Interactions of chemistry teachers with gifted students in a regular high-school chemistry classroom
Regular high-school chemistry teachers view gifted students as one of several types of students in a regular (mixed-ability) classroom. Gifted students have a range of unique abilities that characterize their learning process: mostly they differ in three key learning aspects: their faster learning pace, increased depth of understanding, and special interests. If gifted students are to develop their abilities and potential, and learn optimally in a regular classroom, the teaching must be adjusted to meet their special needs. Chemistry high-school curricula have built-in potential to cater to the special needs of gifted students. Chemistry learning entails laboratory work and comprehension of abstract concepts. In the classroom, the interactions between teachers and students are core events that trigger other class events. In the present study the interactions between teachers and gifted students in a regular classroom, which are specific for chemistry teaching, were studied. Two general categories of interactions with gifted students were found to be unique to the chemistry classroom: (1) interactions involving laboratory work and (2) interactions involving the challenge of teaching chemistry content. We found that since gifted students master abstract chemistry concepts quickly and with minimum scaffolding, no interactions regarding this aspect were reported. Gifted students do not need all the instruction time teachers usually devote to explaining abstract concepts in chemistry, concepts that are considered difficult for other students. The present study indicates the essential need of enhancing chemistry teachers’ knowledge regarding teaching gifted students in the chemistry classroom. This includes knowledge about how gifted students learn in general, and its adaptation to the chemistry classroom and the chemistry laboratory according to academic and curricular needs of the gifted students.