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4 Effective Learning and Teaching
This is one of the chapters of the Basic Education Curriculum Guide - To Sustain, Deepen and Focus on Learning to Learn (Primary 1 - 6). Its contents are as follows:
4.1 Background
4.2 Purposes of the Chapter
4.3 Key Considerations for Effective Learning and Teaching
  4.3.1 Catering for Learner Diversity
  4.3.2 Stimulating Students’ Motivation to Learn
  4.3.3 Promoting Different Levels of Thinking to Develop Students’ Potential
  4.3.4 Adopting Effective Learning and Teaching Strategies
  4.3.5 Providing Quality Feedback to Enhance Effective Learning
  4.3.6 Rethinking the Roles of Teachers
  4.3.7 Summary
4.4 Education for Students with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
  4.4.1 Causes and Nature of SEN
  4.4.2 Creating an Inclusive School Culture
  4.4.3 Appropriate Curriculum Adaptation
  4.4.4 Developing Learning and Teaching Strategies
  4.4.5 Enhancing the Effectiveness of Learning and Teaching through Assessment
  4.4.6 Resources and Support
4.5 Gifted Education
  4.5.1 Gifted Education in Hong Kong
  4.5.2 Definition of Giftedness
  4.5.3 Identification of Gifted Students
  4.5.4 Implementation Strategies
  4.5.5 Resources and Support
Reference Notes
4.1 Background
Since the implementation of the curriculum reform, the Education Bureau has aimed at promoting learning to learn and whole-person development. It has introduced a flexible and open curriculum framework to promote the “paradigm shift” in school education ─ steering from a textbook-oriented and teacher-centred teaching approach, to a multi-dimensional, interactive and student-centred learning approach.
According to the Interim Review of the curriculum reform and Inspection Annual Reports, students were interested in learning, and willing to answer teachers’ questions. They participated actively in learning activities and cooperated with their peers in discussions and presentations. Teachers possessed good professional knowledge and were capable of using information technology and subject resources properly to facilitate learning and teaching. A wide range of teaching and assessment strategies were adopted to cater for students’ learning needs, and quality feedback was provided to enhance students’ learning. Students had outstanding performance in international assessments in reading, mathematics and science. Thus, the basic education in Hong Kong has achieved considerable success.
Regarding the learning and teaching culture and the professional development of teachers in primary schools, a sustainable paradigm shift has been witnessed: students have become more active in learning. The development of generic skills, especially communication skills, creativity and critical thinking skills, and the inculcating of positive core values and attitudes in students, can reach the major goals of the curriculum reform, and schools have been moving towards self-directed learning. Building on the achievements of the curriculum reform, schools can further enhance learning and teaching, adopt appropriate strategies to cater for learner diversity and help students develop self-directed learning capabilities.
4.2 Purposes of the Chapter
* Discuss learner diversity and make recommendations on promoting effective learning and teaching
* Provide guidelines on catering for students with special educational needs
* Provide guidelines on catering for the needs of gifted students
* Elaborate on key concepts with feasible practices and examples
4.3 Key Considerations for Effective Learning and Teaching
4.3.1 Catering for Learner Diversity
* Every student is a unique individual. They are different in level of maturity, gender, personality, ability, aspiration, interest, learning motivation, culture, language and socioeconomic background. Their intelligence, cognitive and learning styles influence the learning traits. Therefore, in addition to a comprehensive understanding of the curriculum content and features, schools and teachers should cater for learner diversity in lessons. For example, the newly-arrived children, non-Chinese speaking students and cross-boundary students may lack the prior knowledge for understanding the learning content of certain topics due to their different backgrounds. Under such situations, teachers may teach them the relevant knowledge beforehand.
* Cognitive style reflects an individual's thinking mode, which is the methods and habits that one tends to adopt when receiving, processing, organising and remembering information. It will affect one’s performance and achievement in learning. Scholars classify cognitive styles into different categories. For example, cognitive styles are categorised into two dimensions - “holistic-analytical” style and “verbal-imagery” style. Learners of the former cognitive style tend to treat the information as a whole, or the collection of parts when organising information, whereas learners of the latter cognitive style tend to think and express in words, or mental images1. Teachers can develop or design appropriate learning materials and or activities according to students’ cognitive styles. For example, if students tend to acquire information by reading or listening to text messages, teachers can provide them with text-based learning materials. The activities can include reading articles, listening to recordings and group discussions. If students tend to acquire information through visual channels, teachers could incorporate more images in the learning materials. The activities can include watching video clips and reading charts. Although an individual may have his or her own habitual cognitive style, he or she may develop other styles according to the situation. Therefore, through creating different learning contexts, teachers can nurture and develop different cognitive styles in students.
* Learning styles can be innate or nurtured in social interaction. They reflect learners’ unique learning habits and their preference in processing information. They include the specific learning strategy that learners adopt or the learning mode and environment that they prefer when completing a learning task. Similarly, scholars classify learning styles into different categories. For example, according to the two dimensions of perception and processing modes, learning styles can be divided into four types – accommodator, diverger, converger and assimilator. Teachers may adopt appropriate teaching strategies according to students’ learning styles (for detailed explanation on the classification, see Table 4.1).
Table 4.1 The Learning Traits and Learning Situations of the Four Learning Styles2
Active Processing
(Active Experimentation)
Concrete Perception
(Concrete Experience)

Learning Traits
* Learners rely more on hands-on practice. They gain new experiences from the implementation of plans and tasks.
* Tend to solve problems by intuition
Learning Conditions
* Flexible lesson structure
* Opportunities to try a variety of new experiences
* Peer interaction
Learning Traits
* Learners are good at solving problems, making decisions and applying practical ideas. They acquire knowledge by assumption, deduction and inference.
* Tend to handle technical work and problems
Learning situations
* Problem-solving activities
* Opportunities to put ideas into practice
* Reading and discussion that help link up pedagogical and real-world tasks
Abstract Perception
(Abstract Conceptualisation)

Learning Traits
* Learners are good at imagination, and finding meaning and value. They acquire concrete experience through observation. They are able to organise the things observed into a meaningful whole picture.
* Tend to learn through observation, and are comparatively creative
Learning Conditions
* Assignments that are open and free in format
* Lessons with few restrictions
* Self-diagnosis activities
* Personalised Learning
* Analysing from multiple perspectives
Learning Traits
* Learners are good at induction and inference, creation of theories, and are able to assimilate and explain the things observed
* They value the accuracy and logicality of theories.
Learning Situations
* Following instructions and rules
* Reading assigned texts
* Attending lectures
* Learning theories
* Organising information and concepts
Reflective Processing
(Reflective Observation)
(Source of information: Edited from Chiu Chi Shing, Ho Bik Yue, 2009, Page 17)
* Learner diversity generates different learning needs. While teachers may adopt different and diversified learning and teaching strategies to enhance students’ learning effectiveness and realise their potential, they should also try to help students achieve a balanced development in all aspects. For example, for students who are particularly interested and gifted in using information technology, teachers should help them build capacity in this area, as well as guiding them to avoid being too concentrated on learning information technology and ignoring other important skills or abilities such as communication skills (including speaking and writing skills), collaboration and self-management skills.
* Schools should set reasonable expectations according to students’ abilities, and provide an appropriate curriculum to motivate them in learning. However, when teachers cater for learner diversity, overestimation or underestimation of students’ abilities should be avoided.
4.3.2 Stimulating Students’ Motivation to Learn
* Teachers should set clear learning objectives and share them with students. Understanding the learning objectives for lessons or assignments, students can adopt appropriate learning methods to achieve the desired learning goals.
* To arouse students’ motivation in learning, teachers may provide students with opportunities to experience success in the learning and teaching process and let them understand teachers’ expectations towards their learning. However, it is important to take care of students’ emotional reactions and self-esteem. Students’ learning motivation can be divided into two kinds - intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Teachers must strike a balance between the two, rather than focus only on the latter.
* Teachers can use the following methods to enhance students’ intrinsic motivation:
  * Arousing their curiosity
  * Using appealing content or contexts appropriate to students’ age, language and cultural background
  * Encouraging students to value their achievement
  * Adjusting the level of difficulty and minimising the risk of frustration in problem-solving
* To stimulate motivation in learning, teachers should pay attention to students’ progress and improvement, recognise and encourage them to advance continuously. Teachers should also design tasks that suit students’ level, so that they can experience the sense of achievement and build confidence after making an effort to attain the goals. In addition, appreciating students’ non-academic performance such as their achievements in arts or sports is the most direct way to improve students' self-image.
* For many students, social interaction is also very important. Organising a learning community in class can help enhance students’ learning motivation and facilitate their learning. Teachers should help every member within the learning community engage in learning, talk about and reflect on their learning.
4.3.3 Promoting Different Levels of Thinking to Develop Students' Potential
* Understanding is a way to solve problems. Based on students’ cognitive ability, teachers should help them use their prior knowledge to connect various ideas, and apply it ultimately to construct new knowledge.
* Understanding and memorisation are not contradictory. Sometimes, appropriate memorisation is the foundation to enhance understanding. Teachers are advised to select the appropriate learning content based on students' abilities and the characteristics of learning materials, so that students can memorise through understanding, and avoid rote-memorisation.
* Teachers can provide students with systematic and critical guidance to enhance their cognitive development through scaffolding. In the process of scaffolding, teachers can combine various methods purposefully to support learning3.
* Teachers can use different learning and teaching tools suited to students’ cognitive abilities, for example, different modes of questioning, visual organisers, to help them develop thinking skills at different levels, such as repeating, explaining, analysing, summarising, criticising, creating. When designing and developing learning and teaching content, activities and assignments, teachers should be aware that the expectation on students’ thinking skills should vary among different students, but training on thinking skills at all levels should be covered.
* Questioning is an effective teaching tool to develop students’ thinking skills. Questioning, thinking and understanding tie closely to and interact with one another, to enhance learning effectively. Teachers can utilise different levels of questions to encourage students to analyse issues from multiple perspectives as well as to discuss and share with others. The question types that can develop higher-order thinking skills include inference, sequence, summary, comparison, analysis, causal relationship, forecasting, brainstorming, creation, evaluation and problem-solving. Teachers can refer to these key words when setting questions. (See Table 4.2 for examples)
Table 4.2 Types and Examples of Questions that Develop Higher-order Thinking Skills
Type Example
Inference All multiples of 4 are multiples of 2. Is 16 a multiple of 2? Why? (Mathematics)
Sequence How is energy generated? Based on the observation of the experiment, list the steps of energy generation. (General Studies)
Summary After reading the information and discussing in groups, what have you concluded on the best way to prevent juvenile drug abuse? (General Studies)
Comparison What are the similarities and differences between a rectangle and a trapezium? (Mathematics)
Analysis According to the article, what do you think is the personality of character A? Give examples from the article to support your views? (Chinese Language)
Causal Relationship According to the video clip, why is the main character at odds with his sister? (Chinese Language)
Forecasting According to the charts, what do you think will be the amount of electricity used by Hong Kong residents in the next five years? (Mathematics)
Brainstorming When you see this picture, what is in your mind? Why do you have such thoughts? (Visual Arts)
Creation Please write a poem with the same rhythm of this poem. (English Language)
Evaluation Do you think the melody of the song matches the content well? Please share your views. (Music)
Problem- Solving In view of the environmental problems, if you were the Chief Executive or a related official of the HKSAR Government, what would you do? (General Studies)
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
* How do you motivate students with different levels of ability?
* Under what circumstances would you ask students to recite? Why?
* What is meaningful recitation? How is it different from rote memorisation?
* What would you consider when you set questions for students?
* What are the pros and cons of drilling?
4.3.4 Adopting Effective Learning and Teaching Strategies
When considering the selection and implementation of effective learning and teaching strategies, on top of thinking from the perspective of teachers and students, teachers should also take into consideration classroom teaching and curriculum planning. For example, how the two can complement each other and create a favourable environment for learning, and enabling the learning and teaching strategies to be implemented more effectively.
Teacher Level
* Affected by their own personal background, experience, mastery of learning and teaching strategies, teaching objectives etc., teachers may adopt different pedagogical approaches. Moreover, they may unconsciously teach students in the mode that they were taught or suited them best, thus overlooking the genuine learning needs of students. Therefore, in order to cater for learner diversity, teachers should first step out of their “comfort zone” and try out the use of different pedagogical approaches or strategies.
* No one pedagogical approach can satisfy all the teaching objectives or the learning needs of all students, and no one learning and teaching strategy is the most effective. Teachers need to reflect on their pedagogical preferences from time to time, and avoid over-reliance on one approach. They should adopt diversified learning and teaching strategies that help them achieve their teaching objectives, match different learning content, purposes and focuses to cater for learner diversity, as well as to maintain students’ motivation and curiosity. Teachers may refer to Chapter 4 of KLA/General Studies for Primary Schools Curriculum Guides for specific recommendations on each subject.
* Teachers’ view on learning and teaching affect their pedagogical approaches, and also influence their adoption of learning and teaching strategies. Learning and teaching strategies can be classified into three categories according to three corresponding views: (i) Teaching as ‘Direct Instruction’, learning as a ‘Product’; (ii) Teaching as ‘Enquiry’, learning as a ‘Process’; and (iii) Learning and teaching as ‘Co-construction’ (For concrete explanation, please see Table 4.3).
Figure 4.3 Views and Strategies on Learning and Teaching
View Strategy
Teaching as “Direct Instruction”, learning as a “Product”
* This view gives rise to a wide range of activities based on the notion that learning involves the transmission of knowledge from teachers to learners. From the students’ perspective, these activities include being told, being lectured at as well as reading and learning by reciting learning materials.
* This direct instruction approach applies well to teaching clear procedures and facts, as well as conveying concepts that students do not have sufficient background knowledge.
* When teachers adopt this approach, they should teach with step-by-step questioning, and use appropriate examples and contexts, or even visual graphics to organise relevant information to enable students to grasp and understand the learning content easily.
Teaching as “Enquiry”, learning as a “Process”
* It is often used in more complex cognitive processes requiring meaning-making. The focus is often on the learners’ understanding and concept development.
* Teachers may enhance students’ understanding on the lesson content through interactive learning activities and questioning within the whole class or groups.
* When teachers adopt this strategy, they should set broad and meaningful situational topics or offer open-ended questions, and activate students’ prior knowledge and experience. If necessary, appropriate learning materials should be provided.
Learning and teaching as “Co-construction”
* It puts more emphasis on building knowledge in a ‘community’, mirroring the research communities and adult learning within professional fields.
* Knowledge is co-constructed through the interaction between teachers and students as both teachers and students are learners. For example, a “Knowledge Forum” on an online learning platform enables students, teachers, and even external experts to explore a topic that interests them, so that they can learn and construct new knowledge together. All members in the community are taking responsibility for learning.
* Figure 4.1 summarises the different learning and teaching approaches that may take place in primary classrooms. Along the horizontal axis, a spectrum of different pedagogical views and approaches to suit different purposes is shown. On the vertical axis, a range of learning focuses and purposes (i.e. from content-centred to learning community-centred) that teachers may build upon in their daily teaching practices is highlighted. Some of the pedagogical approaches echo with those presented in the horizontal axis.
Figure 4.1 Learning and Teaching Strategies and Approaches (click to enlarge view)
Figure 4.1 Learning and Teaching Strategies and Approaches
* Students’ learning and progress is determined by the effectiveness of learning and teaching, including teacher and student interaction, as well as learning and teaching strategies adopted by teachers. Based on the content of different subjects and students' learning needs, teachers should adopt appropriate teaching strategies and techniques flexibly. For example, proper use of drama approach in lessons can enhance learning motivation. It can also enhance students’ understanding and application of knowledge and concepts through role playing. In addition, life-wide learning strategy can facilitate more effective learning by allowing students to connect and apply knowledge and skills in various key learning areas in real life situations
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
* What are your pedagogical beliefs or preferences?
* How do your pedagogical beliefs or preferences affect your choice of learning and teaching strategies?
* How would you utilise your teaching expertise to cater for students’ learning strengths and learning styles?
* How would you adjust your pedagogical preferences to experiment with different pedagogical approaches?
Student Level
* Teachers may incorporate the training on memory strategies appropriately in the teaching process to enhance students’ efficiency in storing information.
  * When the amount of information is not considerable, processing the information repeatedly is the easiest memory strategy. Oral recitation is a commonly used strategy.
  * Organisation strategy can help students store and search for a huge amount of information more effectively. For example, “clustering”, which means figuring out the proximity, similarity and association of learning materials in terms of time, space and characteristics, and organising them into meaningful units, can enhance memory effectively.
  Most students with learning disabilities do not understand how to use effective memory strategies to store information. The training of appropriate memory strategies is especially helpful for them in enhancing learning.
* Apart from adjusting the pace of learning and teaching according to students’ ability, teachers should embrace different cultures and provide students with various learning opportunities and room for self-directed learning. For example, through assignments, project learning, life-wide learning, group discussion and sharing, students can select their own learning strategies and develop self-directed learning skills according to their ability, personality, learning style, expected learning outcomes, etc.
* In the learning process, teachers can help students reflect on the following questions in order to develop their self-directed learning skills:
  * Do I clearly understand the purpose, content and requirements of the learning task? What are they?
  * What knowledge or skills related to the learning task do I possess?
  * Can I complete the task within a reasonable timeframe?
  * What plan should I set for the learning objectives?
  * What strategies can I adopt to complete the learning tasks and achieve the learning objectives?
  * What resources do I need to complete the learning tasks and achieve the learning objectives?
  * When I encounter difficulties, who or through what channels can I ask for help?
  * How can I monitor my own learning progress?
  * How can the feedback from teachers and classmates help me achieve the learning objectives?
  * Under what circumstances or conditions am I considered to have completed the learning tasks and achieved the learning objectives?
* Teachers can provide opportunities for co-construction of knowledge based on the learning objectives and different abilities of students. The opportunities include interaction, communication and collaboration among students, and between teachers and students. Collaborative learning can stimulate students’ learning motivation. Encouraging collaborative learning among peers can develop their commitment to learning. In this way, students of similar ability can learn from one another; students with different abilities can share responsibility for constructing knowledge in various degrees, based on the knowledge and ability they possess.
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
* What are your students’ strengths in learning?
* How do your students usually learn? What learning strategies are they good at?
Classroom Level
* Through systematic lesson organisation, learning and teaching strategies can be implemented effectively to enhance students’ learning. The following points should be considered when designing a lesson:
  * Learning objectives must be clear.
  * Learning content must be tied closely to the intended learning objectives.
  * Learning objectives, content and activities can cater for learner diversity, and suit their learning needs.
  * The structure of the lesson should be clear and orderly.
  * Learning activities can enhance the positive interaction between teachers and students, or among students.
  * Learning activities should be connected with one another.
  * The arrangement of the learning context and environment can effectively enhance learning.
  * Learning and teaching resources, including the use of information technology are utilised effectively and appropriately.
* To provide students with multi-sensory and multiple intelligences learning experiences, teachers should use proper and adequate learning and teaching resources, and a wide range of learning materials such as audio clips, videos, photos, images and text information based on the learning interest, styles and needs of students. Appropriate use of interactive learning resources can not only raise students’ interest in learning, but also enhance learning and teaching effectiveness.
Curriculum Level
* Teachers may adapt the curriculum according to learner diversity, including learning needs, styles, interests and abilities, etc. For example, teachers can adjust the teaching pace, content, hierarchy, strategies, and assessment tools and methods. Curriculum adaptation can target at a class, a group or an individual student. The learning objectives set for students can be partially the same and partially different. Even if the learning objectives are the same, the allocation of time, content and form of learning activities can be adapted. The ultimate goal of curriculum adaptation is to provide an environment to support student learning so that every student can participate in the learning process to achieve learning goals.
* Curriculum adaptation usually takes place in terms of content, process and outcome. One or two of the following areas could be adapted:
  * Content: Teachers may focus on teaching the most crucial concepts, processes and skills, adjust the difficulty of learning content, or select basic or more advanced level learning materials relevant to the topics.
  * Process: Teachers may consider adjusting the complexity and abstractness of the learning task, or allow different students to learn in different ways.
  * Outcomes: Teachers may consider adjusting the degree of challenge of the learning tasks, or expect different learning outcomes according to students’ learning abilities or styles4. For example, after reading a story book, teachers usually require the students to submit book reports, but the teachers may allow accommodator students to discuss the assignment questions and present in a group; allow converger students to carry out role plays and propose a method to solve problems, or attempt to relate the story content to real life; allow diverger students to rewrite the ending of the story; and allow assimilator students to infer the main idea of the story.
* Teachers can extend students’ learning spaces by providing them with life-wide learning opportunities with the use school campus, family and communities, and organise co-curricular activities to enhance their personal growth and develop their potential.
4.3.5 Providing Quality Feedback to Enhance Effective Learning
* Curriculum, assessment and teaching are the three key elements in learning. They must be connected and complement one another. Under the concept of “Assessment for Learning”, assessment is not only for understanding students’ learning and recognising their academic performance and individual achievement, but also for teachers to provide feedback and enhance the effectiveness of learning and teaching.
* Teachers can adopt flexible and diversified assessment modes to provide quality feedback during the learning, teaching and assessment cycle. Quality feedback should echo the intended learning objectives, provide concrete and appropriate information for teachers to improve the quality of learning and teaching, and enable students to reflect on and improve their learning.
* Teachers can provide students with timely feedback to facilitate their learning. For example, with the establishment of a collaborative learning culture, teachers can encourage students to give useful and constructive feedback to their peers. Through project learning or life-wide learning activities, teachers can give students the opportunities to obtain feedback from external experts. As a result of the advanced development of information technology, the interactive features of most learning software allow students to get instant feedback so that students can reflect on their learning and construct their knowledge.
* Questioning in classroom is one of the common assessment modes. Many studies indicate that quality questioning and feedback can facilitate effective learning. Studies have also found that feedback is the most powerful among all the factors that affect learning5. Questioning and feedback are commonly used teaching strategies that teachers should not neglect. Questioning should be done systematically and step-by-step, and feedback needs to be timely and concrete6.
* Table 4.4 helps teachers reflect on their own questioning skills in the classroom. Teachers can do self-assessment according to the ways in which they commonly ask questions in the classroom.
Table 4.4 Self-assessment Checklist for Classroom Questioning
Item Strongly disagree Disagree Agree Strongly agree
I will…
1. confirm the need for asking questions according to the learning objectives.
2. check students’ prior knowledge with questions.
3. encourage students to think by asking them questions.
4. ask questions of different levels according to the abilities of students.
5. predict the problems that students may encounter in learning, and help them through questioning.
6. sequence the questions according to their nature.
7. use accurate and appropriate wordings for the questions.
8. let every student have the opportunity to answer questions.
9. listen to students’ answers attentively.
10. pause for adequate time after asking the question so that students have time to think.
11. give students the hints they need and follow up on the whole Q&A process.
12. try to understand why students are unable to answer the question, and provide timely assistance.
13. give feedback and response immediately according to students’ answers.
14. recognise and encourage students for their response.
15. give concrete feedback according to students’ response.
16. sustain students’ interest and motivation in learning by giving feedback.
17. point out students’ learning performance, standard, level of ability or progress according to their response.
18. indicate the areas where students can or should improve based on their response.
* Teachers can make reference to the above rubrics to reflect on their questioning skills and ways of giving feedback so as to enhance the effectiveness of learning and teaching.
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
When students are unable to answer my question immediately, will I:
* repeat the question?
* rephrase the question in simple language?
* modify the expression of the question?
* ask a simpler question?
* provide hints to help them answer the question?
4.3.6 Rethinking the Roles of Teachers
* In the process of learning and teaching, teachers can play different roles based on the strategy adopted to achieve the intended learning objectives. (For detailed explanation, please see Table 4.5.)
Table 4.5 The Roles of Teachers
Roles of Teachers Actions
Transmitter Give lecture
Facilitator Discuss with students
Resource person Advise students on learning resources
Counsellor Advise students on cultivating interests
Assessor Inform students of their learning progress
Leader Take the lead in motivating student learning
Co-learner Learn with students
* A teacher is also a member of the learning community in a school. In addition to playing the role of students’ learning partners, teachers should also learn from one another and share the responsibility of constructing knowledge. Through interacting, sharing and reflecting in a learning community, teachers’ capacity can be raised, and ultimately students’ learning effectiveness can be enhanced. Collaborative lesson preparation, peer lesson observation and pre-/post-lesson discussion are ideal platforms for teachers to construct knowledge. With good use of collaborative lesson preparation, teachers can explore difficult points for learning and teaching, reflect on them, further improve learning and teaching, and accumulate good teaching design and learning and teaching materials to enrich the school resources.
* In addition to helping students construct knowledge and develop their abilities, teachers should also focus on developing positive values and attitudes in students. Through school ethos, key learning areas, cross-curricular and other learning experiences, and with the use of authentic learning situations as well as structured learning activities, teachers can help students develop personal values and beliefs and encourage them to accommodate different cultures, opinions and perspectives.
* Students’ learning attitudes and abilities are often affected by family background, personal experience and living environment. Teachers should understand their students, and collaborate with pastoral personnel, parents, peers, social workers and the community, to take appropriate measures to support and cater for the needs of students.
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
During collaborative lesson preparation, the following issues can be discussed:
* Why do we choose this topic?
* What learning focuses do I expect students to grasp?
* What is the background information on students’ ability, learning characteristics etc.?
* What prior knowledge do students have on this topic? What learning and teaching strategies or methods can be adopted to help students grasp the learning focuses?
* What difficulties were encountered when students studied the same topic in the past?
* What difficulties were encountered when teachers taught the same topic in the past?
* What difficulties can be expected? Which areas need special attention?
* How to examine or evaluate students’ learning effectiveness?
* What resources are necessary for teaching this topic?
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
After lesson observation, the following issues can be discussed and reflected on:
Students’ Learning
* In the learning process, which part of students’ performance was the most praiseworthy? Why?
* Did students have a high degree of participation during the learning process? How could you encourage them to get more involved?
* During the learning process, what difficulties did students encounter? How did they overcome the difficulties? Or how did you help them overcome the difficulties?
* In the teaching process, were there any unforeseen problems? If so, how did you solve them? If that happens again, how will you solve them?
* What have you observed from the assessment about students’ learning outcomes or what learning focuses they have grasped?
* What difficulties did students encounter in the assessment? How did they overcome the difficulties or what kind of help did you render them?
Teachers’ Teaching
* In the teaching process, which part do you think is the best or the most satisfactory?
* Which of the expected outcomes have been achieved?
* Which of the learning activities are worth recommending to other colleagues? Which part requires improvement? Which part can be omitted? Why?
* Overall speaking, what do you think of the lesson design and its effectiveness?
* In your opinion, what are the advantages of the lesson design?
* If you are to design the teaching plan again, what further improvements can be made?
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
Can the collaborative lesson preparation and post-lesson observation discussion
* foster an atmosphere of free expression of views and open exchanges? If not, how can it be improved?
* increase your appreciation of the strengths and efforts of your peers? What benefits have you derived?
* guide or facilitate teachers’ self-reflection? If not, how can it be improved?
* clarify difficult teaching points or the relevant theoretical underpinning? If not, how can it be improved?
4.3.7 Summary
To cater for learner diversity, on top of working on curriculum planning and classroom learning and teaching, teachers should also take into consideration the perspective of student support, and support at the system and the school organisation levels. Figure 4.2 describes the relationship between the various levels.
Figure 4.2 Catering for Learner Diversity (click to enlarge view)
Figure 4.2 Catering for Learner Diversity
The Myths of Learning and TeachingThe Myths of Learning and Teaching
* Is it inappropriate to encourage or ask students to recite?
  Not necessarily. It depends on the purpose of recitation. Understanding and memorisation are not contradictive; sometimes appropriate memorisation is the foundation for better understanding. Teachers are advised to select appropriate learning content based on students’ abilities and the characteristics of the learning materials, so that students can memorise through understanding and avoid rote-memorisation.
* Is direct instruction a teaching method far from ideal?
  No. It depends on the students’ needs and the learning objectives. When students do not have enough prior knowledge, or when the teacher is teaching clear procedures and facts, this approach can be considered. However, it should be accompanied by graded questions, appropriate examples and contexts, and graphic organisers should be used to organise the relevant information. In addition, teachers should not repeatedly use the direct instruction approach in the teaching process but should adopt different pedagogical approaches where appropriate in light of learner diversity.
* Which teaching strategy is the most effective?
  No single teaching strategy is particularly effective or suits all students. Teachers should design teaching strategies according to the school culture, teaching resources, objectives of the learning tasks, students’ cognitive development, learning styles and needs, etc. Learning effectiveness can only be enhanced with the appropriate use of teaching strategies.
4.4 Education for Students with Special Educational Needs (SEN)
Like other students, students with SEN are entitled to equal opportunities for participation and learning in schools. Under the existing policy, only students who have severe or multiple disabilities and are unable to benefit from ordinary school environment are to be allocated to special schools for intensive support services. Students who have SEN but can generally benefit from integrated education are placed in ordinary schools, so that they can get along with ordinary students and fully benefit from the education.
Ordinary schools enrolling students with SEN should foster an inclusive atmosphere. Through whole-school participation and home-school cooperation, schools should teach students to put learning diversity in perspective with proper attitudes, understand the special educational needs of schoolmates, and establish caring, collaborative and interactive peer relations, in order to achieve the goal of equality and inclusion. In addition, schools should provide different learning experiences for students with SEN, so that they can realise their full potential, build self-confidence, and develop the attitude and ability for independent learning.
4.4.1 Causes and Nature of SEN
* The causes of SEN are numerous, including: congenital or hereditary reasons; the effect of drugs, accidents or illnesses; environmental factors. Teachers’ understanding of the impact of SEN on learning will facilitate their provision of more appropriate support for students. Congenital or acquired factors cause disabilities and defects in some students, resulting in physical limitations, intellectual limitations or limitations on adaptive behaviour, and these limitations become obstacles to them in coping with the requirements of the living environment. To fulfil the requirements of education, these children need various special educational support in order to grow and make progress in learning. For example, visually impaired students need some aids, so textbooks can be converted to Braille books and audio books, which they can read and understand.
* The main categories of SEN include: physical disability, visual impairment, hearing impairment, speech and language impairment, autistic spectrum disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, specific learning difficulties, intellectual disability. Since students with SEN are of different abilities, environmental requirements and adaptive conditions, the types and levels of support they need are also different. By giving individualised support according to their specific condition, and using appropriate learning and teaching strategies, their learning diversity can be catered for.
* Early identification can help provide appropriate counselling to students with SEN, so that the difficulty in their curriculum learning can be alleviated. Therefore, if teachers discover students’ difficulties in learning, communication, social adaptation and so on, they should understand the students’ difficulties and make early identification through various channels, such as collecting opinions from parents or other teachers, or using preliminary identification tools.
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
* How to identify students with SEN?
* What methods has your school adopted to assist students with SEN to integrate into school life and learn well?
4.4.2 Creating an Inclusive School Culture
To effectively cater for students with SEN, schools should create an inclusive culture for students to understand and accept individual differences and develop an attitude of mutual understanding, trust and respect. No matter whether the students have SEN or not, they can benefit from growing healthily in a harmonious atmosphere. For students with SEN, an inclusive culture can enhance their learning motivation and confidence. The creation of an inclusive campus culture can start from the following aspects:
Adopting the “Whole-School Approach”
* The implementation of integrated education with whole-school participation to cater for learner diversity should be approached from three aspects, namely the school's policy, culture and measures. For details, please refer to the “Operational Guide on Whole-School Approach to Integrated Education” (2010) and “Catering for Differences - Indicators for Inclusion”(2008).
* Through whole-school participation, teachers can work as a team, share responsibility with other school personnel to take care of the diversity and the SEN of students. With the acceptance and care from all school personnel and students, as well as the love and support from other students’ parents, students with SEN will have a better sense of belonging and can learn more effectively. Stakeholders of the school can participate in many ways, such as:
  * When the principal or middle management formulate the goals and development plans of the school with teachers, they should lead the teachers to develop concrete programmes to cater for the SEN of students, and recommend specific policies and measures in monitoring and evaluating the programmes. Schools may refer to the following documents for school-based planning:
    bullet_style1_2_3 “Whole-School Approach to Catering for Students with Special Educational Needs (Year-end Evaluation Form for Individual Students)"
    bullet_style1_2_3 "Whole-School Approach to Catering for Students with Special Educational Needs (Year-end Review Form for Schools)”
    bullet_style1_2_3 "Examples of Information Related to Catering for Students with Different Learning Needs to be Included in the School Annual Report"
The above three documents can be downloaded from the website “Education Bureau Special Education > Support for Ordinary Schools > Support for Student Diversity in Primary Schools&:
  * Teachers should collaborate with one another to identify students with SEN as early as possible, and design appropriate curriculum, teaching plans, learning activities and assessment methods according to their needs.
  * Guidance teachers or officers and school social workers can work together to design various group activities or carry out individual counselling according to students' needs.
  * Provide opportunities for peer support, peer counselling and collaborative learning for students.
  * Practise home-school cooperation and encourage parents to participate in caring for students with SEN.
  * Feedback can focus on the clarification of the content and requirements of learning activities, advice on learning skills which students may adopt or suggestions for students on the skills of self-directed learning and the direction for reflection.
Establishing a Systematic Support System
* Set up a designated team to support students. Members may include school leaders, guidance teachers or officers, school social workers, discipline and guidance masters/mistresses, Primary School Curriculum Leaders, experienced teachers, educational psychologists, parents. The team should be led by school leaders to develop a whole-school participation policy, so that students with SEN can be catered for through concerted efforts.
* Establish mechanisms of early identification and counselling for students with different learning needs, so that they can realise their potential and benefit from school education:
  * Observing the performance of students in and out of the classroom, and their performance in homework and assessment as well as collecting the views of parents and teachers to understand the students’ growth and pre-school experience are all conducive to early identification of students with SEN.
  * Appropriate guidance such as teaching reading skills or vocabulary skills, concentration training, developing a habit of doing homework and revision as scheduled, are all helpful for students to find ways to overcome their difficulties early. If necessary, teachers can invite professionals to provide intervention.
* Adopt the three-tier Intervention Model (see Figure 4.3) to provide support and allocate resources according to the actual needs of students:
  * Even though some students have the same kind of disability, their needs and the difficulties they face may not be the same. The forms and extents of support also vary. Therefore, schools should adopt the Three-tier Intervention Model to provide appropriate support in light of students’ actual needs.
  * Optimisation of classroom teaching is fundamental to catering for the learning needs of all students.
Figure 4.3 Three-tier Intervention Model
Figure 4.3 Three-tier Intervention Model
* Build partnerships and seek external support. For example, plan various training and counselling activities with professionals according to students’ developmental and special needs, or invite a special school cum resource centre to provide support services for ordinary schools in the same district.
Helping Students Develop a Positive Attitude
* Teachers can provide opportunities for learning and communication in many ways in order to engage every student and thus foster friendships. Besides, through school-based curriculum, civic education activities, community services and so on, teachers can help students develop a correct attitude towards schoolmates with SEN.
* Let students understand that everyone has strengths and weaknesses and that things are sometimes beyond one’s control. For example, we will become helpless if we need to cross a road without pedestrian crossing facilities. Therefore, in the process of learning and growing up, students have to encourage and support one another.
* Encourage students to appreciate the strengths of students with SEN, rather than focusing on their shortcomings. For example, play the ETV programme "Break Barriers to Reach New Heights (Special Olympics and Paralympics)” to help students understand that the physically handicapped can also achieve great success in sports.
Formulating Professional Development Programmes for Teachers
* Schools can develop school-based professional development plans according to their own contexts. It includes inviting experts and scholars to deliver talks or workshops, encouraging teachers to participate in training courses organised by tertiary institutions or external professional organisations, so that teachers are equipped with the knowledge and ability to provide support for students with SEN.
* Schools can strategically arrange teachers to participate in courses of different types and levels according to their responsibilities and needs to enhance their professional capacity in supporting students with SEN.
* When formulating the professional development plans for teachers, schools should encourage the teachers who have not received training in special education to enroll in appropriate courses as soon as possible.
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
* What measures has your school adopted to create an inclusive culture?
* How can your students, with or without SEN, benefit from an inclusive culture?
* How does your school cater for the diversity or SEN of students?
* Is supporting the students with SEN a major concern in your school’s annual plan? If so, what are the specific plans and evaluation methods?
4.4.3 Appropriate Curriculum Adaptation
Adopting the same curriculum framework is a concrete measure to practise inclusion and equal opportunities. Effective learning and teaching strategies are the pre-requisite for the effective implementation of this measure. In undertaking curriculum adaptation, reference should be made to the curriculum and assessment guides published by the Education Bureau.
Principles for Adaptation
* For students with SEN, the focus should not be placed on their disabilities. The formal curriculum should be adapted under the same curriculum framework, in light of their learning abilities and needs, such as progress and modes of learning.
* Have reasonable expectations on the students with SEN in their academic, social and emotional development.
* Adaptation is different from curriculum tailoring. Adaptation is adjusting the content and ways of learning a certain subject according to the individual needs of students with SEN in order to make reasonable accommodation.
Adaptation Strategies
* Streamline the learning objectives and content of the curricula of various key learning areas, so that students with SEN can find an appropriate starting point for their own learning.
* Understand students' starting point to determine the extent of curriculum adaptation. Adjustments can involve units, topics, semesters, or even the whole-year curriculum.
* Help students with SEN identify learning objectives, learning outcomes and expected level of performance according to their prior knowledge, abilities and learning needs. Help them identify the core learning content and key skills to enhance learning.
* Design learning materials and worksheets of different levels or formats according to the abilities and needs of students with SEN and analyse the existing teaching resources, such as textbooks and other learning materials. Select appropriate learning materials, add or reduce the materials to eliminate obstacles in students’ learning. Provide the most comprehensive and extensive learning opportunities for them.
Strategies to Promote Curriculum Adaptation
* In order to effectively plan, implement and review the learning support for students with SEN, schools should invite relevant panel heads and teachers to participate in "Student Support Teams", to help students understand the obstacles that students with SEN may encounter in learning. Meanwhile, it is necessary to devise a support plan to enhance student learning, such as curriculum adaptation, effective learning and teaching strategies, teaching aids to cater for students with special needs, so that students with SEN can study the same curriculum with ordinary students, and participate in the same learning activities in the same environment.
* Based on the abilities and needs of students, schools may involve the relevant panel heads in discussing and identifying students’ difficulties from the perspective of curriculum design, pedagogy and assessment, and set up an appropriate learning support programme accordingly.
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
* How can the school-based curriculum policy that your school has implemented support students with SEN?
* When your school adapts the curriculum, what are the difficulties? What support or solutions are available?
4.4.4 Developing Learning and Teaching Strategies
Like other students, there is learning diversity among students with SEN in their interests, abilities, learning styles and experience. Teachers have to understand their characteristics and adopt different teaching modes and guidance strategies according to their needs, in order to encourage them to participate in learning activities and enhance learning effectiveness.
Optimising Classroom Teaching
* Cultivate a pleasurable learning atmosphere in the classroom, create successful learning opportunities and encourage students to realise various potential and enhance their self-image, thereby increasing their motivation to learn.
* Teach students learning strategies, such as reading strategies, questioning techniques, methods of organising notes and collecting learning resources, in order to develop their learning to learn capabilities.
* Design various learning activities to sustain students' interest in learning, explore and develop their multiple intelligences, develop their generic skills and allow them to express themselves in various ways.
* Adjust the level of difficulty of learning activities and assignments in order to match the learning objectives, students' learning stage, abilities, needs and life experience.
* Use instructions and examples that are simple, specific, concrete and easy to understand in learning activities and assignments.
* Allow more time and opportunities for students to have hands-on practice in order to consolidate what they have learned.
* Implement multi-sensory teaching or teaching in small steps, and provide concrete real-life examples to help students understand.
* Adjust the pace of learning and teaching according to students' learning progress, arrange different modes of assignments and assessments to identify students' strengths, and help them acquire appropriate learning strategies.
Figure 4.4 How to Optimise Classroom Teaching?
Figure 4.4 How to Optimise Classroom Teaching?
Strengthening Learning Support
* Group and peer guidance: Arrange students with similar SEN or common learning objectives to study together in or outside class, or receive additional learning support together. Meanwhile, let students of different abilities learn together and support one another through organising study groups or peer circles.
* Collaborative teaching: Set up teaching teams of two or more teachers, who co-plan lessons and co-teach, in order to provide immediate additional support in the classroom for groups and individual students with special needs. The collaborative teaching session can be planned according to the lesson content and students’ needs. It can be conducted in some subjects, a particular subject, or part of a lesson.
* Study aids: Provide students with appropriate study aids to help them reduce the obstacles caused by disabilities. For example, provide hearing aids for the hearing impaired students; magnifiers and low-vision aids for visually impaired students; big grid paper for students with special learning difficulties; picture cue cards for students with mental retardation, autism or speech and language impairment.
Figure 4.5 How to Strengthen Learning Support?
Figure 4.5 How to Strengthen Learning Support?
* Special arrangements on assignments: Based on the students’ ability and special educational needs, adjust the number of assignments, requirements (for example, allow students with special learning difficulties to mark or circle the answers with color pens, or underline the answers instead of writing) and completion time, and arrange appropriate additional support to alleviate their burden and anxiety in completing assignments.
* Enhancing learning skills: teach students to organise learning content, learning objectives and priorities strategically, such as strengthening their time management skills and examination strategies.
* Individual Education Plans:
  * Specific Individual Education Plans are designed collaboratively by professionals and "Student Support Team" members for students with severe SEN. Based on the special needs of students, the Plans can be divided into two main categories: individual behaviour management plans, which target at behavioural or social adaptation, and individual learning plans, which target at enhancing the learning abilities for academic subjects.
  * Targets in the plan and additional support usually take place during class hours and in regular class settings, especially the support on academic subjects. Therefore, the relevant class teachers or subject teachers should have sufficient expertise to execute plans and provide appropriate support.
  * Individual Education Plans, which target at enhancing students’ learning abilities in academic subjects, is not the same as the plan for curriculum trimming. They target at the special education needs of students and focus on enhancing their learning effectiveness. For example, for students with dyslexia, the objective can be "using effective strategies to learn different structures of characters."
For details on "Individual Education Plan", please refer to section 6.3, Chapter 6 of the “Integrated Education Operation Guide” (2010).
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
* What strategies have been adopted by your school to help students with SEN develop their potential?
* What learning and teaching strategies do your school usually adopt to cater for students with SEN? Why are the strategies adopted?
4.4.5 Enhancing the Effectiveness of Learning and Teaching through Assessment
* Appropriate assessments should be designed according to the needs of students. The objective of assessments should be placed on identifying their strengths and progress, with a view to raising their motivation and interest and enhancing learning.
* Make use of diversified assessment modes to gauge students’ overall learning performance from various aspects and angles, in order to explore their potential. For example, adopt different ways to answer questions in order to inspire students' thinking, rather than assess their writing ability.
* With the use of Individual Education Plans, teachers, parents and students themselves can regularly review students’ progress in learning and other aspects, and provide timely support according to their needs to help them achieve their learning goals. For more information, please refer to “Samples of Student Register and Individual Education Plan”.
“Samples of SEN Register and Individual Education Plan” can be downloaded from the website at:
* Use the Student Learning Profile to reflect on students’ performance and capabilities in different areas, and acknowledge their efforts.
* For students with SEN who study the mainstream curriculum, the assessment they take should be the same as those of other students, but special arrangements should be made, such as extended examination time and special seating arrangements to cater for students with disabilities. For other special arrangements, please refer to “Special Arrangements for Internal Examinations for Students with Special Educational Needs (2013)”.
“Special Arrangements for Internal Examinations for Students with Special Educational Needs (2013)” can be downloaded from the website at:
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
When your school assesses students’ performance, will all the students be assessed in the same way? Why?
4.4.6 Resources and Support
* The Education Bureau has prepared a number of guidelines and resource packages to help teachers support students with SEN, including:
  * Whole-School Approach Teaching Strategies
  * Whole-School Approach – Principles and Strategies for Setting Homework
  * Whole School Approach – Principles and Strategies for Assessment
  * Understanding and Helping Students with Special Educational Needs – A Guide to Teaching
  * 讀寫樂-小學生讀寫輔助教材 (Chinese version only)
  * 幫助有特殊學習困難的學童-教學建議 (Chinese version only)
  * 跨越障礙 如何輔導有讀寫困難的中學生 (Chinese version only)
  * 小學中國語文默書教學指南:默書新路向 (Chinese version only)
  * 「社交技巧輕鬆學 與人溝通無隔膜」教材套 (Chinese version only)
  * 支援有注意力不足/過度活躍症的小學生:「執行技巧訓練」教材套 (Chinese version only)
  * 支援有特殊教育需要的學生-教師實踐方法匯編 (Chinese version only)
  * Special Arrangements for Internal Examinations for Students with Special Educational Needs (2013)
* Special Education Resource Centre: The Education Bureau has set up a resource centre for special education teachers, and established a database and a network converging different resources and information for sharing among all special education personnel.
(For more information on the above resources and other related resources, please visit the “Education Bureau > Special Education Resource Centre” website.)
“Education Bureau > Special Education Resource Centre” is available at:
Support Services
* Ordinary Schools – Whole-School Approach to Integrated Education
  * The Three-tier Intervention Model
  * The 5-year Teacher Professional Development Framework on Integrated Education
  * Professional support services, such as school-based educational psychology service, speech therapy service, student guidance service, school network support
  * Parent and public education
  * Resource schools on the whole-school approach
* Special Schools: Under the current education policy, the Education Bureau will transfer children with severe or multiple disabilities to special schools for intensive support service, according to professionals’ assessment or recommendation and parents’ wish.
  * Special schools established for students with various special educational needs
  * Special schools cum resource centres
(For details on the above and other related support services, please visit the “Education Bureau – Special Education” website.)
“Education Bureau – Special Education Resource Centre” is available at:
4.5 Gifted Education
4.5.1 Gifted Education in Hong Kong
The Education Bureau initiated the gifted education policy in Hong Kong in 2000. The foresighted policy advocates the adoption of a three-tier operation mode in implementing gifted education (see Figure 4.6) to fully cater for the diverse educational needs of the gifted students through an inclusive approach. Gifted education in Hong Kong has progressed with significant transformation over the last 10 years (see Appendix). The local gifted education policy has been put into practice and widely recognised.
Figure 4.6 Three-tier Operation Mode
Figure 4.6 Three-tier Operation Mode
The Education Bureau has been offering gifted education based on the following rationales since 2000:
* National resources – nurturing gifted students for future societal development
* Special education – gifted students have special educational needs, which have to be appropriately addressed to fully unleash their potential.
Gifted education in Hong Kong should not be interpreted as only to serve a small number of highly intelligent students. Rather, it is to serve the needs of all students, with the ultimate aim of developing the potential of every student to the fullest extent. Gifted education in Hong Kong has the following dual purpose:
* Universal Gifted education – Provide rich learning experiences through diversified programmes and provisions to nurture students’ potential.
* Universal Quality Education – Provide special educational provision for identified gifted students to enhance their abilities and achievements through developing their subject knowledge, leadership skills and positive values.
Based on the above-mentioned rationales and purposes, the Education Bureau strives to nurture students’ self-directed learning ability and provide challenging learning opportunities based on their personal interests and aptitude to enhance students’ capability, so that they can contribute to the future development of society and the country.
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
In addition to providing remedial support for the less able students, what measures does your school take to address the needs of the gifted students?
The Myths about Gifted EducationThe Myths about Gifted Education
* Are gifted students capable of realising their potential independently without specific guidance?
  No. Gifted students may encounter specific emotional or socio-behavioural problems due to their characteristics. These problems can hinder the development of their potential. Similar to students with special needs, gifted students also need special care to help them effectively actualise their potential.
* Are all gifted students intelligent enough to graduate from university?
  Not necessarily. The talents of some gifted students may not necessarily fall into the traditional categories of academic disciplines. Alternatively, their talents are at times inadequately developed due to external environmental factors, such as lack of resources, support or guidance. Eventually they may become gifted underachievers.
* Are all gifted students “all-rounders”?
  Not necessarily. Each student, whether gifted or not, is talented in one or more aspects but not always an all-rounder. For example, a student gifted in mathematics may not be exceptional in languages or socialising. Teachers should identify the talents of students and nurture them properly to help unleash their potential.
4.5.2 Definition of Giftedness
The Education Commission Report No.4 published in 1990 provided a clear definition of gifted children. Giftedness is a multi-dimensional concept in nature. The recognition and values of it vary depending on place, culture, and time. Generally, gifted students demonstrate the following characteristics:
* A high level of measured intelligence
* Specific academic aptitude in a subject area
* Creative thinking - high ability to invent numerous novel and elaborated ideas
* Remarkable talents in visual and performing arts such as painting, drama, dancing, music
* Peer leadership - high ability to motivate others to achieve common goals
* Psychomotor ability - outstanding performance or ingenuity in athletics, mechanical skills or other areas requiring gross or fine motor coordination
The definition on gifted children in the Education Commission Report No.4 is available on the EDB’s website on gifted education:
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
How does your school define high ability or gifted students?
4.5.3 Identification of Gifted Students
The Education Bureau has made reference to local experience and the most recent overseas studies, and advocates a school-based approach to providing gifted education. Schools should formulate a strategic identification mechanism based on their own contexts to identify gifted students through multiple channels, modes and criteria. The identification and selection process for Level III programmes should be more stringent than those for Levels I and II in order that the specific potential of gifted students can be unearthed.
Schools can identify gifted students with a variety of tools and place these students in different programmes as appropriate to nurture their potential. Identification tools can be generally classified into subjective and objective types as shown in Figure 4.6.
Figure 4.6 Tools to Identify Gifted Students
Subjective Objective
* Nomination by teachers
* Nomination by parents or guardians
* Nomination by peers
* Self-nomination
* Anecdotal description or evidence
* Standardised cognitive tests
* Individual or group performance in verbal and non-verbal tests
* Performance-based assessment
* School-based academic achievements
* Student portfolios
* Creativity tests
* Competitions
Identification tools, such as Behaviour Observation Checklist, Learning Behaviour Checklist, Area-specific Aptitude Checklist and task-based activities are available at the Education Bureau website on gifted education.
The Education Bureau website on gifted education is available at:
Schools should note the following when identifying gifted students:
* Do not assume all gifted students possess homogenous personality traits. On the contrary, the manifestation of gifted talents could vary. The behaviour of a gifted student only manifests the characteristics of that student and should not be generalised.
* Schools should arrange teachers involved in the identification process to attend professional training on basic understanding of gifted students’ characteristics and the application of identification tools to help enhance identification effectiveness.
* Teachers should exercise professional judgement during data analysis to identify the potential of gifted students. Long-term systematic observation improves identification effectiveness.
* Avoid adopting the “shopping list” approach, which expects the identification of the right students within a short period of time. Some gifted students may not demonstrate outstanding performance in traditional assessments. They tend to show their potential in advanced assignments such as task-based activities.
* Schools could consider developing a “talent pool” of gifted students where information is regularly updated according to the progress of individual gifted students. This will facilitate the design of school-based gifted education programmes and the allocation of resources for a more holistic planning in the development of school-based gifted education programmes.
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
What is the mechanism for identifying gifted students in your school?
4.5.4 Implementation Strategies
The Three-Tier-Operation Mode (see Figure 4.6) provides a logical framework for schools to plan holistically their school-based gifted education programmes from Level I to Level III
* Schools should build on its strength and teachers’ readiness to decide on the entry point for implementation. A holistic gifted education plan has to be drawn up. Short-term and long-term goals, covering both areas of cognitive and affective development, have to be set.
* Not only can a school-based gifted education policy help establish the school’s long-term direction for gifted education development, it can also foster synergy among teachers and staff to cater for the learning needs of gifted students. The school needs to review the education philosophy of its sponsoring body, its vision and mission, its strengths and resources before devising a school-based gifted education policy that is compatible with the school context.
* A school-based gifted education programme can be implemented at Level 1 through differentiation on a class basis, or through the pull-out approach at Level II.
  * Level I Whole-class Programmes:
    bullet_style1_2_3 Level I programmes adopt the whole-class mode and differentiated instruction and advocate the infusion of the three core elements of gifted education (higher-order thinking skills, creativity and personal-social competence) into the learning and teaching activities.
    bullet_style1_2_3 Teachers should flexibly adjust the curriculum contents, learning and teaching instructions, classroom environment and teaching materials and adopt strategies including acceleration, enhancing the depth and breadth of students’ learning so that students can achieve optimal learning in a diversified environment.
    bullet_style1_2_3 Schools can adopt differentiation strategies, such as anchor activities, flexible grouping, tiered assignments, as well as establishing an open and accepting classroom atmosphere to meet the learning and affective needs of gifted students. Teachers can adopt strategies including acceleration, enhancing the depth and breadth of students’ learning to adjust the curriculum content.
    bullet_style1_2_3 This approach presents a more challenging learning experience to stretch the potential of gifted students to the fullest, and enhances their creativity, higher-order thinking skills and personal-social competence.
    bullet_style1_2_3 Teachers can refer to the “Equaliser” which Tomlinson proposed for differentiation. The “Equaliser” identifies nine instructional elements (see Figure 4.7) that can be adjusted to challenge students of different levels of readiness. See Figure 4.7 for details.
Figure 4.7 Tomlinson’s “Equaliser”7
Foundational Information, ideas, materials, applications
Concrete Representations, ideas, applications, materials
Simple Resources, issues, skills, goals, problems
Mono-facet Disciplinary connections, directions, stages of development
Smaller leap Applications, insight transfer

Greater leap
More structured Solutions, decisions, approaches
More open
Clearly defined problems In process, in research, in products
Fuzzy problems
Less independence Planning, designing, monitoring
Greater independence
Slower Pace of study, pace of thought
Figure 4.7 Exemplars of differentiation using the “Equaliser”
Exemplar 1: Scientific Investigation – General Studies
Foundational Transformational
Average students discuss the characteristics of detergents as a cleaning agent. High ability or gifted students draw up criteria and compare the cleaning effectiveness of a range of different brands of detergent.
Exemplar 2: Comparison and problem-solving – English Language
Smaller leap Greater leap
After watching a video clip, average students compare the living conditions in a developing country and a developed country. High ability or gifted students draw inspiration from the real-life examples presented in the video and write a letter to the newspaper editor to discuss the harsh living conditions of the underprivileged in Hong Kong, as well as the government’s poverty alleviation policies.
More exemplars of differentiation using the “Equaliser” are available on the EDB’s Gifted Education website:
  * Level II School-based Pull-out Programmes
    bullet_style1_2_3 Level II school-based pull-out programmes are mostly enrichment, extension and acceleration in nature conducted outside the regular lesson time to allow systematic training for students with outstanding performance in specific areas. For example, teachers may conduct “Creative Groups” after school to provide enrichment activities for selected students or “Maths Training” during long holidays to provide accelerated learning activities for mathematically gifted students.
    bullet_style1_2_3 These pull-out programmes aim to provide gifted students with extended learning experiences to enhance the depth and breadth of their learning and address their learning needs.
    bullet_style1_2_3 These programmes also guide students to master knowledge and enquiry skills, nurturing their capabilities and attitude for self-directed learning.
    bullet_style1_2_3 Teachers can consider interdisciplinary topics when designing pull-out programmes so that students will have the opportunities to explore novel situations or problems and use their existing knowledge to solve problems.
Details of Level II school-based pull-out planning can be downloaded from the EDB’s website at:
* Organisations providing Level III off-site support, such as university credit-bearing programmes and mentoring programmes, include The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education, educational and professional bodies and various tertiary institutions. Schools can contact respective institutions or organisations for programme details, and select students already in Level II programmes to participate so as to enhance their exposure and extended learning opportunities.
* Establish gifted education task groups or committees to facilitate the implementation of the school-based gifted education policy. Schools can promote gifted education by delegating one to two veteran teachers with considerable administrative experience to administer and coordinate the school-based development in gifted education.
4.5.5 Resources and Support
Resources and support measures from the government
* For schools and teachers
  * Teacher training packages
  * Level I whole-class differentiation teaching plan and Level II school-based pull-out gifted education programme resources and teaching packages
  * Planning and Implementation of School-based Gifted Education-A Web-based Information Kit
  * Diversity Learning Grant
  * Gifted Education-Professional Development Programmes
* For students
  * Fung Hon Chu Gifted Education Centre Enrichment Programme
  * Web-based learning courses
  * Olympiad-related training
  * Competition-related seminars or workshops
  * Territory-wide competitions in various learning areas
Visit the Education Bureau website on gifted education for details of the above resources and support measures:
Provisions offered by The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education, tertiary institutes and other educational or professional bodies
* For schools and teachers
  * Accredited advanced courses in gifted education
  * Professional development programmes for teachers
* For students
  * Weekend and summer enrichment programmes
  * University credit-bearing programmes
  * University induction programmes
  * Mentoring and research programmes conducted by university academics
  * Olympiad-related training programmes (university level)
  * Dual enrolment
  (Please visit the websites of the respective organisations for details.)
For Reflection and Action For Reflection and Action
What resources has your school collected from the community to enrich the learning experiences of the gifted students?
1 Riding, R. & Rayner, S. (1998). Cognitive Styles and Learning Strategies: Understanding Style Differences in Learning and Behavior. London: David Fulton Publishers.
2 Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
3 Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L. & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington D.C.: National Academy Press.
4 Heacox, D. (2002). Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom: How to Reach and Teach all Learners, Grades 3-12. MN: Free Spirit Publishing Inc.
5 Hattie, J. (2005). What is the Nature of Evidence that Makes a Difference to Learning? Paper presented at the Australian Council for Educational Research Conference, Using Data to Support Learning, 7-9 August 2005, Melbourne. Retrieved from
  Heacox, D. (2002). Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom. How to Reach and Teach All Learners, Grades 3-12. MN: Free Spirit Publishing Inc.
6 Kauchak, D.P. & Eggen, P.D. (2012). Learning and Teaching: Research-based Methods (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
7 Tomlinson, C.A. (2001). How to Differentiate in Mixed-ability Classrooms (2nd ed.). VA: ASCD
An Overview of the Development of Gifted Education in Hong Kong (2003-2012)
Year Development Overview
2003 The Education Bureau published the “Guidelines on School-based Gifted Development Programmes” to lay the foundation for launching school-based gifted education and to provide a clear operation mode and direction for schools. Three key elements of gifted education are highlighted in the guidelines: higher-order thinking skills, creativity and personal-social competence.
From 2003 onwards The Education Bureau and its partner schools jointly launched the SEED projects to provide support for schools in implementing the proposed recommendations in the “Guidelines on School-based Gifted Development Programmes”. The SEED projects have consolidated the experience derived from piloting and considerably raised schools’ awareness about the learning needs of gifted students.
From 2003 onwards As a result of the creation of the post of Primary School Curriculum Leaders by the Education Bureau, teachers’ understanding of school-based curriculum development has been continuously enhanced. School-based gifted education has flourished, thus facilitated the development of diversified gifted education services.
2006–2010 The Thematic Network Scheme (QTN) under the Quality Education Fund reinforced the collaboration and interflow in the school sector and facilitated the implementation of school-based gifted education programmes.
2007 The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education was established. The Academy works closely with the Education Bureau to step up the provision of off-site gifted education programmes for gifted students.
From 2009 onwards The Education Bureau has been providing the Diversity Learning Grant (gifted education programmes) to schools to tie in with the New Academic Structure for Senior Secondary Education. Schools are provided with additional resources to support the diversified development of gifted students.
2012 A new professional development framework in gifted education for all teachers in Hong Kong was established to meet the needs of teachers, who are the key stakeholders of a school. his new framework aims at providing a clear pathway of professional development for teachers by utilising the resources available from both the Education Bureau and The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education. Specifically designed training opportunities on gifted education are provided for gifted education teachers.
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Teachers can purposefully combine the following approaches when providing scaffolding:
* Arouse students’ interest in learning and assignments
* Present simplified learning tasks to reduce problem-solving steps so that students can grasp the components of the learning process more easily and understand when to act and meet the expectations of the tasks and assignments
* Capitalise on the motivation of students and the objectives of activities to maintain the pursuit of goals
* Point out the key discrepancies between students’ attainment and the ideal solution
* Control the instances of setbacks and crises during problem-solving
* Demonstrate ideal performance
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Six techniques of effective questioning
* Frequency of questioning: Help students actively engage in learning
* Even distribution: Build a positive classroom atmosphere by ensuring that every student is expecting to be and will be invited to participate in the lesson
* Open questions: Students feel “secure” and can gain a sense of achievement more easily when there is no right or wrong answer to the question.
* Hints: Help students understand the objectives and build a supportive environment. Anticipate success and deliver positive expectations.
* Repeat and emphasise: Emphasise important ideas and encourage building connections among key concepts.
* Wait time: Provide students with the opportunities to think and reflect, so that the quality of their responses is enhanced, which in turn increases their chances of success.
The following references are by no means exhaustive and listed for reference only.
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謝錫金、林偉業、羅嘉怡和張慧明。「全球學生閱讀能力進展研究 2006.國際報告發佈會」新聞稿。香港大學教育學院。取自
伍新春和秦憲剛譯(2003)。終身受用的學習學略 幫助學生找到有效的學習方法。北京:中國輕工業出版社。
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Dantonio, M. & Beisenherz, P.C. (2001). Learning to Question, Questioning to Learn: Developing Effective Teacher Questioning Practices. Boston, MA: Allyn Bacon.
Fisher, R. (2005). Teaching Children to Think. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes Ltd.
Galton, M. (2007). Learning and Teaching in the Primary Classroom. London: Sage Publications.
Godinho, S. & Wilson, J. (2004). How to Succeed with Questioning. Carlton South Vic: Curriculum Corporation.
Gunter, M.A., Estes, J.H. & Schwah, J. (2003). Instruction: A Models Approach (4th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
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Heacox, D. (2002). Differentiating Instruction in the Regular Classroom. How to Reach and Teach All Learners, Grades 3-12. MN: Free Spirit Publishing Inc.
HKPISA Centre (2011). The Fourth HKPISA Report PISA 2009 Executive Summary. Hong Kong: HKPISA Centre, CUHK.
Hollas, B. (2005). Differentiating Instruction in a Whole-group Setting. NH: Crystal Springs Books.
Joyce, B., Calhoun, E. & Hopkins, D. (2002). Models of Learning: Tools for Teaching (2nd ed.). Buckingham: Open University.
Kauchak, D. & Eggen, P. (2012). Learning and Teaching: Research-Based Methods (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
Kolb, D. A. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development. Englewoods Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Masters, G.N. (2010). Teaching and Learning School Improvement Framework. Queensland: State of Queensland (Department of Education and Training) and the Australian Council for Educational Research.
Riding, R. & Rayner, S. (1998). Cognitive Styles and Learning Strategies: Understanding Style Differences in Learning and Behavior. London: David Fulton Publishers.
Rock, M.L., Gregg, M., Ellis, E. & Gable, R. A. (2008). REACH: A Framework for Differentiating Classroom Instruction. Preventing School Failure, 52(2), 31-47.
Schiller, P. (2001). Creating Readers.  Beltsville, MD: Gryphon House, Inc.
Walsh, J.A. & Sattes, B.D. (2005). Quality Questioning: Research-based Practice to Engage Every Learner. California: Corwin Press.
Watkins, C. (2005). Classrooms as Learning Communities: What’s in It for Schools? New York: Routledge.
Wragg, E.C. & Brown, G. (2001). Questioning in the Primary School. New York: Routledge Falmer.
Website of “Education Bureau Special Education Support for Ordinary Schools”
Website of “Education Bureau Special Education > Support for Ordinary Schools> Support for Student Diversity in Primary Schools”
Samples of SEN Register and Individual Education Plan
Special Arrangements for Internal Examinations for Students with Special Educational Needs (2013)
Special Education Resource Centre
Education Bureau Special Education
Teacher training package
Level I Whole-class Differentiation Teaching Plan and Level II School-based Pull-out Gifted Education Programme Resources and Teaching Packages
Planning and Implementation of School-based Gifted Education - A Web-based Information Kit
Diversity Learning Grant
Gifted Education - Professional Development Programmes