As our nation becomes more culturally diverse we our schools need to begin modeling and preparing for this diversity. The importance of learning about diversity in culture and stereotypes is of particular concern with gifted learners. This article discusses the Ford and Harris model (2000) which combines higher order thinking skills with culturally relevant content to engage students in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation as they examine different perspectives and become involved in social action. There are several different methods to this model that can be used a social studies classroom to engage gifted learners.
The first is the transformational approach where the curriculum is set up to show contributions and perspectives of many groups. This allows students to see various perspectives across the spectrum of cultures. Next, the social action approach has students identify issues that they think might need to be changed and make action plans. They are empowered in both of these approaches. Blooms Taxonomy is used at the highest level in both of these models and students are able to learn from themselves, inwardly, and from each other in order to hopefully develop positive relationships.
Along with using these two approaches discussions, infusions of literature and poetry, role-playing, examining primary documents, ethnographic research, photojournalism, and service learning are easily applied to middle and high school classrooms. The importance of keeping gifted students engaged has been well documented. High qualities discussions have in the classroom are a great way for student to share, debate, develop original thinking and analyze various perspectives of other gifted students.
In a multicultural classroom discussions could become significant learning experiences for young people by allowing participants to challenge the points of view held by others while reexamining their own beliefs Parker (2001). Multicultural literature infused into the classroom and curriculum can give many cultural perspectives for students to reflect upon. Teachers reported gains in self-esteem and academic achievement in diverse students when given literature in which they felt reflected their own culture.
Another good technique that teachers can use in a multicultural classroom is role-play. When students place themselves into the role of another it is found that they internalize the culture while also learning about the content. This use of critical thinking skills, along with cooperative learning is a big part of a multicultural classroom. Role-play is one strategy that enriches instruction and supports the unusual sensitivity to the feelings of others evident in gifted learners (Clark, 2007; Piechowski, 2006).
Teachers, who have used the process of ethnographic research, or the study and systematic recording of human cultures, have found that gifted students are enriched with the process. Ethnographic research includes interviews, artifacts and observations. Along with Ethnographic research the use of primary documents is an important part of a multicultural classroom. Examples include manuscripts, diaries, letters, photographs, postcards, posters, audio or video recordings, oral histories, speeches, or official documents (Bogdan & Biklen, 2006).
Primary documents are increasingly becoming a part of the questioning process on the end of course exams so it is vital that gifted students are given access to them and understand their importance. Photographs, or photojournalism can be impactful for the visual gifted learners. Photojournalism supports numerous characteristics of gifted learners, including their emotional depth and intensity, as well as their strong capacity for processing information, generating original ideas, and comprehensively synthesizing ideas and solutions (Clark, 2007; Davis et al. 2011).
Finally, service learning is an area were gifted learners are provided the opportunity be creative with their ideas. In service learning students can find a need in the community and find a method to assist. Because many gifted learners have high levels of empathy this suits them well. Terry (2008) noted that service learning can help gifted learners reach their creative potential as they seek solutions to society’s problems, while also assisting them in their journey toward self-actualization.
There are many methods that creativity and diversity can be brought into a multicultural classroom. With gifted students choice and variety is important so that the student remains engaged. The gifted learners needs will drive much of the instruction. This is just a few of the ideas that would work in a social studies classroom in particular. As with all things creativity, curriculum and enrichment are the key to keeping students engaged with gifted learners.