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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is a Ph.D candidate at the University of South Florida, where he also works as a teaching assistant, supervising and teaching pre-service teachers. Steve holds a master's degree...
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Providing Preservice Teachers with Gifted Education Training Opportunities

It's no secret in the education world that gifted education training is not a priority for new teachers. In teacher preparation programs, if preservice teachers receive any kind of training, it's generally short discussions or readings in their existing education courses (Chamberlin and Chamberlin, 2010). As Troxclair (2013) writes, "[h]istorically, preservice teachers have had little exposure in their teacher training programs regarding the nature and needs of gifted learners, theories of gifted education, curriculum for those with advanced abilities, and teaching strategies to be used with gifted learners" (p. 58). In fact, only 12 percent of states require gifted education training for preservice teachers. Consequently, gifted students spend most of their school day in front of teachers that have little or no training in this area. Additionally, teachers without training often hold misconceptions and subscribe to myths surrounding gifted students. For instance, studies show preservice teachers often believe that gifted education programs are "elitist" in nature (Jung, 2014) and hold negative views of best practices such as acceleration and ability grouping (Troxclair, 2013). On the other hand, research suggests teachers trained in gifted education, for instance, preservice teachers with practicum and fieldwork experiences working with gifted students, are more aware of their needs than peers without this training. The question then becomes: how do we provide these types of experiences?

While I believe we must get a bit creative, it is possible to structure teacher preparation programs so that student teachers obtain more training. Whether you are a school principal, teacher education program coordinator or field supervisor, a mentor teacher hosting a student teacher, or a preservice teacher, these ideas apply to you.

  1. Purposely build exposure to gifted students into existing fieldwork experiences. Preservice teachers already working in classrooms can make it a point to work with small groups of gifted students, practicing various enrichment techniques and strategies to challenge advanced learners. Perhaps they can be formally (and informally) observed teaching 4-5 gifted students during a guided reading or math remediation.
  2. Tie coursework to gifted education. If preservice teachers are required to gather data or complete research projects in schools as part of the curriculum, why not intentionally have them study the needs of gifted students? This could involve using a pre-made checklist of gifted characteristics, which the preservice teachers could complete while in classrooms. Another project could involve having them interview the school's teacher of gifted services and the guidance counselor to learn about the identification process.
  3. A third idea is for universities and colleges to partner with schools that have high gifted populations. For instance, if a school hosts a gifted academy or has a substantial number of gifted children, preservice teachers might spend a semester or more studying at the school. This way, they could work closely with teachers who are hopefully trained to work with this population. This would also result in added exposure to the gifted population, which studies show help preservice teachers become more familiar with the needs of gifted students.
  4. Invite guest speakers to talk with preservice teachers. Possible candidates include teachers of the gifted, educational psychologists from universities, school district coordinators of gifted programs, school psychologists, and guidance counselors. These individuals can provide overviews of how to successfully work with gifted students since they have been trained in this area.

Recently, I invited a teacher of gifted students to speak with a group of preservice teachers I work with during a "differentiation" workshop. The teacher did a wonderful job providing a rationale for why it's important to provide specific services to gifted learners. She also shared strategies she uses in the classroom as well as provide resources for additional information. The preservice teachers also learned about the process used to screen and identify gifted children at the school.

The evidence is clear that we need to do a better job training emerging teachers in gifted education. Intentionally creating opportunities for preservice teachers to gain exposure to gifted learners and to learn how to effectively challenge and nurture them academically and social-emotionally makes sense—and is the "equitable" thing to do.

 

References

Chamberlin, M.T., & Chamberlin, S.A. (2010). Enhancing preservice teacher development: Field experiences with gifted students. Journal for the Education of the Gifted. 33(3), 381-416.

Jung, J.Y. (2014). Predictors of attitudes to gifted programs/provisions: Evidence from preservice educators. Gifted Child Quarterly, 58(4), 247-258. 

Troxclair, D.A. (2013). Preservice teacher attitudes toward giftedness. Roeper Review: A Journal on Gifted Education, 35(1), 58-64.