Differentiating for “Gifted and Talented”

I’ve been thinking about how to differentiate more for “exceptional students” lately, and today a woman from Tournament of Minds talked to us about a gifted and talented program we will offer at our school. She made me think about whether adding an additional “gifted and talented” program is necessary at an IB school. I’m not convinced yet. I’m curious what others think.

In any educational program, we have a diverse learning student body. I teach at an inclusive PYP school, and we have a range of learners, from those with special needs to exceptional learners. It’s always a challenge to engage everyone, I agree. However, I don’t think adding a program just for gifted and talented is the answer.

Here’s what I know about Tournament of Minds, a program out of Australia, from our workshop this morning and some research. It’s a program that offers the following:

  • problem solving with demanding, open-ended challenges
  • an opportunity for passionate students to demonstrate their skills in a public way
  • a chance to develop skills like enterprise, time management, and the discipline to work as a team
  • competition
  • knowledge and appreciation of self and others
  • a chance to encourage experimentation and risk taking
  • an ability to expand and reward creative and divergent thinking
  • a chance to stimulate a spirit of inquiry and a love of learning

Here’s where I’m confused. The PYP, a program where I’ve worked now for 8 years, seems to be a place where we do all of that in the classroom with all learners (ok, except the competition). The IB Learner Profile, attitudes and skills stress:

  • risk-taking
  • knowledge
  • communication
  • cooperation
  • collaboration
  • creativity
  • time management

and inquiry…into open-ended problems…self-directed learning. And, it’s for all learners. The message I got this morning was that Tournament of Minds (TOM) would allow those students who are gifted and passionate a chance to shine.

However, aren’t we supposed to allow all learners to shine in our everyday school life?

In a brochure from the IB: What is an IB Education, it says:

Through the interplay of asking, doing and thinking, this constructivist approach leads towards open, democratic classrooms. An IB education empowers young people for a lifetime of learning, independently and in collaboration with others. It prepares a community of learners to engage with global challenges through inquiry, action and reflection.

I’m a passionate PYP educator, and I believe in trying to find challenges that allow students to think critically about problems in the world around them. In my diverse classroom, open-ended problem solving has been the best way to engage all learners. I’m concerned that by offering an after-school program for “gifted” learners, it diminishes what we do in the classroom or allows some an excuse to carry on with a traditional method of teaching because the “gifted” are taken care of after school.

I don’t know, but I’m wondering and inquiring…What do others think? Is the extra “gifted and talented” label and program a thing of the past? Is it something we should already be doing in every classroom in the IB…or in any school for that matter?

Originally posted on https://kdceci.wordpress.com/



About kdceci

I am a grade 5 teacher in a PYP school in Chicago, Illinois, USA. From the US originally, I worked in Asia the last 13 years. I am passionate about inquiry-driven education, collaboration, and ensuring kids get to continue to be kids that play, create and think as long as they can. Outside of school, l love to write, read, hike, run, meditate and travel.
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3 Responses to Differentiating for “Gifted and Talented”

  1. lsacker says:

    I have been wondering the same thing. I have recently changed career directions and have been writing a unit on Chaucer for ” gifted and talented” students, as one of my current employment options. As a PYP educator I have been plagued by a sense of unease. But then I think….Maybe it is more to do with the expertise of the person who is developing the “gifted” inquiry. Maybe some find it too challenging to support and extend real deep rich inquiries at a high level. What do you need to know and understand to promote extended deep inquiry???


  2. kathmurdoch says:

    I have never been comfortable with the label ‘gifted and talented’. I know it is a well-worn criticism but I will say it again, when you work with children, you see the gifts and talents in each of them. . Schools should be places that provide opportunities for all children to explore and grow their passions and to have opportunities to stretch their learning further and deeper. It is about teachers having strong pedagogy. To cater for “gifted” students, teachers are often advised to: provide opportunities to work on areas of interest and strength on a regular basis; allow them time to work with children of similar ability: give them opportunities to connect with people/experts beyond the classroom/school; to challenge them with more complex, ongoing projects that require a high degree of creative thinking and allow them to go beyond the prescribed levels in the curriculum. In the best inquiry classrooms I see – these opportunities exist for all students…not just the privileged few. This is not a criticism of programs like ‘Tournament of Minds’ or similar programs…I have seen how fantastic they can be for kids. BUT lets help teachers learn how to bring this kind of pedagogy and task design into their classrooms for all. Thanks for another thoughtful post!


  3. thom gething says:

    I have had this discussion in two schools; where I worked and before and my current school. I think most educators really don’t see the value of ‘Gifted and Talented’ labels – they are more likely to be used as badges for bragging by parents than anything else. One of the cores of teaching is high expectations and that means finding ways to address the needs and wants of students within the framework of community, both within and outside the classroom and school walls. This is no easy task, just as differentiation is hardly ever perfect or reaches every student.

    When I speak to students I always say we all have talents. They are no necessarily those that schooling measures. It is a talent to be able to listen to people, a talent to bring people together or to motivate a group to get a project up and running, as much as it is a talent to play the piano well or use mathematics to determine the quickest speed through a racetrack bend (one of my tutees is currently working on this!).


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