals like cows, cats, and donkeys should be answered through writing. When picking learners to answer to the oral questions and to do the written presentations in class, the teacher will also involve below average learners. This instils confidence on these learners (Tomlinson & McTigue, 2006).

According to Bailey et al. (2012, p.33), the concept map should endeavour to enrich the content through upward extension. This plan will involve asking more concrete questions to the learner. These questions may not necessarily be derived directly from the work that the teacher taught, but can be related to it. For instance, if the curriculum topic is on domesticated animals and the required knowledge objectives is that learners should be able to name common domesticated animals, state the functions of domesticated animals, and to state the need to take care of domesticated animals, the teacher should be able to integrate more challenging contents into the curriculum, the syllabus, and the lesson plan to serve the needs of talented students (Tomlinson & McTigue, 2006).

Formative and Summative Assessment of Students’ Ability

Assessment of learners’ is vital before, during, and after curriculum development and implementation (Stedtnitz & Speck, 1986). It is therefore important for teachers to carry out formative assessments occasionally and/or keep a track record of every learner. Before interacting with any learner at a new level, the teacher should carry out a pre-assessment test. This enables the teacher to gauge the affective and cognitive needs of the learner. After the introduction and delivery of the lesson, an assessment should be done. This can either be oral or written evaluation. This evaluation will enable the teacher to classify the learners by their ability.

Abd, Mohd, and Mohd (2012, p.298) affirm that the teacher will be able to measure whether the learners achieved the minimum requirements for the grade as stipulated in the syllabus. It is after pre-assessment that the teacher can modify the curriculum to meet the needs of the gifted students. It is important for the teacher to realise that talented learners learn faster than their colleagues in class and their age mates (Van Tassel-Baska, 2003). According to The Gifted and Talented Policy (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2004) academic challenges enable talented students to develop and nurture self-confidence.

These students enjoy challenging environments and contents that are in line with their levels of learning. Gagné (2011, p.3) observes that the ability levels of talented learners make them yearn for new content that has more than what they already know or what they learnt in previous lessons. The Gifted and Talented Policy (NSW Department of Education and Training, 2004) reveals that the mind of a talented learner has the ability to handle challenges and to take pride and esteem in achieving what the ordinary learners find difficult to achieve. According to Maggio and Sayler (2013, p.21), gifted learners also have personal initiative. They are able to carry out further research on their own.

Krause (2013, p.245) observes that when pre-assessing students to know those that are gifted, it is also important to use some questions that are beyond what the learners are expected to have learnt in class or from the syllabus. De Leon, Argus-Calvo, and Medina (2010, p.16) recommend that assessment questions and tasks should therefore comprise some questions that measures learners’ ability in abstract thinking.

Klimoski and Amos (2012, p.685) observe that questions and tasks that require the learner to relate several subjects and/or develop a comprehensive explanation of the relationship should be integrated in the test. The instructor will therefore be able to know the learners’ previous levels of achievement (Krause, 2013). The Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre (GERRIC) at the University of New South Wales recommends that the assessment be used to compact the curriculum to fit the needs of talented learners since they enable the teacher to know what to include in the curriculum for talented students.

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Abd, Mohd, and Mohd (2012, p.298) affirm that it is also possible for the teacher to know what to include in the end of season examination that test the extra ability in the talented learners. Well integrated assessment in mixed ability class with gifted students will therefore have tasks and questions for all groups (Tomlinson, 1998). Klimoski and Amos (2012, p.685) observe that levels of testing that check behavioural, intellectual, and social skills should be tested. Learners should be assessed in group works, individual written work, group presentations, and research assessments. De Leon, Argus-Calvo, and Medina (2010, p.16) recommend that the learner should be rated in comparison with other gifted students after the assessment.

Rating gifted students among the average learners also inspires them to compete for the best positions at their level. According to Bailey et al. (2012, p.33), apart from the formative evaluation methods, summative evaluation will involve comprehensive written and oral tests that cover the current and previous studies. The results of various tests that the learner undertook during the season are accumulated and rated. At this point, the instructor can realise the areas of weakness for every learner including the gifted ones (Tomlinson & McTigue, 2006).

A comprehensive report on individual learners’ performance can therefore be developed from the summative and formative assessments.

Examples of Lessons for Gifted Students

Lesson A

Teacher’s Instructional Strategies Student Activities
The teacher will start the lesson by probing the learners on the subject matter. This will involve asking the learners what they think a domestic animal is, how it is reared, and its importance to human beings. The teacher will also probe on whether the learners know how animals were initially domesticated and characteristics of domesticated animals. Learners will answer questions. Learners will raise their hands and give out their opinions.
The teacher will continue the lesson by explaining to the learners that the lesson will equip them with skills that will enable them appreciate the importance of domestic animals and hence take care of them. The learners will be informed that the lesson will be divided into three portions. The teacher will then define and explain what a domestic animal is and give examples. The learners will listen to the teacher keenly and ask for clarification of concepts as defined.
The teacher will then deliver the first lesson through lecture method. This will involve the use of verbal and non-verbal skills in explaining and illustration on domestic animals. The teacher will define a domestic animal and explain on the major characteristics of a domesticated animal and how the animals were domesticated in the past. Learners will listen to the teacher as he or she lectures. They will also make short notes. Learners will also ask for clarification of various points of the lesson.
The teacher will then illustrate an example of a domesticated animal, and its distinguishing characteristics from a wild animal. Learners will observe keenly as the teacher illustrate a diagram of a domesticated animal on the chalkboard
The teacher will then illustrate other examples of domestic animals. Such illustrations will provide a variety of examples to the learners. The teacher will use a pointer in pointing at various animals and their benefits to human beings. Learners will observe how the teacher relates the domestic animal to its function. They will also copy the examples and ask questions from the illustrations.
The teacher will assess the understanding of the gifted learners by asking oral questions from the subtopic. He or she will single out several gifted students from the group to answer the questions. He or she will also give a short assessment quiz for continuous evaluation. Every learner will then be required to write the distinguishing characteristics of a given domestic animal from a wild animal, and how it was domesticated The learners will answer oral questions by raising their hands.
The teacher will offer guidance to the gifted learners in forming discussion groups. He or she will also assign assignments to individual groups. The groups will also be required to present their findings in the class. Learners will discuss the assignment with the group leader ensuring that every group member actively participates in the discussion. They will take turns in the discussion and agree on the domestic animals that they will discuss.

Lesson B

Teachers instructional strategies

During the second lesson the teacher will introduce how to identify the major characteristics of domestic animals.

Learners activities
Learners will listen to the teacher and make short notes.
The teacher will then explain on how to identify characteristics in domestic animals. He or she will explain on how to various domestic animals by their characteristics. The learners will listen and make short notes. They will also ask for clarification for ideas that they do not understand well.
The teacher will also explain on how to relate the different characteristics of domestic animals with what way they appear and their qualities. Learners will listen keenly and write the examples. Learners will attempt to write down the relationship between behaviour and qualities of various domestic animals.
The teacher will also select and assign work for group discussion. Learners will also be asked to write down group answers and to choose one of their members to present them in class. Students will get into their groups and discuss the assignment. Learners will make summaries of their discussion and appoint one of the gifted learners to present their findings.
The teachers will then sit and supervise the presentations as he or she makes corrections to the errors that the learners make. Students will make oral presentations in front of the class.

Lesson C

The teacher will then introduce the third lesson by a quick oral assessment on whether the learners understood on the previous content.

The teacher will then use lecture method to illustrate and to explain on the importance of various domestic animals.

The teacher will then assign individual assignments to students. In this assignment every student will identify a domestic animal, explain its origin, how it was domesticated, and explain its importance to human beings. The teacher will then mark the learners’ written work and correct it.

The teacher will summarise the main ideas covered in the three-30-minutes lessons. He or she will also ask summative oral questions to re-confirm that the learners understood the content of all the lessons

Learners will listen and answer oral questions from the teacher.
Learners will listen to the lecture as they make short notes.
The learners will do the assignment and forward their answers to the teacher for marking and correction.
Learners will answer the oral questions
The teacher will also provide further assignment for the learners to carry out further research on modern domestication of animals in Africa. The teacher will also give relational questions where learners will be required to relate domestic animals by their origin and characteristics. The teacher will write the questions on the chalkboard. The students will copy the assignment on their exercise books and research on the questions after the lesson on their own or in groups.

Analysis of content, process, and product of the lesson

The content of lesson one is relevant to the gifted students yet it is also able to take care of the other learners in the mixed ability class. In this lesson, learners are asked questions from across the topic ‘domestic animals’. These questions are important in assisting the teacher to assess the cognitive ability of the learners. Since gifted students read ahead and are likely to research on the topic before it is taught the teacher is able to distinguish them from the rest by how they answer questions.

The process of the lesson is also right for the talented students. The teacher begins by asking probing questions, then delivers the lesson through explanations and illustration, and also involve the learners who answer questions and make notes. Dai and Speerschneider (2012, p.181) observe that the product of the lesson is the ability of the learners to answer questions from the area taught, and ability of the teacher to distinguish talented learners by their cognitive ability.

The content of the second lesson can be seen as the gist of the curriculum objective. It contains the subject matter which the average learner should understand. The teacher goes directly to explanations on the characteristics of a domestic animal. He or she then demonstrates the characteristics on the chalkboard. The process of the lesson is also objective since the teacher is able to involve the learners in listening, writing, and discussing among themselves. According to Kim (2013, p.34), gifted learners would want time to discuss and to research, to criticise the ordinary and to debate further than the information that the teacher and the curriculum offers (Hattie, 2009; Rogers, 2007).

Presentation of the findings will elicit further cognitive involvement and hence intensive learning and understanding. Kim (2013, p.34) further assert that average students will also have a chance to understand the content better as a fellow student debate about it. The product of the lesson is the achievement of lesson objectives by the teacher. Learners are also able to understand the content in a better way. The talented learners are also able to flex their minds, to criticise and to find challenge in the topic (Hattie, 2009; Rogers, 2007).

The third lesson is the summative lesson of the topic. The teacher moves swiftly to re-evaluate the understanding of the learners on the previous lessons. The content of the lesson moves the gifted learners to their level best. The teacher explains on the importance and purpose of domesticated animals. This content is important for the talented learners since it compares the importance of various animals hence making him or her think further (Dai & Speerschneider, 2012).

The teacher also gives an assignment for further research on areas that he or she did not directly teach. Such areas for research will be very important for the gifted student to go and research on by themselves. This lesson also does a summative evaluation where the whole topic is tested. The product of the lesson is the achievement of topic objectives, curriculum objective, and meeting the need of both the talented and the other learners in a mixed ability class (Australian Government: Department of Education, Science and Training, 2005).


In conclusion, talented learners have more cognitive and affective ability compared to the average learners. Curriculum developer and teachers should therefore consider the needs of this group in developing syllabuses and when scheming for lessons. These learners are critical, they like doing further research on their own and they may be bored by average lessons. Teaching lessons should have some challenging areas that keep them occupied and active.

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