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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Gifted Student Identification: The Scouting Metaphor

I think some parallels can be drawn between identifying gifted students in the classroom and scouting for talents in sports.

For instance, baseball scouts operate on various levels (e.g. high school, college, minor league) when looking to recruit.  Baseball scouts also spend ample lengths of time observing players in their natural environment; they don’t base decisions generally on one occurrence but base their selections on repeated observations and gathering much data. Also, decisions to draft players are also commonly made my multiple scouts orteam staff. Finally, if players are deemed “good enough,” they are typically given a try-out, perhaps invited to join a practice or exhibition session.

Scouting might be used as a metaphor for identifying gifted students in schools. Identification should occur at different grade levels. While it might be more advantageous to find and test students in primary grades, such as first-grade, identifying practices should happen across grade-levels; this gives students a continuous chance to be identified, allowing teachers to identify students who might have been “missed” in early grades or due to circumstances and the environment, were not identified.

Additionally, like scouting, identification is not a one-person operation. Classroom teachers, teachers on the grade-level teams, teachers in other grades, guidance counselors, school psychologists, parents, and administrators should all be working together to identify gifted students. It’s certainly a team effort.

For example, a counselor might notice gifted characteristics while interacting with a child in the school cafeteria and could relate this information to the classroom teacher. The classroom teacher could then begin observing the student, which leads to the next step in the scouting process. Teachers and other school staff need to spend time observing these potential gifted students; observational notes can be taken.

Some school districts utilize gifted characteristic checklists or indicators, which can be used to guide observations. This data can then be shared among potential scouts, who decide if there is enough evidence to recommend students for testing.  The student is then provided a chance-invited to batting practice so to speak—to demonstrate whether they would qualify for gifted programming services.

Of course, gifted programs and identification processes vary between school districts and states, but this scouting analogy can be used as a guiding image for consistent, systematic, collaborative identification.

Teachers and other adults at the school must be on the constant look for potential gifted students and work in unison to screen and test these students—thus, providing them with the appropriate opportunities for academic success.