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Personalising Learning: Exploring the principles and processes of the IEP for young, gifted readers

This small-scale qualitative, action research study sought to establish the efficacy of using the Individualised Education Programme (IEP) as an assistive tool towards the differentiation of reading programmes for young, gifted and talented readers. Despite a growing awareness about the importance of curriculum differentiation for all students, research indicates how little some classroom teachers do to meet the needs of gifted readers. The literature reviewed reveals how the prolonged mismatching of instructional reading programmes to the academic and emotional maturity of the gifted reader may well result in underachievement, and a diminished opportunity to learn how to react to challenge. In November 2006, the New Zealand Ministry of Education launched its personalising learning initiative, which promotes the active participation of students in their education by creating their own learning pathways. Students are encouraged to articulate their learning needs and preferences, and set goals in collaboration with their parents and family/whanau and teachers. With its underlying principles based on collaboration and communication, together with its seemingly flexible structure, this study utilised the IEP as a personalising learning framework for young gifted and talented readers, and as a differentiation tool for their teachers. Over a five month period, the researcher worked alongside three Year Two/Three teachers from an urban, decile five primary school as they each identified one gifted reader from their classes, and together with the student and the student's parents, set about planning and implementing an IEP, using strategies and approaches suggested by the literature as the most apposite for gifted readers. Data was gathered through in-class observations, participants' journals, focus group meetings, IEP meetings, and semi-structured interviews. This study reveals the use of the IEP holds great promise as a differentiation tool towards the personalisation of learning programmes for young, gifted readers. Each student attended his or her own IEP meetings, indicated their learning preferences and needs, helped to set his or her own learning goals, and assessed their own achievement using the IEP goal indicators. Significantly, for the teachers involved in this project, the IEPs proved not only useful as qualitatively differentiated planning frameworks for the students in the study, but many of the goals and strategies used proved pertinent for all children, in particular, for the 'top' reading groups. In this regard, IEPs proved to be 'work-smarter' tools for the teachers involved, serving as planning blueprints for the most able readers in their classes, thereby creating inclusive rather than exclusive conditions for the gifted readers. Furthermore, the insights gained by the teachers involved into the needs of their gifted readers ultimately challenged their personal teaching philosophies, and resulted in changes to their teaching practices for their gifted students.
Type of thesis
Mazza-Davies, L. L. (2008). Personalising Learning: Exploring the principles and processes of the IEP for young, gifted readers (Thesis, Master of Special Education (MSpEd)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2310
The University of Waikato
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