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Using Mediation in a Gifted Learning Program

Charles Sutton
Galileo School for Gifted Learning
Level 7 Learning

Since this class is about guidance and counseling of gifted learners, I decided to take a look at the process of mediation to determine how—if at all—it can be used to improve learning environments for gifted and talented students. This paper will start by briefly explaining the history and defining the role of a mediator in education, and then apply mediation theory to gifted education. I will also take a look at some of the relevant literature related to using mediation with gifted students.

The concept of mediation in education came about from Feuerstein’s work with students who survived the Holocaust (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007). Mediation is a rejection of the behaviorist ideas about learning. It builds on Piaget’s learning model where the learner is metaphorically placed between a stimulus and a response. In Piaget’s model, the lesson stimulus, whether it be auditory, visual, or kinesthetic, reaches the learner who then responds by processing the materials. However, Feuerstein noticed that this model was somewhat deficient for his special learners—the survivors. Without parents or teachers to work as intermediaries between the stimulus and the learner during their formative years, the lesson delivered via a stimulus didn’t necessarily reach the student in a way that was useful. Additionally, once the lesson reached the child, s/he did not have the skills available to ensure a learning response. Therefore, Feuerstein postulated that in early learning, every stimulus and response needs a mediator until the child learns to do that on his/her own. “This mediator is a person who captures the stimuli that bombard a learner every day, strains the stimuli, and helps the children develop their own way of filtering those stimuli that promote learning from those that distract” (Rodriguez & Bellanca, 2007, p. 17). By that definition, certainly twice-exceptional students with specific learning disabilities—for example—who are distracted by the many stimuli in a classroom could use mediators to help them process information so they can weed out the distractions from the curriculum. Then, the mediator can help the student process the stimulus into a learned response.

Smith (2002) suggests that applying CBI, cognitive-behavioral interventions, for behavior deficits exhibited by gifted students can also help them learn how to use mediation to monitor and control their own behaviors. He writes, “CBI incorporates behavior therapy…and cognitive mediation (e.g., think-alouds) to build what can be called a new ‘coping template’” (Smith, 2002, para. 3). First the mediator teaches the child to process the negative stimulus that is causing the problematic behavior, and then s/he mediates the response for the student. As the child begins to learn how to use the mediating steps himself/herself, then the mediator is no longer needed and the child can use CBI to moderate and control negative behaviors without intervention.

While Feuerstein’s method of mediated learning was exclusively used in the beginning to work with children who never

had an adult to help them mediate stimuli and responses—and that is not necessarily the problem for gifted learners—there is a place for it in working with gifted and talented students. Twice-/multi-exceptional students may be bombarded by an influx of stimuli that they cannot successfully parse without having an active mediator. Also, gifted students who have behavior issues may learn to control them by using mediation through CBI. Therefore, there is good reason to practice mediation in gifted and talented programs along with guidance and counseling.


Rodriguez, E., & Bellanca, J. (2007). What is it about me you can’t teach?: An instruction guide for the

      urban educator (Second Edition ed.). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Smith, S. W. (2002, August). Applying cognitive-behavioral techniques to social skills instruction.

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Posted by on July 12, 2016 in Education, Gifted learning


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