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Gifted children are nature very special and youth with outstanding talent compared with others of similar experience or age show high performance and potential for remarkably high levels of accomplishment (US Department of Education, 1993). The term talent is different in that it applies to the potential development in skills areas of child's life. However, not to all talented students have the potential to achieve at high levels because they have not realised their own gift or have not had the opportunity and perhaps have been seen as under achievers. For this reason identifying gifted and talented pupils can be difficult and it is indeed the case that different abilities emerge at different circumstance and ages. For this reason it is important for schools and parents to take a responsibility for the identification of gifted and talented (G&T) children throughout infancy until grow up.
In terms of the structure for the assignment, the questions raised in the title will be dealt with in turn and there is a specific aim to evaluate the nature of musical experience in the context of talented and gifted children and show critical awareness of areas of uncertainty and contention. The aim of the assignment is not to simply document research findings but to engage with, synthesise and evaluate the salient points of discussion on this theme from a range of appropriate texts. The answer will include relevant exemplar material from published texts and other appropriate sources to illustrate and support the points made.
Why is it difficult to identify a child who is talented and gifted? One observation we may make with regard to definitions and models attempting to understand the gifted child is that there are different perspectives on offer and the theory is very much evolving. Part of the challenge in this area of education and musical experience in the context of talented and gifted children is an acceptance that uncertainty and contention is present within the literature. A brief literature review of the milestones in educational theory. Binet (1905) is credited with structured tests and measures of intelligence as well as benchmarking progress and attainment levels through the concept of 'mental age'. Renzulli (1978) developed a more complex three stage perspective of giftedness which included relationships between the factors of high creative levels, task commitment and general intelligence. This complexity was developed by Gardner (1981) when the idea of giftedness was interpreted in terms of multi faceted intelligence which included not simply academic brightness but dexterity in areas of development including linguistics, music, logic, mathematics and spatial components. Gardner succeeded in broadening the discussion about giftedness to encapsulate the sensitivities and awareness of the child in a manner that was far removed from a simple measure of 'mental age'. A psychosocial interpretation of giftedness was offered by Tannenbaum (1983) which interpreted giftedness as the overall potential of the child to achieve, based on the interaction of factors such as general ability, special ability factors , non-intellectual factors, environmental factors and chance aspects. The psychosocial model was given a greater environmental focus in the development of a differentiated framework for giftedness via the research of Gagne (1985) and in this model it is the case that intra-personal and environmental elements are the focus for the transition from high potential or giftedness to high performance or talent.
In terms of the evaluation of the nature of musical experience in the context of talented and gifted children, practitioners are inevitably going to be faced with the need to formulate a meaningful understanding of the term 'gifted' that allows for above average ability to be recognized. There is then a potential issue about positively discriminating G&T children as politically it could be argued that ALL children have the potential to be gifted. Focus on the G&T group is potentially seen as exclusive and essentially unfair. Isn't it the case that all children are gifted and it is just those who receive careful guidance that realize their potential. Even if we set the political controversy about giftedness aside, there is the ongoing problem with actually being capable of identifying a gifted child.
If we take the position adopted by Gagné (2003) then a possible definition of G&T is that of intellectual, creative, social and physical potential that are exceptional or at least well above average. If then environmental factors are key then there is a challenge to provide a setting where support and guidance fosters gifted potential.
There is a challenge in identifying G&T children and the typology designed by Betts & Neihart (1988) assists with broadly signaling types of gifted students and their particular needs in terms of an environment that fosters support and guidance. The matrix identifies the categories as follows: successful, challenging, underground, dropouts, double-labeled and autonomous. The matrix also includes consideration of feelings, attitudes, behaviors, needs, adults & peers perceptions, identification, home and school support required.
In terms of a strategy for G&T teaching, it is possible to use the Betts & Neihart (1988) framework we can begin to differentiate the precise social and emotional needs of the specified types of G&T pupil and put into place strategies to ensure support and guidance fosters gifted potential. This framework can be of use to plan the music curriculum and facilitate extra-curricular participation, to enable the gifted and talented child to achieve his/her full potential, whilst continuing to meet the needs of all the other pupils in the class. With the 'Successful Type' of G&T child the school can plan the music curriculum extra-curricular participation in terms of support that provides an enhanced learning environment with emphasis upon accelerated and enriched curriculum, the provision of time for personal interests as well as compacted learning experiences. With this category of G&T child strategies can be employed that provide the child with opportunities to be with intellectual peers and there should be a focus upon the development of independent learning skills. The use of mentorships as well as University as well as career counseling is likely to be beneficial.
Whilst it is recognized that in practical terms there will be a need to meet the needs of all pupils in the class it is recognized that according to the Betts & Neihart (1988) framework school support in the context of 'Challenging' G&T children places particular demands upon those involved. Music curriculum extra-curricular participation in this case is likely to require an emphasis upon cognitive & social skill development, patience and placement with appropriate teacher. This particular category of pupil will require staff that can communicate in firm and clear terms and the pupil will benefit from mentorships in order to build self-esteem. The expression of feelings is to be encouraged and this aspect can be given emphasis within the music program.
Hence we can see that the Betts & Neihart (1988) framework can be used to offer guidance on the different types of G&T child. The 'Underground' type, Dropout Type, Double-labeled Type, Double-labeled Type and Autonomous Type can all be understood and a study plan prepared. However in reality it may be very difficult for teachers to accurately place the G&T child and the framework may be criticized in that every child has a unique background that may not fit easily into the typology offered. For this reason the framework offered by Betts & Neihart is useful in identifying the variety of G&T children in schools but may be seen to be a little rigid.
In terms of additional measures to plan the music curriculum and facilitate extra-curricular participation, to enable the gifted and talented child to achieve full potential, whilst continuing to meet the needs of all the other pupils in the class there are some strategies that may be considered including giving permission to take time out from G/T classes as well as providing same sex role models. Non-traditional study skills can be explored in an exciting manner within the music curriculum and steps can be taken to arrange alternative out of classroom learning experiences where possible, for example attending out of school musical exhibitions/concerts. There is the point that the school needs to have in place a gifted program and the next step is the actual placement of the G&T child in the gifted program. Although this may sound obvious it is not always the case that placements are made and there is always a limit as to the number of children that can be placed within a gifted program at any one time.
There are several strategies that schools can employ to plan the music curriculum and facilitate extra-curricular participation, to enable the gifted and talented child to achieve their potential. Acceleration is an established method by which students can be accelerated across the year or within music as a subject and this means placing them with a more advanced schedule than they would normally receive according to their age. Differentiation is another well established method to provide added value content to the G&T child within the class with a focus on the setting of more challenging tasks in order to stretch the pupil. Independent Negotiated Programs are another way to reach the G&T child and the idea here is to ensure that student interest and skills are used as a precursor to decide which projects are undertaken as well as the depth of those projects. Teaching resources are then allocated accordingly although it is accepted that these programs may be demanding in terms of staff time and resource allocation. Perhaps more realistic are strategies such as Teacher-student matching where personalities as well as learning styles are considered and balanced. In addition schemes such as cross age tutoring as well as mentoring within school have been found to be an effective way to matching younger or older students with similar interests as well as academic abilities with the benefit of enhance learning for all pupils - regardless of age. Indeed, cross age tutoring/mentoring is a clear strategy that may be used to ensure that schools plan the music curriculum and facilitate extra-curricular participation, to enable the gifted and talented child to achieve his/her full potential, whilst continuing to meet the needs of all the other pupils in the class.
Differentiation is a key G&T strategy and this has been defined by Tomlinson (1995) as having four key elements. Instruction is concept focused and principle driven. All students have the opportunity to explore and apply the key concepts of the subject being studied and all students come to understand the key principles on which the study is based. Ongoing assessment of student readiness and growth are built into the curriculum. Teachers do not assume that all students need a given task or segment of study. Flexible grouping is consistently used. In a differentiated class, students work in many patterns. Sometimes they work alone, sometimes in pairs, sometimes in groups. Ongoing assessment of student readiness and growth are built into the curriculum. Teachers do not assume that all students need a given task or segment of study, but continuously assess student readiness and interest, providing support when students need additional instruction and guidance. Flexible grouping is consistently used. In a differentiated class, students work in many patterns. Sometimes they work alone, sometimes in pairs, sometimes in groups. Sometimes tasks are readiness-based, sometimes interest-based, sometimes constructed to match learning style. Teachers guide the exploration. Because varied activities often occur simultaneously in a differentiated classroom, the teacher works more as a guide or facilitator of learning than as a dispenser of information.
These ideas around the theme of differentiation are supported by research by Savage (2006) and Wiggins (2003). Savage argues that the centrality of musical practice in the classroom and the integration of curriculum elements in the classroom are core principles to teaching of musically talented individuals. It is argues that G&T pupils benefit from the 'embodied musician as teacher' in the classroom and that there should be a policy of 'Freedom and restraint', referring to an extension in depth and enrichment in breadth of teaching. Wiggins (2003) argues that there needs to be a policy and strategy that allows for flexibility as all pupils are different and hence have various needs requiring adaptability on the part of teachers. Wiggins argues for carefully worded learning objectives allowing for meaningful musical encounters as well as a much greater degree of openness about what counts as music.
Problems in the G&T identification process include factors such as disproportionate representation (Castellano, 2003) disregard for theoretical knowledge of intelligence (Coleman, 2000) and inappropriate use of statistical formulas (Frasier, 1997). Appropriate identification practices rely on multiple criteria to look for students with gifts and talents. Multiple criteria involve multiple types of information (e.g., indicators of student's cognitive abilities, academic achievement, performance in a variety of settings, interests, creativity, motivation; and learning characteristics/behaviors); multiple sources of information (e.g., test scores, school grades, and comments by classroom teachers, specialty area teachers, counselors, parents, peers, and the students themselves); and multiple time periods to ensure that students are not missed by "one shot" identification procedures that often take place at the end of second or third grade. Steps in the identification process include three phases of general screening or student search, review of students for eligibility and services options match (Castellano, 2003; Coleman, 2001).