Congregated programs are classrooms formed of students identified as gifted. Some learning is done with just this class, and other learning is conducted with students from the school in general. The congregated programs offer a series of potential benefits:
Students are offered the opportunity to work with like minds. In non-congregated classrooms, differentiation may segregate the gifted and talented student in order to provide challenge. In a congregated classroom, the student learning grows more rapidly because it is fed by intellectual peers, and social skills grow on the same occasion as intellectual needs are met.Classrooms concentrate on meeting what research tells us are the unique socio-emotional needs of gifted learners.Students work as peers to hold each other accountable for a high level of thinking. Non-conformity, challenge and creativity grow through interaction with other gifted students, causing many students to report that they belong or feel challenged for the first time.
Inquiry is extended. Students are expected to learn content in high level tasks through a variety of media, and student move quickly through factual and procedural indicators to focus on conceptual and metacognitive ones. This allows student inquiry to extend beyond the scope of provincial outcomes and provides students with more flexibility in the topic or the scope of their inquiry processes.
The level of deep thought expected is greater, although the amount of work is not. Students are given greater choice and self-direction more frequently than they would be in a regular classroom working through the adaptive dimension. While the creative and critical thinking are stressed in a way that meets the curricular expectation, the depth and/or breadth with which a student demonstrates the outcome is extended beyond the requirement for a regular classroom.
Endings are delayed and evidence is varied. Classroom structures are designed to tolerate delaying closure, and to harness tangents, alternatives to established procedures and switching directions. While a class may start at the same place as a regular classroom, it ends in many different places. The classroom community relishes a variety of evidence that students are achieving.
Student learning is connected to the community more frequently than learning in a traditional classroom is. Students strive to share learning with “authentic audience,” and go deeper and/or wider through service learning. They have an invitation to share their learning beyond the walls of their classrooms, and they learn in a variety of spaces and with a variety of “experts.”
Learning extends beyond individual subjects, and activities are interdisciplinary from grades 5-12. Working thematically across curricula, even through high school, invites students to spend more time answering high level, interdisciplinary questions that demand synthesis, judgement and invention.
Authentic assessment in gifted programs requires a standard beyond the regular classroom, although summative evaluation creates parity with grade-alike peers beyond the program. Assessment is focused on the metacognitive and requires students to set and meet goals with a greater depth and frequency than a regular classroom. However, when summative grades are reported either a record of adaptation (elementary) or direct parity (high school) are used so students are not disadvantaged.