Fostering gifted and Talented (GT) students during their formative years of early education plays a crucial role in shaping the intellectual development of their young minds. Identifying and nurturing gifted students from an early age is essential for fostering a love for learning. In this blog post, we will explore the importance of GT education in early childhood education and how it contributes to the overall educational experience.
Early Identification of GT Students
Early identification of gifted and talented students can be difficult. Most 3 year olds do not have the developmental skills to complete a written test, a common identifier of gifted and talentedness in older students. Parents have the most unique perspective and can often insight into their child that standard tests cannot identify. The National Association for Gifted Children recommends that families be included as active partners in the identification process. THey can lend imperative information such as that their child began speaking early (a common trait of GT kids). A fact that could never be determined from an assessment test.
When GT Is Not Identified and Nurtured Early On
Research indicates that many young children will often hide their giftedness in order to fit in better with their peers. A lack of public pre-school and early education GT programs lends to this experience. Many school districts don’t even test students for GT attributes until after first grade.
Another study suggests gifted students, who go unidentified and not nurtured, have mental health risks. It’s conclusion states, “to be able to become healthy adults in a biopsychosocial aspect, it is important for the future of gifted children that this status can be identified at an early age, that they can receive appropriate education, that support and counseling are provided for emotional needs and that parents and teachers are fully informed.”
Avoiding Boredom and Underachievement
A study in Greece of GT students found that gifted students who underachieve, do so because of lack of motivation. It concluded that these students need to be nurtured into setting challenging, but realistic goals in order to increase performance. Some examples of these include: bypassing assignments where the students have shown their competency, helping them with study and organization skills, using a variety of social interaction tools during classroom work, and giving them a chance to show excellence in areas of interest, among others.
Encouraging Critical Thinking and Creativity
Encouraging critical thinking and creativity is important for any GT student. It is however, especially important in the early years of GT education. Gifted and talented students are naturally inquisitive. Teaching them these skills at an early age sets a foundation of tools for them to continue their GT learning through life. Countless studies have shown the following to be imperative to building a GT education foundation:
- opportunities for social interaction and collaboration with diverse same-age peers as well as individuals with similar cognitive abilities and interests
- engagement in a variety of stimulating learning experiences including exploration, manipulative resources, and experiential inquiry
- flexibility in the pace at which learning opportunities are provided
- challenging and content-rich curriculum that promotes both critical and creative thinking across all academic disciplines including reading, math, science, and the arts
- opportunities to build advanced literacy skills
- ample and varied materials including but not limited to technology, print material, and manipulative resources
- early exposure to advanced concepts in age-appropriate ways
- learning opportunities that provide choice and the development of independent problem solving and investigative behaviors
- experiences that range from concrete to abstract
The Benefits of Early GT Education
Early GT education sets the stage for a lifetime of GT education and often success. Studies have proved this. A Vanderbilt University study has been studying a group of 5,000 GT students since 1971. Researchers Camilla Benbow, Harrison Kell and David Lubinski checked back in on 320 of these students at age 38. Incredibly, about 44%had earned an M.D., Ph.D., or law degree (only 2% of the U.S. population holds a doctoral degree). Over 7% of those in the study held tenure at major universities, many others were CEOs and partners in law firms.
The study also found that students who receive an enriched GT education often do very well later in life. In comparison those who’s GT education was sub par, while still performing above average, did not accomplish as much later in life.
In conclusion, the earlier a GT education starts, the better it is for the student (and eventually adult) in the long term. Early identification of GT attributes is the first step. Providing a rich environment for gifted students to learn, explore and express themselves is the next. This sets a foundation for the student. Continuing GT education through middle school and high school sets them up for success in college and beyond.