Uncovering Gifted Diverse Learners

Overcoming the Ability vs. Achievement Gap

C Brown the dr is inPoor Charlie Brown.

Sometimes pessimistic, and occasionally optimistic despite the odds, Charlie Brown can never quite seem to get ahead in life. That is probably why so many children (and adults), over the years, have related to him so well. Every time Lucy takes the football away at the last minute or the baseball team loses again, we all inwardly groan with ol’ Charlie Brown.

Failure is no fun.

However, it is true that failure or difficulty is common to all of us, and the moments of true success and breakthroughs only come after a lot of hard work. Charlie Brown may experience many perceived failures, but his perennial popularity is the result of his resiliency.

He just keeps forging ahead.

How can we help diverse learners in G/T classes forge ahead and bridge the gap between ability (potential) and their achievement?

In the 1-hour course, “Uncovering Gifted Diverse Learners,” Karen Zeske, Ph.D. outlines the best practices of successful programs and gives suggestions on how to help high-ability students from diverse populations perform to their potential.

Dr. Zeske is a gifted and advanced academics coordinator in Irving ISD and has been serving gifted learners since 2000. She recently completed her doctoral studies at the University of North Texas. Dr. Zeske’s research interests include gifted advocacy and gifted education of historically underrepresented populations. She is the past chair of the Leadership Division for the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT).

Can Achievement Fall Behind Ability?

For G/T students, dealing with the Charlie Brown syndrome is a serious issue. Researchers are finding that achievement in G/T students is stagnating as they get older. Furthermore, statistics show that low-income, high-achieving students in the first grade fall behind their high-income, high-achieving classmates by the time they reach fifth grade.

Many high-ability students also enter gifted programs late, maybe in third or fourth grade, and need to catch up to their peers. All these factors mean we have a classrooms full of diverse learners, even within G/T programs.
In all of these cases, students are not performing up to their full potential. Dr. Zeske emphasizes that strategies are not enough. We must also help change our beliefs and attitudes.

  • Emphasize strengths rather than weaknesses
  • Consider differences rather than deficits
  • See possibilities as opposed to limitations
  • Seek solutions, not obstacles

Best Practices of the Best Programs

classroom diverse learnersSuccessful programs for diverse learners address the needs of low performing students without over-burdening them with repetition or unnecessary tasks. Dr. Zeske points out that specific academic needs must be addressed. However, students do not need to make up all of the work that has been missed.

The focus should be on specific skill development.

To address the special needs of low-income students, programs need to be designed with extra support as students transition from grades five to six and eight to nine. In addition, high-powered and enriched curriculum and scaffolding for advanced thinking and questioning (rather than remediation) is successful in raising the academic achievement of learners with varying ability and SES levels.

Skills for Success

C Brown baseballDr. Zeske describes skills and characteristics that set up students for success. She focuses on executive skills and functions that successful students use, such as:

  • Having confidence
  • Informing teachers if they have a problem
  • Being flexible
  • Using their influence in a positive way, and
  • Surrounding themselves with positive peer groups

Motivation is another key factor in student success. Dr. Zeske provides you with teaching styles that motivate students along with an evaluation tool to measure success.

Just like good ol’ Charlie Brown, our diverse learners, whether they are late comers to a program or students from a low-income population, can learn resiliency. Click the link below to explore “Uncovering Gifted Diverse Learners,” and help your diverse learners stay on track today!

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Delivering Quality Training – No Matter Where You Are

Mobile ready professional development for gifted teachersDid you know that this course is mobile ready? That means you can complete the course on your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop computer, or any other mobile device!

Images courtesy of Flickr via frankieleon and Mark Anderson.