How can we separate Gifted Education Services from Enrichment?
Implicit in the nature of gifted education is the resolve to provide varied, specialized learning experiences to promote the characteristics of the gifted learner. These experiences are designed to promote maximum opportunities for individual fulfillment, to develop superior potential, to increase potential for solving real world problems, to develop skills of creative production, to access and use information, and to gain greater self awareness (Renzulli & Reis, 1986). Due to the specialized learning needs of the gifted learner, there is need for purposeful educational programming, including enrichment and acceleration through an integrated continuum of services.
Enrichment is exposure to topics not usually covered or at least not very deeply covered in a standard curriculum. Enrichment is frequently associated with the work of University of Connecticut Renzulli and Reis who propose three types of enrichment, including general exploratory activities, group training activities, and individual or small group investigations of real world problems. This could include field trips, in-depth studies, hands-on puzzles, mentorship, or community action. The range of structures includes general enrichment for wide-ranging groups, targeted subgroups, individualized curriculum modifications, and first-hand investigative opportunities. Grouping can build from commonalities in abilities, interests, learning styles, and preferences for various modes of expression. The goal is to create conditions in which that child can be a specialist within a specialty group" (Renzulli, 1994). All learners can benefit from enrichment experiences, building from individual or group strengths.
Students who demonstrate superior performance or advanced interest can advance their experience through options that might be available through accelerated and/or enrichment components. Advanced content provides intellectual stimulus. Good acceleration includes enrichment and good enrichment is accelerative. It is difficult to enrich without accelerating (Stanley, 1979; Maker, 1997).
Enrichment services are primarily delivered through the classroom teacher via school based activities, and include varying degrees of support from the gifted education specialist. The School District of Clayton's foundational core curriculum and instruction assure that enriched learning experiences are available for all students. However, to assure appropriate learning experiences for our gifted students, we must also provide advanced curriculum planning and acceleration options beyond enrichment.
The National Association for Gifted Children sets forth criteria of Exemplary Standards for gifted education programming to guide development of appropriate learning experiences for gifted children:
- 2.0E District curriculum plans should include objectives, content, and resources that challenge gifted learners in the regular classroom.
- 2.1E Teachers should be responsible for developing plans to differentiate the curriculum in every discipline for gifted learners.
- 2.2E Documentation of instruction for assessing level(s) of learning and accelerated rates of learning should demonstrate plans for gifted learners based on specific need of individual learners.
- 2.3E Gifted learners should be assessed for proficiency in all standard courses of study and subsequently provided with more challenging educational opportunities
- 3.0E When warranted, continual opportunities for curricular acceleration should be provided in gifted learners' areas of strength and interest while allowing a sufficient ceiling for optimal learning.
- 4.0E Possibilities for partial or full acceleration of content and grade levels should be available to any student presenting such needs.
Through our Clayton Gifted Program Levels of Service model we are able as a district to provide students gifted education programming based on intensity of need. Our identification process provides a measurable way to determine intensity of need and guides service delivery options beyond what the general school curriculum can offer.
The School District of Clayton Gifted Program is an adaptation of Treffinger (1998) Levels of Service model which supports four levels of services and educational programming a school can offer to serve different students at different times, based on need.