Six Guidelines for Grouping Gifted Learners
The guidelines below were developed by Dr. Karen Rogers, and are included in Barbara J. Gilman’s 2008 text: Academic Advocacy for Gifted Children. Gilman states that the work of Dr. Rogers is “indispensable to gifted advocates” and explains:
Rogers’ 1991 work, The Relationship of Grouping Practices to the Education of the Gifted and Talented Learner: Research-Based Decision Making, was a meta-evaluation synthesis of the research on grouping, including all research up to that time, which included more than 700 studies on ability grouping, more than 300 studies on cooperative learning, and more than 300 studies on accelerative options involving forms of regrouping… Rogers’ subsequent book, Re-Forming Gifted Education: How Parents and Teachers Can Match the Program to the Child (2002), updates all of the research on ability grouping, acceleration, and individualization through 1998.
Students who are academically or intellectually gifted and talented should spend the majority of their school days with others of similar abilities and interests. Both general intellectually ability grouping programs (such as a school within a school, gifted magnet schools, full-time gifted programs, or gifted classrooms) and full-time grouping for special academic ability (such as magnet schools) have produced marked academic achievement gains, as well as moderate increases in attitude toward the subjects in which these students are grouped.
The cluster grouping of a small number of students, either intellectually gifted or gifted in a similar academic domain, within an otherwise heterogeneously grouped classroom, can help gifted students progress when schools cannot support a full-time gifted program (demographically, economically, or philosophically). The “cluster teacher” must, however, be sufficiently trained to work with gifted students, must be given adequate preparation time, and must be willing to devote a proportionate amount of classroom time to the direct provision of learning experiences for the cluster group.
In the absence of full-time gifted program enrollment, schools might offer gifted and talented students specific group instruction across grade levels according to their individual knowledge acquisition in school subjects, either in conjunction with cluster grouping or in its stead. The “cross-grade grouping” option has been found effective for the gifted and talented in both single-subject and full-time programming (i.e. non-graded classrooms).
Students who are gifted and talented should be able to choose from a variety of appropriate acceleration-based options, which may be designed for either a group or on an individual basis. It is, of course, important to consider the social and psychological adjustment of each student, as well as cognitive abilities, in making the optimal match to the student’s needs.
Students who are gifted and talented should have various forms of enrichment experiences to extend the regular school curriculum, leading to the more complete development of concepts, principles, and generalizations. This enrichment could occur within the classroom through numerous curriculum delivery models currently used in the field, or it could be in the form of enrichment pull-out programs.
Mixed-ability cooperative learning does not promote academic growth and progress for students who are gifted and talented, and it is probably only useful for social skills development. Until there is evidence that this form of cooperative learning provides academic outcomes similar or superior to the various forms of ability grouping, it is important to continue with grouping practices that are supported by research and to use mixed- ability cooperative learning sparingly.