Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Mentorship: Mutual Benefits for ASL Students and Gifted Students (Part 1)

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Mentorship: Mutual Benefits for ASL Students and Gifted Students (Part 1)

Article excerpt

POSTSECONDARY American Sign Language (ASL) students are capable of teaching short lessons related to sign language and Deaf culture to gifted students in elementary school. College students who work as interest-area mentors benefit gifted students while building their own academic discipline and professional skills. In Part 1 of a 2-part series of articles, the authors explain the unique needs shared by students in gifted education programs (GEPs), the concept of interest-area mentorship, and how mentors help meet the needs of gifted students in light of National Association for Gifted Children standards. Benefits for ASL students, gifted students, and GEP teachers are discussed. College instructors also benefit, because mentoring experiences help make mentors better students and professionals. Additionally, mentoring in gifted classes facilitates recruiting of the next generation of professionals. In this case, recruiting occurs with the best and brightest: gifted students.

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC, 2008a) defines gifted students as those "who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities" (para. 1). Professionals working in educational settings with gifted students "must understand the characteristics and needs of the population for whom they are planning curriculum, instruction, assessment, programs, and services. These characteristics provide the rationale for differentiation in programs, grouping, and services" (NAGC, 2008a, para. 1). This "differentiation" includes the involvement of mentors for gifted students. College instructors who send their students as mentors to gifted classrooms must be familiar with these unique needs and characteristics. An understanding of the gifted education classroom environment is necessary for mentors if they are "to be effective in working with learners with gifts and talents" (NAGC, 2008a). With an understanding of gifted students' characteristics and needs, mentors will understand the rationale behind the standards that specifically apply to the education of these students.

Six standards for gifted education programs (GEPs) have been established by the NAGC, and are elucidated on the association's website (NAGC, 2008b): (a) learning and development, (b) assessment, (c) curriculum planning and instruction, (d) learning environments, (e) programming, and (f) professional development. Gifted education is not a national mandate, but a state prerogative. Goals, outcomes, and standards may vary from state to state, but the NAGC, whose standards and position papers are based on the current research and literature, is regarded as the definitive source of criteria for best practices. All references to the characteristics of gifted students and standards for GEPs are taken from documents and pages on the NAGC website (http://www.nagc.org) and stand on the esteem in which the association is held.

Four of the five NAGC standards considered in the present article specifically mention mentors as a means of meeting the needs of gifted students. College mentors can be instrumental in aiding GEPs in meeting all five standards. College instructors can arrange for their students to mentor in local gifted classes, and the arrangement can be a flexible one. A single 2-hour presentation may cover a week's worth of lessons because of the way GEP classes are set up. Gifted classes allow flexibility that is not present in general education; this allows mentors to give a lesson of 2 hours or longer, as time and scheduling permit. Topical choices can vary according to the areas of interest of the individual college students. In this way, the needs of gifted students can be met without burdening or overwhelming the mentor with the high expectations associated with gifted education. …

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