Preparing and sustaining differentiated learning environments

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In order to thrive, academically gifted students require appropriately challenging, adequately paced learning tasks, commensurate with individual levels of knowledge and skill (Olszewski-Kubilius et al., 2017; Tomlinson, 2005). Learning tasks should also address gifted students’ personal interests; feed their intellectual curiosity; be personally meaningful or valued; focus on deep engagement with key concepts; include complex, open-ended tasks that increasingly mirror expert ways of working; and provide genuine opportunities for choice in order to engender growth and sustain motivation over time (e.g., Hockett, 2009; Patrick et al., 2015; Tomlinson et al., 2009). Of course, these principles apply to learners across ability levels. However, gifted or academically advanced students may be among those least likely to have consistent access to sufficiently complex, adequately paced curriculum and instruction, a situation exacerbated by the pervasive focus on minimum achievement benchmarks and high-stakes testing (Jolly, 2015; Jolly & Makel, 2010). Indeed, research in the United States and internationally highlights a pattern of comparatively limited academic growth for students at the upper end of the achievement continuum, especially for students in disadvantaged schools (e.g., Goss et al., 2016; Loveless, 2008). In addition, general education classrooms typically reflect a broad range of achievement levels (Firmender et al., 2013), including a considerable proportion of students who have already mastered gradelevel material. For example, Peters et al. (2017) found that 20%–49% of elementary and middle grades students were achieving at least one year above grade level in language arts, while the percentage range was 14%–37% in math. Access to high-quality differentiated instruction that addresses a broad range of current knowledge and skill levels, and that enables growth for students currently achieving beyond age-level expectations, is imperative within education systems that purport to be inclusive (Jarvis, 2018).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMethods and Materials for Teaching the Gifted
EditorsJennifer H. Robins, Jennifer L. Jolly, Frances A. Karnes, Suzanne M. Bean
Place of PublicationWaco, Texas, USA
PublisherPrufrock Press
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781618219992
ISBN (Print)9781618219985
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • gifted education
  • gifted students
  • differentiated instruction
  • learning environments


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