In developing school-based gifted development programmes, schools should determine the most appropriate strategy based on students' characteristics, teachers' qualifications and school missions. This chapter illustrates how school-based gifted development programmes can be developed with case studies.
Case Study 1
In this case, the teachers cared greatly about their students. They were pleased to see their students' growth and progress. Indeed, the interaction between teachers and students during the teaching process inspired their enthusiasm for teaching. Therefore, the learning needs of students formed the main driving force that motivated teachers to develop the programmes (please refer to Sections 2.3 and 2.6 of this guide for information on the characteristics of students). While students developed through the learning process, teachers also made continuous improvements to the programmes. This spirit also inspired other teachers to join the teaching group, thus encouraging and benefiting one another.
Several mathematics teachers in the school discovered that a number of their students achieved outstanding results in mathematics every year. They outperformed their classmates significantly, and sometimes even learned much faster than the syllabus. However, for the sake of other students, the teachers had no choice but slowed down the teaching progress. As a result, some of them became so annoyed or impatient that the classroom atmosphere was affected. The teachers felt it was a pity that such students were not able to develop their potential; so they organised an after-lesson mathematics training programme to offer them more challenging exercises. Faced with more difficult problems, this group of students learned even better and with greater enthusiasm. Some Form-1 or Form-2 students among them were even able to solve university-level problems. The teachers also encouraged them to participate in mathematics contests where they all achieved excellent results. Both the students and their teachers were happy with the students' performance. In addition, to satisfy the students' needs, the teachers made consistent efforts for self-improvement through reading and continuing education.
In the course of this process, more and more students with mathematical talent were identified. Other teachers were invited to participate in the programme to share the teaching workload. Since most of the teaching materials had already been developed, it was easier for these teachers to implement the programmes. However, they kept adjusting and revising the programmes according to the ability and characteristics of the students, so as to cater for their needs. In addition, the teachers frequently participated in discussions that benefited them and their students.
Expansion and Consolidation
After considerable effort, the students' achievements won recognition. The school began to pay greater attention to the needs of the high-ability students. A working group was established to take responsibility for training and developing students with different talents. The programme was then developed from a whole-class subject enrichment approach (Level IB) into a pull-out subject enrichment programme (Level II D). Based on teacher nomination, student self-nomination, interview performance and academic achievements, 20 students were selected to participate in an after-lesson training programme that mainly emphasised general enrichment. Students were required to take part in training about creativity, thinking skills and interpersonal relationships, and then conducted investigation and research into a topic that interested them.
Meanwhile, the mathematics teachers realised that the extra-curricular training materials were also appropriate for regular classes, and able to benefit all students after some revisions and developing the teaching steps into greater detail to meet the needs of students of different ability. So, the teachers decided to start with Form 1. They divided the mathematics curriculum into a number of learning units. The first few lessons of each unit were taught in accordance with the "Mathematics Curriculum Guide", while the last two or four lessons were designed as an extension programme. The teachers would instruct students to solve problems beyond the textbook, using mathematical theories they had previously learned. At the outset, students would be given easier problems, in the forms of interesting activities; then gradually they would receive more difficult ones. Eventually, the students were required to solve mathematical problems at Form 5 level. During the process, the students were divided into pairs for discussions. The teachers would not teach the students to solve problems directly. Rather, they offered encouragement and guidance to the students. Since the programme was taught in small groups, one more teacher was invited to assist the mathematics teacher.
Impact on the School's Gifted Education
In the course of a three-year experimental period, the school realised the importance of gifted education and attained some required skills. After repeated discussion, it finally adopted "Catering for Learner Differences" as one of its development tasks. All teachers were requested to apply such teaching strategies to each of their subjects. Every subject teacher also seriously attempted to immerse the elements of gifted education into classroom lessons. Assessments were performed throughout the process to maintain continuous improvement in the quality of learning and teaching.
Case study 2
The implementation of gifted education in School D can be traced back a number of years when one of the teachers joined it as a Primary 4 class mistress. In that year, a student in her class raised a lot of questions during lessons and often even challenged teachers. Later, she learned from the parents that the student was a gifted child with an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) of over 130. At the same time, another student in her class behaved strangely. The student's learning motivation was low but he enjoyed drawing in the class. Moreover, the drawings demonstrated his outstanding creativity. Despite repeated warnings from teachers, he continued drawing during lessons. The academic results of these two students differed significantly, but both displayed creativity and imagination. The teacher realised that their needs could not be met in regular classrooms, and wondered how she could help these two gifted students as their class mistress. With the aim of better understanding the students and catering for their needs more effectively, she found time to attend courses on gifted education despite her heavy teaching workload.
The courses about gifted education enabled the teacher to learn more about gifted students, and the relevant teaching approaches that match their gifted characteristics. Then, she attempted to immerse creative elements into her classes, to help the students develop their potential.
Later, she found that such teaching approaches were not only appropriate for gifted students, but also beneficial to ordinary students. Students displayed greater interest in learning after creative elements had been immersed into curriculum. Moreover, she also became more enthusiastic about teaching, and her sense of satisfaction and commitment increased. She gradually realised she should not simply focus on teaching certain courses for the purpose of teaching itself; she should also gain a better understanding of her students' characteristics and interests, in order to achieve better results. In September 2001, following the launch of the "Teacher Secondment Scheme" by the Curriculum Support Division (CSD), she was seconded to CSD, participating in the "Cluster School Gifted Project', with the school principal's support. The secondment policy definitely changed the teacher's role, and it has gradually disseminated the concept of gifted education to other teachers within the school.
Since it was the first time the school had implemented the School-based Gifted Development Programme, the teacher had to refer to successful cases in other schools. She also collected information related to gifted education programmes, and read extensively about the programmes. Eventually, she decided to start with the pull-out programmes for Primary 1 and Primary 2 students.
Impact on the School's Gifted Education
During her secondment period, the teacher brought the gifted education concept back to the school, and she subsequently proposed the implementation of gifted education programmes to the principal. She finally gained the principal's support, and the colleagues' participation. Although it was not a large-scale programme, it formed an ideal stepping stone for the development of gifted education.
By the time the programme plan was being prepared, the principal was about to retire. Unfortunately, the school's deputy principal was appointed as the principal of another school. Faced with these unexpected changes, could the school still implement the programme successfully during the new term? Would the new principal support the idea of implementing a gifted education programme in a school that served children from a housing estate? Would the teacher be seconded to the CSD for one more year? Fortunately, the new school principal also fully supported the plan. What was more encouraging was that the school would incorporate gifted education into the curriculum development policy for the following year.
Case study 3
The school is a well-known district secondary school with a long history. In response to the challenges of the new era and to further improve school quality, the school undertook a thorough review of its current situation. As a result, it was found that there was still room for developing academic potential and other forms of intelligence of its students. Therefore, it decided to focus on improving students' higher-order thinking ability, creativity and multiple intelligences.
A task group was formed to lead the implementation of gifted education. The school principal played an active role in the development of gifted education by providing teachers with great support especially in terms of resources and administrative support. Led by the assistant school principal, the task group was composed of middle-level administrative personnel. They actively engaged in advanced studies in gifted education and took part in related activities, in the expectation that gifted education would support the development of the school curriculum.
Realising the importance of teacher training, the school invited scholars from tertiary institutions to organise teaching and learning workshops for the teachers. Some teachers attended gifted education seminars run by the Gifted Education Section of the Education Bureau (EDB). In addition, the Gifted Education Section was invited to organise seminars to introduce the basic concepts of gifted education in the school. Teachers from other schools were also invited to share their experience about teaching gifted education programmes. Having acquired the basic knowledge about gifted education and related activities, teachers were able to assist in implementing the school-based gifted education programme.
The school participated in a number of projects under the Quality Education Fund (QEF) and the EMB. Most of them were related to developing students' multiple talents, as well as teaching and curriculum reform. As such, the school tried to integrate various projects and programmes actively to avoid curriculum redundancy, thus stimulating students' interest in learning, developing their potential and enhancing teachers' teaching effectiveness.
The school also affirmed the importance of gifted education in its overall development. Besides setting short and long-term objectives, it also implemented action plans and integrated them into the school's development themes for the academic year.
Level One: A Whole-class Approach – Immersion of the Core Elements of Gifted Education
The programme was integrated with classroom lessons. Some teachers were invited to undertake trial teaching and then share their experience with others, in order to create the atmosphere and culture of gifted education. Subject teachers who were especially interested in gifted education formed a lesson preparation group, so that they could design their tasks and prepare and deliver trial lessons. The school also invited officers from the Gifted Education Section to provide support, as well as engage in practical tasks – such as curriculum design and the implementation of teaching strategies and learning assessment – together with the teachers who tried out the lessons.
The school adopted a project learning approach to integrate the project work of various subjects. Therefore, students were allowed to focus on one or two projects in an academic year in order to master the learning skills involved. Project learning could be divided into various levels, according to the degree of difficulty. Students could select projects of varying degree of difficulty in line with their abilities and interests. Teachers provided them with guidance in choosing appropriate project learning topics according to their abilities.
Level Two: Pull-out Programmes
Pull-out programmes were implemented in the form of activities. By adopting the gifted student selection criteria and procedures provided by the Gifted Education Section of EMB, students with higher academic performances were selected to receive training. After consultation, those who achieved outstanding results in Chinese, English, mathematics and science were selected to receive training in special "Language" and "Mathematics" classes. In addition, a "Learning Enrichment Class" was organised for 12 selected students who showed above-average ability in Chinese, English, mathematics and science to receive training in creativity, high-order thinking skills and personal-social competence. The school collaborated with staff of the Gifted Education Section in undertaking a pilot scheme to explore feasible implementation modes and training plans
Expansion and Consolidation
As this approach to school-based gifted education was based on the school developmental needs and led by its management, its advantages included high efficiency and more comprehensive coverage. However, attention should be paid to the fact that resistance might be encountered.. For example, some teachers might have different concepts of gifted education. They might think that gifted students could undergo personal growth on their own and thus they might believe that resources should be reserved for low-ability students. Parents might query the selection mechanism and complain about the unfair allocation of resources. After continuous review and adjustment, the school decided to extend its gifted education to more subjects. The scope of selection was broadened to include students with different talents. More teachers were thus able to experience gifted education, so that they could more readily adopt the concept.
Impact on the School's Gifted Education
Case study 4
The school devoted great attention to gifted education. It designed an enrichment programme to cater for all Form 1 and Form 2 classes. The programme content included secondary one induction programme, learning skills, project learning and personal development. After the implementation for two years, the teachers found that the students' learning attitudes were praiseworthy and the programme was helpful for students. However, the school management felt that more could be done to make the programme evaluation more systematic and in greater depth, although the teachers had been reviewing and revising the programme regularly throughout the two-year period. It was also concerned about the students' learning effectiveness and how to improve learning and teaching modes.
The school's starting point for improving its gifted education was to review and evaluate the effectiveness of its enrichment programme. To have a focus of the task , it chose the "Learning Skill" module as the first step towards developing gifted education, expecting to develop a complete academic assessment system and mode for further extension to other modules of the subjects involved. More importantly, it was expected that the programme for gifted education and its implementation could be further improved through assessment.
Objectives of Assessment
The objective was to assess whether students could apply the skills they had gained from the "Learning Skill" lessons to other subjects and daily life. The areas to be assessed included: (1) Whether the programme met students' needs; (2) The learning performance and effectiveness of the students; (3) Difficulties encountered in teaching the programme; and(4) Overall coordination of the programme.
Impact on the School's Gifted Education
There are many interactive entry points for developing school-based gifted development programmes. Schools may design the most appropriate entry points for programme development by referring to the following diagram.