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Differentiated provision for gifted and talented learners has been identified at the City Academy Bristol as a specific group for inclusive development. This intention has been addressed with the roll-out of an iPad load scheme for 40 gifted and talented learners. It is hoped that the scheme will improve the attainment of the learners on the scheme.
The Concept of Inclusion in Education
Although the term inclusion is not used, the concept is enshrined by Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948). Which states that:
"Everyone has the right to education."
The declaration goes on to state that education should be provided free at elementary and fundamental stages and even, that at the elementary level, education should be compulsory. This is recognition at a very high international level (or very low human level - depending on perspective) that not only do young people have the right to education, but that they should indeed be educated.
History and Development of 'Special Education'
Special Education Not Working as a Mainstream Model
Frederickson & Cline (2009) state that a wide variety of studies have produced some consistent results:
No evidence that segregated education fosters social or academic progress over mainstream school education.
Some studies show advantages to inclusive placements if accompanied by an appropriate individualised programme.
Other studies have reported that there is a small to moderate advantage to inclusion on both social and academic outcomes.
Inclusion Being More 'Inclusive'
Frederickson & Cline (2009) citing various research, argue that there is evidence to support the notion that inclusion has a positive effect on the attainment of learners without disabilities and therefore inclusion facilitates the education of all learners.
Every Child Matters
In 2001 the tragic death of Victoria Climbié prompted a Government inquiry lead by Lord Laming, a former chief inspector of social services, into the circumstances of her death. The Laming report (published in January 2003) lambasted the then current system of child protection, stating provision had failed her at every level. The Government responded quickly and on 28th January, announced plans for largest reform of child welfare services in England for 20 years. The principal results of this reform were the appointment of the first ever Minister for Children and bold vision for the reform presented as a green paper, published in September 2003 entitled Every Child Matters (Brooks et al. 2007).
From an educational perspective, the Government's aim, as reflect by the title of Every Child Matters, was to make sure that every child has the chance to meet their potential by reducing failure in the educational system (DfES 2003). The Government presented a vision for their intention, expressed as two underlying principals under which the whole of Every Child Matters was structured (Brooks et al. 2007). Firstly, that when re-designing children's services, focus should shift from the way professionals deliver services, to actual needs of the children in their care. And secondly that the design process of these new services should be guided at every level by five outcomes, which they learned from consultation with children, young people and families were the issues that mattered most to them (Brooks et al. 2007, DfES 2003). They were (the three outcomes most relevant to education are indicated in bold):
Being healthy: enjoying good physical and mental health and living a healthy lifestyle
Staying safe: being protected from harm and neglect
Enjoying and achieving: getting the most out of life and developing the skills for adulthood
Making a positive contribution: being involved with the community and society and not engaging in anti-social or offending behaviour
Economic well-being: not being prevented by economic disadvantage from achieving their full potential in life.
General Inclusion Statement
The National Curriculum for England (1999) and the revised secondary curriculum (2007) celebrates the right of all students, regardless of need, to take an active role in their own education. These rights are defined in the general inclusion statement. The statement has two themes: an obligation for teachers to follow the principals of inclusion in their planning and teaching; flexibility to enable teachers to modify their teaching to meet the individual needs of all their students (Capel et al. 2009).
The general inclusion statement consists of three principals (DfE 2011):
Setting suitable learning challenges
Responding to pupils' diverse learning needs
Overcoming potential barriers to learning and assessment for individuals and groups of pupils.
The first and second principals, clearly requires teachers to recognise the specific needs of gifted and talented students and to adapt their teaching in such way that gifted and talented students are both stimulated and challenged.
The third principal recognises that gifted and talented students have their own unique needs, that unless taken into account, could potentially introduce barriers to learning (Capel et al. 2009).
Part one, section 5 of the new Teachers' Standards (DfE 2012), states that all teachers must adapt their teaching in respect of the individual strengths and needs of all their learners. Specifically, to know how to use differentiation techniques that will enable all learners to learn effectively and identifies learners with high ability as a target group that requires the use of 'distinctive teaching approaches' in order to engage and support them.
Hart (1996) researched the origins of the term differentiation and discovered that it originates in the late 1970's and early 1980's, in a series of reports by Her Majesty's Inspectorate (HMI). The reports expressed the opinion that much of the teaching observed by the inspectorate did not sufficiently challenge students of all abilities, that the teaching had a tendency to focus at the majority of students that occupied the middle of the ability range. They used the term differentiation to encapsulate what they felt was missing from the lessons: that the students at both ends of the ability spectrum were not being catered for and were therefore being excluded.
At the time of the HMI reports, differentiation was thought of as being based upon the ability of students. This perspective began to evolve during the mid 1980's into one of learning needs, where the 'differences' of students at either end of the ability spectrum my not be based on attainment or ability alone and so that these needs should be acknowledged and catered for.
DfES - Lancaster University
In 2003 the DfES commissioned a study of into how ICT effects learners motivation (Passey et al. 2003). The investigation discovered that gifted and talented learners tended to focus on information, rather than communication technologies. Having the means to interact with material online and access digital media was observed to be of primary interest to the G&T group, as ICT was seen to have a motivational effect on gifted and talented students which enabled them to be more self-directed. Considering this report was concerned with ICT in general and the whole student population across KS1-4, and thus not a study of gifted and talented students specifically. Then this observation is therefore in contrast with the wider student population.
Consider the iPad loan scheme in operation at CITY ACADEMY BRISTOL, I witnessed this effect first hand while shadowing a G&T student involved in the scheme. The class were watching a short video where a person was introduced as CEO of such-and-such a company. I noticed the student do a quick Google search for the term 'CEO' and continue to watch the video. Having the iPad to hand enabled this student to gather information in the context of the activity and thus extend their learning.
Discusses the ways in which the school is addressing the issue(s) arising from the chosen aspect. Remember that you need to refer to a range of relevant ideas from the literature to show an awareness of different perspectives on this issue.
The CITY ACADEMY BRISTOL have thoroughly embraced the philosophy of Every Child Matters, the school's policy documents reflect this:
For the purposes of this study, I have been assigned to shadow a learner who is part of the scheme for a day of schooling (four 1.25 hour lessons). Whilst this day did not really give enough time to properly evaluate the effectiveness of the device for this particular student, and considering I was only privy to a very small section of their total academic exposure and have no way of knowing if those sessions I observed were representative of their usual experience. I asked the learner for which of their lessons they actually found the iPad most useful and they replied 'Spanish' as they were constantly able to look up words and translations. It would be interesting to see if this pattern is repeated (for other students) in other lessons where reference text books are common.
I witnessed one session where the teacher divided the class into groups, suggesting that there should be an iPad equipped student in each group. Then setting various tasks for the groups to complete, where some of the tasks where more complex and were designed for the iPad equipped students. In a conversation after the session, the teacher of this group also explained how they had used the iPads as a resource in other sessions that in my opinion, was a very well designed differentiation activity. They even went as far as to explain what they would like to do in ideal circumstances. When lesson planning, teachers are translating the school's curriculum vision into practice (Brooks et al. 2007), this is clear evidence of this in practice.
In light of these observations and the limited experience I have had due to the limited exposure to a iPad learner, together with advice from my PT, I have made the decision to draft a short questionnaire to collect some data that may help me get a deeper insight as to how the devices are used and the learners own evaluation of their usefulness and how they think they have affected their learning.
This report has examined Every Child Matters and other Government policy documents in the context of inclusion and has identified that gifted and talented students are indeed a discrete group that have been identified as requiring specific strategies for inclusion. Also that the use of ICT can be used as one possible inclusion strategy to widen participation and thus improve the learning of this group. However, in order for ICT to be most effective, it should not be used in a tokenistic way; assuming that all that needs to be done to improve the learning of G&T students, is to provide some ICT device (like an iPad) and taking it for granted that the student will make best use of it. While there is evidence to suggest that even unstructured use of ICT will improve the learning of gifted and talented students, it is when teachers incorporate the use of such devices into the context of lessons in a structured and differentiated manner, that they are most effective.
In reflection of this study and the potentially conflicting perspectives I have witnessed whilst studying: that although very noble, may be a rather idealistic perspective - that we should always 'teach to the top and differentiate down'; the other, that that teaching to the middle for the most part is acceptable, but we must differentiate up and down. I feel somewhat inclined to the latter view, as I am very aware of the condition of 'burnout' (Kyriacou 2001). I feel that differentiation is vital to include gifted and talented students and thus widen their participation. The use of ICT is one strategy that can be employed, but that it's use (when used as a differentiation strategy and not a teaching activity focus), should be synthesised into the learning outcomes to promote the learning of the differentiated individual or group.