Acceleration, the process of moving students through an educational program at a faster than usual rate or at a younger than typical age, is an educational intervention for gifted students.
These frequently asked questions are provided to help parents assess whether or not acceleration would benefit their individual gifted child and enrich their learning experience.
What is the difference between subject/ content acceleration and year-level/ stage acceleration?
Subject/ content acceleration
Subject or content acceleration allows students who excel in a particular subject to work with other, often older, students in that area of expertise at a rate that best suits the student's ability and current level of performance.
This may require that a student is placed for part of the day (or a period) with a class or group working at a more advanced level. This may necessitate some flexibility of the school's organisational structures in order to accommodate any significant variations in the patterns and sequencing of student programs.
Students suitable for subject acceleration will be high achievers in a particular subject, but should also:
exhibit a strong preference for challenge and fast pacing of instruction
like being in competitive situations
be independent thinkers and workers
be socially mature and prepared to take risks.
Year-level/ stage acceleration
Year-level acceleration places the student ahead of normal annual stage progression. This strategy is appropriate for gifted individuals whose teachers have monitored and assessed their progress and determined that all the outcomes for the current class have been achieved.
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.
What factors should be taken into account when considering acceleration?
Consideration of accelerated learning options needs to take into account the type of acceleration proposed and the implications for the student, the school, the student's family and other students. Factors to be considered include:
academic ability and capacity to learn at the accelerated year or subject level (generally at a higher than average achievement level among the class of intended entry)
enthusiasm for progression to an accelerated learning setting
persistence, independence, flexibility and motivation
social and emotional maturity (e.g. ability to work with older students).
capacity to provide a developmentally appropriate learning program
capacity to accommodate accelerated learning within learning structures and timetables
capability and attitudes of teaching staff to provide accelerated learning programs
capacity to provide support for accelerated learners.
capacity to provide academic, social and emotional support and encouragement
access to support services for their child, should they be needed.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of acceleration?
If the right acceleration option is chosen in consultation with educators and other professionals, and taking into account the specific learning, social and emotional needs of the child, acceleration is generally advantageous for high-ability and gifted children.
Researchers, educators and parents of students who have participated in accelerated learning programs indicate that there are a range of potential benefits:
enhanced student learning, motivation, accomplishment and self-esteem
academic challenge and progression at a faster rate and a rate that is more closely aligned with the student's ability and interests
stronger engagement in learning.
There may also be positive social outcomes arising from the accelerated student being better able to relate to older students. However, this may depend on a child's existing social and emotional maturity or other factors.