FIP for All: Reaching Gifted Students

Recently, we heard one teacher’s perspective on Reaching All Students and how he learned to meet the needs of diverse learners. Now, we’d like to take a look at two different student perspectives in thinking about how formative instructional practices can help all students advance in their learning.

I recently met Jeremy, a 10-year-old gifted student, who will be starting fifth grade this fall. After I spent the last year learning about Formative Instructional Practices, I was impressed by this student’s articulate reflection on his learning experiences. He offered a great student perspective on the kinds of feedback that teachers can give to their students. “I know it’s really easy for teachers just to write ‘A’ or ‘B’ on a paper, and it takes more time to write comments with feedback. But the comments make more sense, and they help me understand what to do to get better.” Jeremy shared that his favorite activities in school are those that challenge him to solve difficult problems while working together with other students, especially when the problems focus on real-world situations. He stressed the importance of teachers sharing learning targets that have significance in the real world, because those connections give students a reason to care about what they are learning. When Jeremy conversed with me about his experience in school, I couldn’t help but think of his similarities to a close friend of mine.

Ryan, who is currently knee-deep in work on his doctorate at the University of Michigan, was first identified as a gifted student when he was just 6 years old. Throughout elementary school, his interest in science and technology permeated his after-school activities. “The projects I worked on required a knowledge of math, science, writing, and creativity,” Ryan remembers. “I learned a lot about group work and different types of intelligence.” When he got to high school, several teachers recognized what he was capable of, and they pushed him to stretch beyond what even the most advanced courses required. Ryan has not forgotten the names of those teachers, nor has he forgotten their importance. “A good education set me up to succeed at the university level and move on to graduate school, beginning a career path that I feel I most belong in. But this path would have been inaccessible without those teachers.”

All students, not just those who are gifted, really have an incredible capacity for understanding their own learning. If you have been using FIP in your teaching, you know this to be true. And, you may know more about reaching gifted students than you think you do. After all, the FIP core components (creating and sharing clear learning targets, collecting and documenting evidence of learning, providing effective feedback, and cultivating student ownership of learning) are strategies that work for all students. Of course, these strategies must be applied with different considerations for each learner, depending on areas of strength and need. That’s why the FIP Your School Ohio team has been working to create a series of modules called “Reaching All Learners” that includes three separate online learning courses related to the needs of gifted students, students with special needs, and English language learners.

You’ll see examples of teachers responding to their students’ challenges and strengths in the newly released module Formative Instructional Practices: Reaching Gifted Students. You will also have the chance to consider some of the ways you can alter instruction to better meet the needs of your students.

At the heart of all learning and teaching is the drive to grow. Jeremy, the 10-year-old I spoke with, and all of his peers deserve teachers who can help them reach that next level and achieve the goals they set for themselves. And, like Ryan, when they experience success, they will look back at those teachers who helped them get there. 

You can access Formative Instructional Practices: Reaching Gifted Students here, available for free to all Ohio educators.