Saturday, 26 September 2009

G&T - contracts and compacting - maintaining the motivation

I was working away on my MA module which is to design a small scale research project. I have chosen to look at a form of differentiation which has been around in America for almost 30 years, and is called curriculum compacting. It appears quite frequently in the American literature, but I don't think it has really emerged as a concept in UK or international teaching.

Anyway I stumbled on a few gems.

One of them is the Education Resources Information Centre.
There was no cost and I didn't need to register. It seemed very easy to use and had a wide range of academic studies.

The other was the article I was able to download This pdf is titled Providing Curriculum Alternatives To Motivate Gifted Students. The part I was interested in, which looked at compacting a curriculum into a shorter period of time, was very clear and well worded. The idea was developed by Renzulli, Smith and Reis in 1982. It seems to be set against a teaching background in which there is little differentiation, seemingly dumbed down textbooks and a tendency for all teachers to teach by the textbook. The idea is not rocket science (speaking od which look at this for some rocket powered action) but tries to:
  1. Identify the key learning objectives of a unit.
  2. Identify children who have sufficient mastery of these even before they have started the topic.
  3. Provide these G&T children with other opportunities for learning, at the same time as a giving them a study guide to develop new concepts. Eligible students will be expected to learn the study guide material, but it is understood that they will spend the majority of their school time working on their extension tasks. Students should not be required to write out the answers for the content of the study guide. They may use any means they choose to learn the material, but must be able to demonstrate mastery.
It is a way of maintaining interest in the curriculum while "buying time" to persue other learning interests. Seems sensible.

How much work would it take to do this for a subject? I'm not sure, but wouldn't it be good to have a framework to support teachers to develop these materials. It would certainly allow more able children to broaden their knowledge and understanding of the world. Non contact time for teachers to develop curriculum materials to support the G&T. The materials could be based on the QCA guidelines and learning outcomes.

Also part of the PDF was a good section on contracts and independent study. This could really support PBL (project based learning) as a small scale part of classroom activity.

I'm sure that this is the way forward if we want to make learning more relevant, interesting and useful for a life after school.

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