The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented

Fall 2001 Masthead

Since 1990, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented has carried out the research and development priorities established under the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Education Program. The Javits Act gives highest priority to identifying and serving high potential students who may not be identified through traditional assessment criteria, including individuals of limited English proficiency, individuals with disabilities, and individuals from economically disadvantaged groups. Theory-based models of identification, alternative assessment, programming, evaluation, professional development, curriculum, and intelligence have been the hallmarks of our quantitative and qualitative research portfolio from 1990 to 2000. In addition, the United States Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement has recognized our Center’s dissemination plan for its effectiveness and comprehensiveness.

The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) (2000-2005) is a consortium of 3 Core Universities (Connecticut, Virginia, and Yale). Our current research agenda centers on the theme, Transitions From Potential-to-Performance and addresses research questions such as the following:

  1. Are the personality and behavioral characteristics of gifted underachievers more similar to those of underachievers of average ability levels, achievers of average ability levels, or with achievers of high ability levels?
  2. To what extent can teachers modify reading practices and curriculum for above average reading students in regular classroom settings?
  3. What variables predict high achievement on international assessments of mathematics and science?
  4. What are the effects of state testing on schools and teachers relative to curriculum and instruction?<?
  5. What is the degree of consistency between teachers’ philosophies about giftedness and classroom practices?<?
  6. What is the impact of differentiation of curriculum and instruction on students from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or students from some minority groups?
  7. To what extent will creative and practical abilities be of increasing importance to giftedness, with increasing age and across domains?

In addition to the Core Universities, Senior Scholars at Collaborating Universities have made a commitment to research projects and research-based monographs related to the priorities of the Javits Act.

Our research agenda resulted from a recent needs assessment from educators, policy makers, and the general public. Our agenda is responsive to the Javits legislation. We continue to:

  • investigate the causes for disparity in achievement at the highest levels of performance among various racial and ethnic groups;
  • study models for increasing the proportion of underrepresented students performing at the highest levels; and
  • generate findings and applications that build the capacity of teachers and schools to improve the performance of underrepresented students.

The NRC/GT is committed to high quality research that is problem-based, practice-relevant, and consumer oriented. Finding answers to questions using appropriate quantitative and qualitative methodologies will only impact educational practices and policies if the information is available to target audiences in multiple formats. Therefore, we continue to use the most effective dissemination practices to ensure accessibility of research findings to improve our Nation’s schools.

The following abstracts provide an overview of the NRC/GT research studies:

An Investigation of Interventions for Promoting the Achievement of Low SES and Culturally Diverse Gifted Middle School Students

Del Siegle
Sally M. Reis
D. Betsy McCoach
University of Connecticut

The underachievement of gifted students represents a loss of valuable human resources for the nation, as well as unrealized fulfillment for the individual. Although a previous NRC/GT needs assessment found that the issue of underachievement is foremost in the minds of practitioners, no national study has focused on interventions for reversing the underachievement of gifted students. For the purpose of this study, we define achieving gifted students as students who perform at or above grade level in reading and math on standardized achievement tests in mathematics and reading. We are selecting a sample of urban and rural school districts with culturally and linguistically diverse students (Black, Hispanic, and Native American) and students from economically disadvantaged settings. We are focusing our study on middle school students who perform at grade level or above grade level in reading or mathematics from various racial/ethnic groups or economically disadvantaged homes and settings.

Phase one was a review of the literature on this topic with an emphasis on the achievement patterns of minority students. We sought to better understand the achievement patterns of successful students from various racial/ethnic groups. We are analyzing data from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS-88) to determine course-taking patterns, results of content area achievement tests, school characteristics, and grades among various racial and ethnic groups; and analyzing data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study- Kindergarten Cohort (ECLS-K) databases to determine the characteristics of home and school environments that promote the academic achievement patterns of young children. After identifying successful programs through vehicles such as the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), we are collecting data through document analysis, interviews, observations, questionnaires, or surveys. The following research questions guide our data collection. What teaching strategies promote achievement in schools where reform movements have been successful? What are the achievement patterns of minority students at risk of school failure? How do interactions between teachers and learners promote achievement? How do school/parent partnerships promote achievement? Do the attitudes of community persons affect the achievement of students? We will also study family patterns (e.g., reading to children, visiting local places of interest, telling stories, playing games) that affect their children’s school readiness.

In Phase Two, we investigate different intervention approaches designed to promote the mathematics or language arts/reading achievement of gifted students using one or more of the following interventions: (1) interest-based projects and classroom modifications, (2) self-regulation strategies for students, (3) self-efficacy strategies, and (4) student goal setting and modifying environmental perceptions. We believe that one or more interventions will improve school grades for the subject area in which the student had been identified as underachieving. Development and field-testing of the interventions is underway.

We are seeking classroom teachers and teachers of gifted who would be interested in working with one or two bright, underachieving students to implement one of the treatments in their classrooms. The study would begin in October 2002 and end in April 2003. Participating teachers would also agree to collect a minimum amount of follow-up data during the 2003-2004 school year. Interested parties should contact our office at 860-486-4678 for more information.

Increasing Achievement and Enjoyment in Reading: The Schoolwide Enrichment Reading Framework

Joseph Renzulli
Sally M. Reis
E. Jean Gubbins
Del Siegle
University of Connecticut

This proposed 3-year research study complements our other proposed investigation of achievement, builds upon previous studies conducted by the UConn site of the NRC/GT, and relates to our theme of transitions from potential to performance. We are studying reading achievement in students of all achievement levels at the upper elementary and middle school levels.

The first phase of this study is an analysis of early readers through the use of the ECLS-K data documenting the wide range of skills and readiness with which children enter kindergarten. This preliminary research indicates that the level of children’s skills at kindergarten entry appears to be related to parental educational status, as children whose mothers are well educated come to kindergarten with more academic skills, such as recognizing letters, beginning sounds, and reading storybooks.

This secondary analysis of the ECLS-K database examines a nationally representative sample of 22,000 first-time kindergarten students in approximately 1,000 kindergarten programs throughout the United States. Specifically, multilevel modeling techniques will be used to identify teacher-level and school-level contextual variables that appear to promote academic excellence. To ascertain how these variables contribute to the acceleration or deceleration of individual academic growth trajectories during primary grades, we will follow the growth of students throughout kindergarten and first grade, paying particular attention to reading skills and increasing achievement in reading.

We are conducting school and classroom visits to study programming for talented readers in urban and suburban elementary and middle schools. We are studying such areas as: whether regular curriculum reading practices are enriched, whether acceleration is in use, the reading practices in selected classrooms, the available resources for talented readers, and the nature of the reading program currently in use for talented readers.

In the second phase of the study, the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) will be used as a vehicle to increase both reading achievement and enjoyment in reading. The SEM seeks to develop talents in all children and encourage enjoyment in learning with the use of three components: the Total Talent Portfolio, curriculum differentiation techniques, and opportunities for enrichment teaching and learning for students in areas of advanced ability and interest.

We will apply the SEM philosophy to reading instruction in several school districts to develop a SEM Reading Framework. We will compare the reading achievement of students of various reading achievement levels with a comparison cohort of students using traditional reading programs in districts with diverse student populations and schools. This mixed methods design uses quantitative methods for the database analyses and to study differences in reading achievement and enjoyment of reading before and after the SEM Reading Framework intervention. Qualitative methods will be used to enhance quantitative data collected about enjoyment of reading and types of independent reading pursued both in and out of school.

Advanced Placement and the International Baccalaureate Programs: Factors Enhancing or Inhibiting Student Enrollment and Achievement Across Racial, Socio-economic and Ethnic Populations

Carolyn M. Callahan
Tonya R. Moon
Carol A. Tomlinson
University of Virginia

Little attention has been given to exploring the reasons for the growing achievement gaps between the highest achieving Black and White students at the secondary level. These differences, combined with the poor performance of the most advanced American students in international comparisons—most recently the TIMMS study—suggest a need to closely examine the programs/curricula serving gifted students in secondary schools. First, using the TIMMS data, we will examine student, teacher, and school factors that may predict differential patterns of achievement across racial and ethnic groups. Then we will qualitatively examine the reasons underlying choices made to enroll (or not enroll) in Advanced Placement courses or International Baccalaureate programs by minority students, the match between learners from non-dominant cultures and the curriculum of these programs, and the engagement of learners from differing racial, socio-economic, language, and gender sub-groups enrolled in AP and IB courses. We will examine, in particular, recruitment strategies, instructional strategies or curricular adaptations that engage minority and impoverished learners in these advanced curricular options, the ways in which classroom or school climate affect the decisions made by students, and any other themes that emerge from interviews and observations.

State Standardized Testing Programs: Their Effects on Teachers and Students

Tonya R. Moon
Carolyn M. Callahan
Carol A. Tomlinson
University of Virginia

Until the late 1970s, standardized testing had little effect on instruction. However, since the minimum competency movement of the 1970s, the importance placed on standardized tests has increased. The central theme of this reform effort is the need to raise academic achievement of all learners. The intent of this study is twofold: (1) to investigate the impact, if any, of state testing initiatives on the potential for challenging instruction for all students, including gifted students, economically disadvantaged students, limited-English proficient students, and students with disabilities, and (2) to investigate the impact, if any, from the teachers’ and students’ perspectives of the state testing initiatives on all students (including high performing minority students). Specifically, the study seeks to determine through quantitative and qualitative methodologies, teacher and student factors that encourage and/or discourage complex and in-depth learning.

Multiple Case Studies of Teachers and Classrooms Demonstrating Competent Application of Principles of Differentiated Instruction to Address Academic Diversity

Carol A. Tomlinson
Carolyn M. Callahan
University of Virginia

In recent years, there has been a burgeoning interest in creating classroom settings attentive to student variation in readiness, interest, and learning profile rather than assuming a single approach to teaching and learning serves all students well. This approach, called differentiation of instruction, is still relatively rare in schools. The goal of this project is to develop a series of case studies that describe teachers who are effective in differentiating instruction, thus aiding the transitions of many other educators who seek to make their classrooms more effective learning places for students whose culture, gender, economic status, experience, and talents vary widely. The multiple case design will examine classrooms in three sites in three states involving a range of grade levels from primary through high school. The focus of the case studies is teachers who promote academic success in students with minority and low economic students. The central goal of the study is describing approaches, strategies, and classroom routines that appear to lead to academic success with these learners.

Using Case-Based Instruction to Identify Talent in Primary Grades

Tonya R. Moon
Carolyn M. Callahan
Carol A. Tomlinson
University of Virginia

Primary school is a time of great transitions for learners. Transitions occur when students come from a predominantly unstructured childhood environment into the structured beginnings of primary school. Once in the primary grades, the school experience is largely composed of student-centered and hands-on activities. Students transition from the comfort of this nurturing environment to a more content-driven school experience at 3rd grade, resulting in what is commonly referred to as the 3rd grade slump. During this transition phase, talented students, particularly those from less obvious talent pools, are more likely to fall through the cracks in traditional gifted identification models and programs. It is the intent of this study to work with primary level teachers in changing their instructional practices to be more responsive to the transitions students experience through case methodology resulting in model lessons which can be used for identification purposes.

Transitions in the Development of Giftedness: Main Study

Robert J. Sternberg
Elena L. Grigorenko
Linda Jarvin
Jonna Kwiatkowski
Yale University

The purpose of this research is to assess the factors that lead to success in transitions of giftedness. In using the term giftedness, we refer to individuals who (a) are excellent in work they can or do produce, (b) possess this excellence relative to peers, (c) are able to display this excellence through some kind of tangible performance, (d) can repeat this performance multiple times, and (e) excel in a way that is societally valued. This definition is based on the confluence model of giftedness. What leads some, but not other people successfully to make these transitions in the kinds of expertise they develop? Is it possible that many underserved minority students have the abilities they will need to succeed at high levels in careers, but never get the chance because the educational system fails to recognize their strengths?

We believe that the problem addressed by this study is one of the most fundamental ones in gifted education, in particular, and in education, in general. The problem is how to optimize on the talent of the nation’s youngsters, our most precious resource as a nation. Currently, traditional analytic abilities are stressed in the identification of children for gifted education programs. However, our research suggests that creative and practical skills are as important, if not more important than analytical skills to success in life. We have found that even individuals who are analytically and creatively gifted will not necessarily possess the abilities to excel as adults. For example, they may be able to produce creative artwork but not know how to get it exhibited, or write creative stories but not know how to get them published, or compose creative musical arrangements but not know how to get them played. The may fail in later transitions of giftedness because they are ineffective at promoting their ideas.

We propose specific hypotheses posing testable predictions: creative and practical abilities will become of increasing importance with age and that members of underrepresented minority groups will, on average, score more highly on measures of creative and practical abilities than on measures of analytical abilities. To verify these hypotheses, we are looking at individuals in various life stages, employing cross-sectional methods, and across those same life stages, employing longitudinal methods.

There are two groups of participants: (1) evaluators (teachers, parents, college/university professors and instructors, and supervisors) and (2) evaluatees (students and young professionals). The first group of participants will fill out questionnaires and be interviewed regarding the characteristics of highly gifted, gifted but not highly gifted, and nongifted individuals in their area of endeavor. The second group of participants will be assessed for their potentials and demonstrated levels of performance. Participants will be recruited nationwide. We intend to recruit at least 1,600 participants, split evenly between all of the grouping criteria detailed in the following paragraphs.

Evaluated participants will consist of three groups of individuals in each of five life stages: (1) middle-school students; (2) high-school students; (3) college students; (4) advanced graduate students; and (5) young professionals.

Within each group, we plan to adequately represent minority groups. Our design will call for the following breakdown: (1) European-American majority-group students; (2) African-American minority-group students; (3) Hispanic minority-group students; and (4) Asian minority-group students.

Individuals in each age cohort will be divided into three general groups, based on evaluation of their performance as: (1) highly gifted (study group); (2) gifted but not highly gifted (comparison group); and (3) nongifted (control group).

We have chosen two areas of giftedness that can be studied at each of the life epochs described above: (1) verbally oriented (reading/writing) performance; and (2) quantitatively oriented (mathematical/scientific) performance.

Individuals who are evaluated will be assessed for each of the aspects of a confluence model: (1) successful intelligence; (2) domain-relevant knowledge; (3) thinking styles; (4) personality; (5) motivation; and (6) environment. In addition to quantitative assessments, we plan to use qualitative assessments based on interviews. The results of the measures assessing the skills of evaluated individuals within the confluence framework will be compared with the group classification of these individuals to determine which skills are most important to giftedness within any given group. Although we plan to assess the same attributes across age levels, we recognize the inevitable need for flexibility in the way we assess these attributes.

Transitions in the Development of Giftedness: Musical Talent

Rena Subotnik
Robert J. Sternberg
Linda Jarvin
Elena L. Grigorenko
Yale University

This study is designed to complement the Main Study in the domain of music performance. We chose this domain because it may enable us to generalize our findings by sampling a domain—the arts—that is missing from the Main Study and because it is a domain where straightforward means are available for evaluating success.

The participants of the study will include three groups: (1) current professional musicians who also teach high ability students in the domain; (2) students who attend the program where these musicians serve as instructors; and (3) music critics from the major media. More specifically, at least 20 teachers and 60 students (20 age 19) will be selected from major music conservatories. Ten students at each instructional level (pre-college, undergraduate, graduate) named by more than one teacher at the school as well as those who are chosen randomly from among unnamed students in the school will be interviewed, and will be administered the personality and motivation inventories employed in the Main Study. As with the Main Study, we plan to recruit participants evenly: (1) European-American majority-group students; (2) African-American minority-group students; (3) Hispanic minority-group students; and (4) Asian minority-group students.

Each of the participants will be interviewed with a structured interview. The purpose of the teacher interview, which will be conducted first, would be to identify the variables associated with elite level talent used to admit students into the selective pre-college program, designed to serve children with prodigious musical gifts, as well as to the conservatory, which offers Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music performance. The purpose of the student interviews will be to determine how well students’ personality and motivational characteristics and conceptions of the variables central to transforming their high level talent into marketable professional level skill matches those enumerated by the teachers and critics. It is hypothesized that those students whom teachers have identified as most successful will be able to articulate the variables most closely associated with success expressed by the instructors and critics, and that a key explanation for that will be in the nature of the teacher-student relationship. The hypotheses will be tested by monitoring employment and professional opportunities displayed by participating students over the course of the study.

Important influences on the development of musical talent are lost to our observation if they are not “caught” along the way. Longitudinal studies designed to test the prediction of eminence from childhood potential can be inefficient because few productive adult creators will emerge from these groups. A more promising longitudinal approach is to identify groups of individuals who have already demonstrated achievements in a domain that retrospective studies have suggested closely precede the emergence of creative eminence. This study employs such a short-term longitudinal study design.

The interviews will be conducted in-person. Students will be asked: (1) about their early musical training; (2) how their present teacher was selected; (3) what the audition process was like for them; (4) the kinds of tacit knowledge they received from teachers; (5) how they deal with competition; (6) relationship with peers who share the same teacher; and (7) what qualities they associate with brilliant performance in their instrument domain.

Faculty perspectives on the following topics will be solicited in order to complement student responses to various facets of the talent development process: (1) their background and training; (2) philosophies and goals for instruction; (3) how they recognize talent and their ideas about the sources of talent; (4) how they plan for individual students; (5) how they prepare students for competition; (6) how and if they attend to student relationships with one another; (7) counseling of most and least successful pupils; and (8) sources of the tacit knowledge they share with their pupils.

We hypothesize that the same attributes hypothesized in the Main Study to lead to success will also lead to success in this study. These attributes are successful intelligence (analytical and especially creative and practical abilities), knowledge of music in general, and performance of the chosen instrument in particular, styles, personality, motivation, and environment. For example, musicians need the creative intelligence to perform pieces in a way that creatively distinguishes them from other performers, and the practical intelligence to know what kinds of creative innovations are likely to be well-received by the public and what kinds are not likely to be well-received. Musicians need to surmount tremendous obstacles (e.g., rigorous practice schedules, critics, occasionally displeased audiences, serious competition) to succeed, and they have to take risks in their careers to get ahead. They also need a supportive environment that helps their musical talents flourish.

Transitions in the Development of Giftedness: Learning Disabilities and Giftedness

Elena L. Grigorenko
Robert J. Sternberg
Tina Newman
Jonna Kwiatkowski
Linda Jarvin
Yale University

This study is a targeted extension of the Main Study addressing issues of transitional periods in gifted children with learning disabilities. Children who are both gifted and who have a learning disability have unique needs that are usually overlooked by the public educational system. These children may have excellent creative or practical skills that are not assessed by traditional educational methods. Many people have difficulty comprehending that a child can be gifted and also have learning disabilities. As a result, children with special needs that result from such “uneven” profiles of both their high abilities and their learning problems are rarely identified and are often poorly served. For example, Tallent-Runnels and Sigler (1995) examined whether gifted students in Texas who had learning disabilities were being identified for gifted programs. They discovered that 19.7% of all districts surveyed reported selecting gifted students with learning disabilities for gifted programs.

In this study, we propose, in collaboration with the New Haven School District, the Hamden Eli Whitney Museum, and the Yale Art Gallery to: (1) suggest a set of criteria for identifying gifted children with learning disabilities; (2) develop an after-school and weekend program for gifted children with learning disabilities; and (3) use the design of the Main Study to investigate which of the three proposed models (g-based, analytical+creative, successful intelligence) will best fit the pattern of performance in this population of children with special needs.

To match the design of the Main Study, we will attempt to identify gifted children with learning disabilities in grades 5-6, and 11-12. We intend to recruit at least 80 students (about 40 per age group—middle school and high school students). The sample inclusion criteria will be (1) reading or mathematics (or both) specific disability; and (2) exceptional talents in at least one other area of endeavor (academic or nonacademic).

Participants in this program will complete the assessments detailed in the Main Study. The administration of the assessments will enable us to profile detailed and systematic descriptions of the cognitive strengths and weaknesses of the gifted children with learning disabilities. Such profiles will enable us, in collaboration with the Whitney Museum and the Yale Art Gallery, to develop an intervention program for children with gifted-disabled cognitive profiles. The intervention program will be designed as an after-school and weekend program for children from the New Haven public schools who have been diagnosed with LD (specifically, reading disabilities and math disabilities), but show exceptional achievement in at least one other area of endeavor (i.e., music, language arts, arts, sciences). The intervention program will be based on the theory of successful intelligence and will be designed to meet the specific needs of gifted children with learning disabilities by capitalizing on their strengths and compensating for their weaknesses. Both the Whitney Museum and the Yale Art Gallery have extensive experience in creating educational programs for children. The main purpose of this program will be to ensure that students who are gifted and have learning disabilities receive the intervention needed to help them reach their full potential.

Specifically, the program for children with mathematical disabilities will be developed and implemented in collaboration with the Whitney Museum and will capitalize on practical and creative approaches to teaching mathematics, but also will include more traditional teaching for analytical and memory-based abilities. The program for children with reading disabilities will be developed and implemented in collaboration with the Yale Art Gallery and will capitalize on practical and creative approaches to teaching reading, but also will include more traditional teaching for analytical and memory-based abilities.

Thus, this study will allow us to: (1) validate the findings of the Main Study in a population of gifted children with learning disabilities; (2) investigate cognitive profiles of strengths and weaknesses in gifted children with learning disabilities; and (3) produce a package of materials that can be used in intervention work with a gifted population with learning disabilities.

Reference
Tallent-Runnels, M. K., & Sigler, E. A. (1995). The status of the selection of gifted students with learning disabilities for gifted programs. Roeper Review, 17(4), 246-248.

 

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