Supporting Underserved and Culturally Diverse Gifted Students
Giftedness can be found amongst people from all cultures, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds, however the definition and conceptualization of giftedness can differ considerably across groups (Vialle, 2011). It is important, then, for educators to appreciate these differing views for the purpose of identifying and supporting underserved and culturally diverse gifted students within their classroom.
Historically, gifted students from minority cultures, including those of colour or non-native English speakers, are significantly under-represented in gifted education (Vialle, 2011). Teachers lack diversity and cultural competence, holding low expectations for these students (Szymanski, 2013). The main causes for this under-representation is due to discriminatory assessment practices such as culturally biased assessment measures and narrow selection criteria of learning material (Szymanski, 2013). Other problems associated with the identification of culturally diverse students include teacher bias, inadequate teacher preparation in testing, assessment, and multicultural gifted education, cross-cultural misinterpretations and misunderstandings, negative stereotyping of minority groups, and narrow concepts of giftedness (Szymanski, 2013).
“In this high intensity testing environment, teachers are forced to focus on the bubble kids, preparing them for tests in reading, writing, and math, and other students and other intelligences are deprioritized.”
By denying students their racial and cultural diversity, teachers deny the history and experiences of minority students, suggesting that there is only one “correct” way of learning and expressing their knowledge (Vialle, 2011). This can be extremely detrimental to the culturally diverse gifted population as it can influence their sense of self-worth. These negative outlooks and attributes can ultimately translate into other aspects of their lives. Diverse students who are already aware that society at large sees them as less capable may develop the belief that they truly are incapable of achieving great things (Vialle, 2011).
Steps to incorporating differing cultural concepts of giftedness
1. Appropriate teacher training and education on diverse cultures and diverse conceptions of giftedness:
Most teaching programs only require one course on exceptional students, primarily focusing on students with learning and behavioural disabilities (Bevan-Brown, 2004). It is essential to improve the amount and quality of education, training, and exposure to culturally diverse students for educators.
2. Teachers should provide culturally responsive school environments where diverse cultures and values are acknowledged and celebrated.
Not only will the culturally diverse gifted students benefit, so will the other students who may develop genuine interest in other cultures. This promotes diversity, acceptance, and respect.
3. The content and context of learning should be relevant to all students. Assessments and teaching strategies should also be appropriate for all students.
The Golden Jackal is prominently found in Indian folklore and literature such as the story of The Blue Jackal. They often have the role of the “trickster” which in Western culture is played by the Red Fox. It is important to be aware of such differences to provide equal learning opportunities for all children (Vialle, 2011).
4. Greater involvement from parents, families, and the community.
Parents and family can help educate teachers on their cultural concepts of giftedness to help teachers identify gifted children and incorporate cultural concepts into their education program (Bevan-Brown, 2004).
*The following questionnaire is offered to help teachers assess the extent and quality of their own school’s provisions for gifted students from minority cultures:
- What is the cultural composition of the students in your school? (Give percentage of overall school population for each cultural group)
- Does your school have a gifted register and/or programme?
- If so, what is the ethnicity of the students identified/involved?
- Do the numbers from each cultural group reflect their proportion within the whole school?
- If not, which groups are over or under-represented and why is this so?
- What are the conceptions of giftedness of the various cultural groups represented in your school?
- What is your school’s definition of giftedness?
- Does this definition include essential elements of the cultural conceptions described in question 6?
- If not, what elements need to be added?
- What methods and measures are used to identify gifted students in your school?
- Do these include a variety of culturally appropriate approaches that ensure gifted minority students are not overlooked?
- Are students identified in areas that are highly valued by their cultural group including cultural skills and abilities?
- Is both gifted performance and gifted potential identified?
- Are parents, family and community members involved in a culturally appropriate way in identifying gifted students?
- What areas of giftedness are recognized and provided for in your school?
- Do they take into account differing cultural perspectives, interpretations, values, behaviours and practices?
- Do they include the arts, crafts, music, skills, traditions, knowledge, an languages of minority cultures?
- Do they include abilities and qualities that are highly valued by minority cultures?
- Are parents, family and community members: Consulted about gifted provisions; involved in decision-making relating to these provisions and to their children’s participation in them; invited to contribute their expertise and involved in the evaluation of these provisions?
- In what ways does your school provide a culturally responsive, supportive learning environment which reflects and values cultural diversity?
- Does the identification and fostering of giftedness in minority culture areas and from multicultural perspectives receive the same priority, status, funding and time commitment as majority culture input?
- Are teachers adequately trained to provide for gifted students from all cultures?
- If not, what in-service education is offered to up-skill and update teachers in respect to testing, assessment, multicultural and gifted education?
- Does your school have equity measures to ensure gifted students do not miss out on extension opportunities because of socio-economic factors?
- Do gifted students from minority groups have access to role models/mentors from their own culture?
Resources for Teachers