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In many schools, gifted female students are ignored by teachers. Such ignorance emanates from lack of knowledge on what constitutes giftedness in female students. Furthermore, girls are socialized differently from boys in that they are taught to refrain from self expression as well as conveying special skills, abilities and opinions.
This discourages the girls from expressing themselves so as to fit into the social description of normal girl. This amounts to social discrimination. The purpose of this essay is to highlight the need for a curriculum plan for gifted female students. In this regard the essay is divided into two main parts. The first part synthesizes existing literature concurrent with this topic.
The second part documents the findings that teaching gifted female student requires a special curriculum. Furthermore, implementing the curriculum is all encompassing activity which requires the involvement of teachers, both gifted and non gifted students, parents, the local community as well as the state authorities.
Curriculum plan for gifted students
Numerous researches suggest that there are a number of challenges that face gifted students and their ability to utilize their special skills. According to Badolato (1998) research by educational experts, such as Joseph Renzulli suggest that gifted female students face many challenges than gifted male students.
In his research, Renzulli (1998) documents that gifted female under perform in both middle and high school as a result of being ignored. Furthermore, Renzulli‘s research reveals that gifted female students do not pursue careers concurrent with their abilities due to the effects of social discrimination in school.
Renzulli‘s research seem to have necessitated extensive research on the causes for under-performance by gifted female students. Smutny and Blocksom (1990) explain that numerous research findings identify insidious gender stereotypes and discrimination as one of the major causes for poor performance by gifted female students, especially in low income areas such as Salem, Oregon.
Peer pressure and inconsistent and contradictory messages from teachers, relatives and parents Gender stereotype are some of the manifestation of gender stereotyping. This phenomenon creates uncertainties, confusion and at worse identity crises among gifted female students. This results to mal-development of physical, intellectual, affective and social abilities.
Kerr (1994) agrees with Badolato (1998) and Smutny and Blocksom (1990) and adds that gifted females students not only face challenges within the wider societies but also in small social groups such as the classroom. Baldwin and Vialle (1999) explain that discrimination of gifted female students is worse in multicultural schools. Such discrimination comes from both peers and teachers.
Kerr (1994) states that in class, teachers don’t put up with girls who portray behavior such as arguing answers, over confidence, thoughtfulness among other behaviors associated with special gifts. Smutny (1998) explains that teachers make such girls feel weird and anti female.
Ryan (1999) calls this phenomenon “stereotype of femininity”. Such discrimination makes gifted female students suppress their special skills, effectively leading to mal-development and subsequent under performance.
VanTassel-Baska (1994) suggests a number of ways through which educators can address the shortcomings identified above. These include mentoring, motivation as well as curriculum planning. Baldwin and Vialle (1999) agree with VanTassel-Baska (1994) and add that curriculum developers need to plan and develop a curriculum that respects the cultural diversity in multi cultural schools.
Marie Martin (2002) largely ignores the concept of cultural diversity in curriculum development but argues that curriculum developers need to develop a curriculum that accelerates learning, is flexible enough to facilitate different types of learning skills and compact enough to differentiate content.
Montgomery (2003) adds that while gifted students are ignored by teachers, developing a curriculum that challenges the cognitive abilities of gifted girls can help overcome the challenges faced by gifted female students. These findings assert the fact existing curricula needs to be fundamentally changed. The changes should target learning challenges faced by gifted girls.
While changing the curricula may not necessarily address all the challenges faced by gifted female students, it will go along way in highlighting other necessary changes, such as the need for attitudinal change by teachers. In this regard, an efficient curriculum plan for gifted girls is vital.
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Planning for a curriculum for gifted girls starts with identifying special needs (Baum, Owen and Dixon 1991). Recent research by the National Research Council indicates that most of the schools are not adequately equipped to identify special needs.
This is due to the underlying assumptions about the nature of gifted female students. Most educators assume that gifted students exhibit extremely high IQs and high academic performance. This view, despite being partly true, limits the threshold of giftedness especially with regards to female students. As such, chances of identifying all forms of gifts amongst female students are minimized.
Suffice to state that many students have special skills that are not manifested through high IQ or exemporary class performance (Gifted Association of Missouri 2004). Furthermore, cross cultural differences affect the perception of giftedness. As such, in multi cultural schools cultural differences play vital roles in determining how giftedness is perceived.
Gifted girls from different cultures may not meet the standards set by schools’ special-needs identification programs (Baldwin and Vialle 1999). Cohen (1990) agrees with Baldwin and Vialle (1999) and adds that language differences affect how gifted girls are perceived in multicultural schools. As such, educators overlook giftedness in girls who have limited language abilities.
These findings imply that there is need for incorporation of additional methods for identifying gifts among female students. Other than the traditional techniques which focus on a female students’ IQ and academic performances, curriculum planners need to educate themselves on other cultural and linguistic sensitive techniques and methodologies of identifying gifted students (Gifted Association of Missouri 2004).
Additionally, schools need to evaluate the resource requirement of meeting the needs of gifted girls. Taylor (2003) acknowledges that planning a curriculum for gifted students begins with identifying special needs. In planning for a curriculum for gifted girls, planners need to consider the fact that the curriculum will be implemented in class constituting both gifted and non gifted students.
As such the interests of both gifted and non gifted students need to be considered during the curriculum planning stage. In this regard, the implementation process, the content and the assessment methods have to be as flexible as the needs within that class.
The curriculum also needs to be compact enough to address the differences in cognitive, affective, motor and social needs of all students (Marie Martin 2002; Montgomery 2003).
With special needs, resources and curriculum designed, Baum, Owen and Dixon (1991) argues that schools should look beyond curriculum development to the implementation process. According to Van Tassel–Baska (1988) implementation of a curriculum for gifted female students is a gradual process. The effectiveness of the curriculum needs to be determined before implementation.
This implies that a pre-test for the new curriculum is vital and through which the appropriateness of the new curriculum is tested. Moreover, Rogers (2002) explains that while it is vital to pretest a curriculum, the implementation of a new curriculum should not get students unawares. This implies that students, especially the gifted ones need ample preparation in anticipation of the impending curriculum changes.
Vital information about the extent and the manner in which the new curriculum affects learning should be provided to gifted students. Curriculum development experts argue that preparing gifted students for curriculum changes is vital, but can be disastrous if handled inappropriately. In this regard, teachers require professional guidance not only on handling curriculum transition but also on how to prepare gifted girls.
Koshy, Mitchell and Williams (2006) explain that implementing a curriculum for gifted student is done at two levels: external and internal. Internal implementation involves aligning the new curriculum with a number of issues.
These include: special needs identified, as suggested by Baum, Owen and Dixon (1991); resources available, as suggested by Gifted Association of Missouri (2004) as well as school’s aims, goals and objectives. External implementation is more complex since it involves collaboration with external authority.
Marie Martin (2002) explains that schools should seek the assistance from the state, local and community authorities during the implementation process. Parents of gifted female students are also vital partners during the implementation process.
As earlier explained, curriculum for gifted female students need to be compact, flexible, and all inclusive. This suggests the curriculum for gifted girls who have unique characteristics. Henage (1990) defines a curriculum compacting as organizing a curriculum into various components that address the peculiar needs for all students.
Marie Martin (2002) and Montgomery (2003) add that a compact curriculum enables teachers to asses all four basic learning needs in a compact class. These are cognitive, affective, motor, and social learning needs. Baldwin and Vialle (1999) hints at a compact curriculum but suggest that language and cross cultural differences need to be addressed through a compact curriculum.
Furthermore, compactness of a curriculum allows teachers the choice to avoid the content such as one that students have already mastered. Even through such content is useful, it becomes irrelevant since it does not address the needs of gifted female students (Department of Education and Communities 2011).
A flexible curriculum allows teachers to teach different content to different types of learners within the same class in a manner that would not hinder learning by non gifted learners. As such, non-gifted and slow learners would not feel discriminated in class.
This means that the curriculum should provide flexibility in terms of choice. A flexible curriculum provides teachers with a variety of instructional methods and techniques. Furthermore, flexible curriculum allows teachers to choose appropriate content which suits each of the gifted female student’s needs.
Department of Education and Communities (2011) relates flexibility to the compactness of a curriculum by suggesting that a curriculum for gifted students allows teachers the choice of determining what to teach, depending on student’s entry behavior.
By this, Department of Education and Communities (2011) implies that teachers should not make assumptions on the requirements of students and should thus continuously asses the requirements at every level of learning.
It is therefore evident that gifted girls need a special curriculum plan which will enable them to overcome learning challenges. Furthermore, a special curriculum allows gifted female students not only to develop their special skill but do so in a normal learning environment.
This implies that teachers have to understand not only the unique education related challenges that girls face in class but also identify all the unique gifts within the student community. This allows for the development and implementation of a curriculum that suits not only the gifted students but also non gifted students.
A curriculum plan for gifted female students
It is assumed that gifted female students learn with much ease as compared to non gifted students. However, research conducted by the Brunel University indicates that gifted female students face discrimination in class since teachers ignore their special needs requirements (Koshy, Mitchell and Williams 2006). These challenges can be categorized as both environmental and social.
Environmental problems are those challenges imposed by the school’s environment. This includes a lack of understanding, mostly by the teacher on the learning needs for gifted female students. As such, the learning environment becomes un-conducive for gifted girls since it does not support the development of their special skills.
Social challenges emanate from social discrimination by society members, especially peers and family (Smutny and Blocksom 1990). Many societies perceive the perfect female identify as gullible, docile and introverted. Such perceptions encourage gifted girls to conceal their gifts.
This perception bears heavily on their performance in class since Teachers expect girls not to argue, not to express confidence and not to express dissenting opinion (Badolato 1998). Such discrimination seems irrelevant, but it hugely influences how teachers view gifted female students. When a girl exhibits such traits, she is perceived as weird.
Research findings by Joseph Renzulli, an education expert from NRCGG, a research centre concerned with gender based influences in education reveals that such discrimination encourages gifted girls to suppress their gifts and as such they do not pursue careers parallel to their gifts (Badolato 1998).
These challenges reveal weakness in terms of understanding the unique and urgent needs for gifted female students. If the needs of gifted female students are to be met, then there is a need for a special curriculum plan that incorporates their special needs.
In planning a curriculum for gifted girls, several issues need to be considered. One of the most critical issues that teachers need to consider is the criteria they use to identify gifted female students (Baum, Owen and Dixon 1991). Traditionally, teachers have presumed that giftedness is manifested through high IQ scores. As such, the identification of giftedness is attained through IQ scores.
Furthermore, teachers consider higher academic performance as a sign of giftedness. There are other methods which can be used to identify special needs in female students. This includes drawing up a list of all the characteristics of specially gifted student and identifying whether any of the students posses those skills.
In doing this, teachers should consider the four major domains of learning needs: affective, motor, cognitive and social. It is imperative to state that there are mitigating factors which determine the manifestation of giftedness in female students. They include culture and language abilities.
Various cultures have unique ways of manifesting special gifts (Smutny and Blocksom 1990). It is up to the teachers to bridge the cross cultural gap by understanding cross cultural manifestation of giftedness (Baldwin and Vialle 1999). Furthermore, language abilities in multicultural schools should not be used as a criterion of identifying gifts in female students.
This is true especially in schools where the first language of gifted female students is not the language of instruction. Additionally, teachers and curriculum planners need to consider resources available, which include tacit resources (knowledge based resources), infrastructural resources in terms of physical facilities as well as financial resources.
Identifying special needs and resources available should enable teachers to draw up a curriculum that will enable them help gifted female students meet their unique learning needs. Teachers need to understand the unique attributes of this type of a curriculum. Teachers should thus aim at developing a compact curriculum.
A compact curriculum enables teachers to categorize teaching content, based on special skills, teaching methods, student’s entry behavior as well as students learning abilities. Curriculum planners will design a curriculum which enables them to teach varied content within the same class, and address different needs found in each of the gifted female students.
As such, the curriculum enables the teachers to accelerate learning for gifted students. In this regard, this type of curriculum will also take care of the needs of non gifted students and also propose appropriate methods of ensuring that non gifted students do not feel discriminated (Henage 1990; Marie Martin 2002; Montgomery 2003). A compact curriculum allows for flexibility.
A flexible curriculum enables teachers the luxury of choosing the content to teach as well as the methods of instruction. This results to a curriculum that addresses all the needs of both the gifted and non gifted students.
After developing a curriculum, implementation phase follows. This is gradual process which takes time and careful planning. Implementation begins with a pre test, which involves a number of activities. During a pre test, student’s entry behavior is determined. The purpose of determining entry behavior for gifted female student is to enable curriculum planners to determine special needs in each and every one of them.
This enables teachers to identify relevant content, resources and teaching methods relevant to the needs identified. Furthermore, pretesting involves preparing both gifted and non gifted girls for impending curriculum changes (Department of Education and Communities 2011). The purpose of preparing the girls during the pre test stage is to determine their readiness and perception about the new curriculum.
At this stage teachers need professional help from experts so as to attain the appropriate response from students. A pre test also allows for necessary adjustments to the curriculum before the actual implementation begins. Implementing the curriculum for gifted female students is a gradual and recurrent process.
It involves constant evaluation of the educational needs for gifted girls. As such, the content and teaching methods evolve as students needs evolve (Rogers 2002).
Implementing Curriculum for gifted female students is an all inclusive effort. This is because the plight of the gifted female students goes beyond the classroom to how the society perceives and socializes the girl child. All inclusivity means that the necessary authorities, both internal and external have to be involved. Furthermore, involving the parents and the local community is crucial for successful implementation.
Specifically, parental input is vital in helping students to set individual goals which assist them in the pursuit if relevant careers. In addition, by involving parents and the local community, a long terms solution will be attained.
The parents will be educated on how gender stereotyping hinders the development and growth of special skills in gifted female students. If parents and the wider society understand the effects of gender stereotyping, the challenge of social discrimination will be eliminated.
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