chapter  5
Opportunities for gifted science provision in the context of a learner-centred national curriculum
Pages 12

This chapter explores how teachers may make use of curriculum flexibility to develop effective gifted education within science classes. It draws upon the New Zealand (NZ) experience, where provision for the gifted is considered to be uneven, but is a focus of interest. The New Zealand context offers particular opportunities because there is considerable potential for flexibility in the science curriculum (and other curricula). This chapter explores the situation, and offers suggestions for how best teachers might build on these opportunities. The concern about provision for the gifted in New Zealand schools has had a difficult gestation for a variety of reasons, and these are briefly described. A particular feature of the New Zealand context is provision of gifted and other education for the Ma¯ori (i.e. people self-identifying culturally as indigenous New Zealanders), and this has had a significant influence in informing both the principles of gifted education policy and the nature of the science curriculum. In terms of the former, there has been much concern with keeping an inclusive understanding of ‘giftedness’ in New Zealand schools. The curriculum has more flexibility than in some other countries (such as in the UK) and may be considered to be student-centred in nature. Indeed, the science curriculum has been described as ‘constructivist’

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related a curriculum statement that allows – indeed encourages – local input into the curriculum in order to meet the needs of the learners attending that school. In principle this allows flexibility which could help schools provide for their gifted learners in science, however these may be conceptualised and identified. In practice research shows that schools are using this flexibility to a differing, often limited extent. Provision for the gifted has also been the subject of research in New Zealand,where it has been found that there are some examples of good practice, but that there are seen to be barriers to implementing best practice, and that the approaches used offer both advantages and disadvantages. In science, some examples of practice are described. The final section of this chapter will draw upon the lesson of such research as exists into gifted provision, and science curriculum practice in New Zealand to offer ideas on how schools can draw upon the potential flexibility of a student-centred curriculum to meet the needs of their gifted learners in science.