Affect and Meeting the Needs of the Gifted Chemistry Learner: Providing Intellectual Challenge to Engage Students in Enjoyable Learning

  • Keith S. Taber


Meeting the needs of gifted learners is normally considered from a cognitive perspective—a matter of incorporating sufficient higher-order cognitive tasks in learning activities. A major problem in the education of gifted learners is lack of challenge, which is needed to ensure such students are able to make progress. Lack of challenge can also influence learner motivation and even lead to boredom. Meeting the needs of gifted learners is therefore a matter of matching task demand to their abilities to meet their emotional as well as their cognitive needs. The present chapter suggests that an aim in teaching should be to engage learners in activities that offer an experience of ‘flow’, which is achieved when learning demands offer sufficient but not insurmountable challenge. Flow is an inherently motivating experience but requires a suitably high level of task demand to maintain deep engagement. The chapter draws on an example of a science enrichment programme that offered activities that were demanding for the 14–15-year-old learners because they drew upon cognitively challenging themes (related to aspects of the nature of science) and required a high level of self- (or peer) regulation of learning to provide high task demand. An example of one of the activities concerning the role of models in chemistry is described. Students recognised that learning activities offered greater complexity, open-endedness and scope for independent learning than their usual school science lessons. The features that students reported in their feedback as making the work more challenging also tended to be those they identified as making the activities enjoyable.


Gifted Affective domain Flow Metacognition ASCEND project Nature of models in chemistry 



The ASCEND project was supported by the Gatsby Science Enhancement Programme, who funded the after-school enrichment programme and published an account of the project with the full set of teaching materials (Taber, 2007b). The programme was run as a partnership between the University of Cambridge Faculty of Education, Chesterton Community School, St. Bede’s Inter-Church School, Netherhall School and Sixth Form College and Parkside Community College. Fran Riga acted as the research assistant to the project and helped collect and collate the feedback from delegates.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EducationUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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