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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia, and author of Meditation in the College Classroom: A Pedagogical Tool to Help Students De-Stress, Focus,...
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Enrichment or Acceleration?

Recently~ I gave a talk to some students at the University of South Florida regarding methods for working with gifted children.
They posed an interesting question~ one that really got me thinking.
Should you provide enrichment or acceleration when teaching gifted students?
Theres no simple answer. I think it depends on a number of things.
In a perfect world~ you would use both of these approaches to meet the needs of your gifted and higher-performing students. However~ in the real world~ time is often limited~ and you have to make choices about how to use that time.
First~ you have to look at the student. Does he or she excel in a particular subject that you happen to be teaching?
For example~ do you have a student in your math class that finishes his or her work early and consistently scores in the 90 percentile or above? Does this child seem to have a natural ability to grasp mathematical concepts? By pre-testing the student~ you can determine their level of mastery of a given subject or place within the curriculum.
If youre teaching math~ and the child excels in math~ it makes sense to accelerate them or at least compact the curriculum so that the student remains challenged and does not get bored (The different ways you can approach acceleration is the subject of my next blog).
While they acknowledge enrichment as a possibility~ groups like those behind A Nation Deceived believe that acceleration is the best method for meeting the needs of gifted children. Challenging a student by moving them through advanced curriculum at a pace that serves their needs makes sense.
Personally~ I do not believe acceleration is always the best approach. My experience working with gifted children has taught me that using enrichment models~ like those developed by gifted education researcher Joseph Renzulli~ can truly inspire and challenge even the most gifted of students.
Also~ accelerating a gifted child through subject matter that may not be of interest to the child could actually be detrimental. If a child does not love mathbut rather has a fascination with literaturewhy would we pile on the math work? Instead~ it may be more enlightening to further strengthen and explore their love of novels and authors.
For example~ I currently work with a very bright fifth-grader~ who could easily master mathematical concepts at a higher level and does when given the opportunity. However~ facing time limits~ I decided to focus on his intense passion for history by having him engage in a several-month-long investigation of how social studies instruction could be enhanced in elemenetary classrooms. The result was a document that was presented to the schools principal~ and consequently~ the entire faculty. How can you argue that this was not beneficial to this childs education?
In my eyes~ the deciding factor in whether you provide a child enrichment or acceleration needs to be based on the childs strengths and interests. I think we are truly doing a disservice if we fail to develop a childs natural talents by forcing upon them curriculum and methods that we think are best or further our personal agenda.
Thats my opinion~ but more importantly~ what do you think? Which approach works best in your experience? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Please visit the Gifted and Enrichment group athttp://community.educationworld.comcontent/enrichment-or-acceleration-0?gid=NTEyMQ== to share your response.
Look for my upcoming blog on acceleration options.