Accelerated learning options

Acceleration is another learning option that you as a parent of a gifted or high-ability child may wish to discuss with your child’s school.

Acceleration is the process of moving students through an educational program at a faster than usual rate, or at a younger than typical age. Acceleration strategies are designed to allow progress through the core content of a school program at a rate more closely aligned with a student’s ability and interests, rather than being restricted by artificially imposed steps of progression.

Accelerated learning practices can take different forms, but can be broadly categorised in two ways:

  • acceleration that groups students with older peers (such as subject and year-level acceleration)
  • accelerated learning that takes place within a student’s usual classroom.

Year or subject acceleration

Year or subject acceleration aims to make a better fit between the curriculum and the abilities of the child. These students are not 'skipping' knowledge or skills, but being offered a learning program that is a 'proper fit' to their current level of learning.

Research evidence supports this approach with findings that:  

  • gifted children usually learn and understand at a more advanced level than their age peers
  • acceleration, which matches the student’s level of ability with the level of learning content provided, is shown to also support healthy social and emotional growth (Rogers, 2002) 
  • in Rogers' research, gifted children who were accepted for early entrance to school were found to continue to learn at an advanced level and to develop their social skills slightly ahead of age-typical children 
  • when students were provided with single subject acceleration they continued to learn at a higher level than age-typical peers 
  • research on year-level acceleration has reported positive results in most cases for student learning, including working in a grade where most students are chronologically older than the accelerated child, and concurrent enrolment which is working in an older grade for some subjects and in with same age peers for others
  • year-level acceleration generally produces a strong improvement in social adjustment (Daniel, 1989).

Key types of year or stage acceleration

There are several types of acceleration that may be appropriate for the individual learning needs of your gifted child. Examples of year or stage acceleration include:

Early entry to primary school

A student enters primary school at a younger age than the prescribed age. For further information, see: Early Entry to School

Year-level acceleration

A student moves up an entire year level (or more than one year level). Placement at a year level that is two or more levels higher may be referred to as ‘radical acceleration’.

Accelerated learning programs (select entry)

Students in these programs are usually selected on the basis of in-school results or through an external testing process. Students can complete Years 7-10 or Years 8-10 in two years, providing them with more options for their senior years of schooling.

It should be noted that year or stage acceleration is not appropriate for all students. To be considered, teachers need to be confident that the student is intellectually, emotionally and socially ready to work ahead of their age peers.

Accelerated learning within a student's usual classroom

Other examples of acceleration are:

Modifying the learning program within the school program

This could include using questions that range from checking on learners’ understanding, to questions that require creative responses or self-evaluation.

Subject or content acceleration

A student moves up a year level (or more) in one subject but stays with their regular class for their other subjects.

Curriculum compacting

Pre-testing is used to ascertain a student’s current level of knowledge and understanding in a subject. Following this, the areas of curriculum where the student demonstrates mastery are replaced by a learning program that suits the student's learning needs.

Concurrent enrolment

A student completes studies at a higher year level at the same time as completing studies at the usual year level, i.e. completing tertiary studies at the same time as secondary schooling requirements.

Further information

Parents should consider the full range of specialised teaching and learning programs and approaches within the context of their child’s individual learning needs and their social and emotional development when making decisions about their child’s education.

For further information regarding acceleration options and whether they may be appropriate for your child, see: