Year Three Research Abstracts

Fall 1992 Masthead

An Ethnographic Description of the High School Experiences of High Ability Students in an Urban Environment
Principal Investigators:   Dr. Sally M. Reis & Thomas P. Hébert
Implementation:   1992-1994

Gifted students from culturally diverse populations exist in large economically deprived urban environments, and they are now being included in the statistical reports of high school dropouts. To deal with this crisis situation, educators must better address their needs through appropriate educational programs. For this reason, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds were identified as a priority in the Jacob Javits Act, and this research is the first ethnographic study proposed by The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) to address this problem. The study will examine the cultural reality of high ability teenagers in an urban environment through participant observation and ethnographic interviews. The objective of the research will be an attempt to identify the following: cognitive and affective educational needs of gifted youth who are achieving and underachieving in an urban high school setting, the strategies for success employed by these students, and the educational and psychological support systems available to this population.

A Longitudinal Study of Successful Practices in Regular Classrooms
Principal Investigators:   Dr. Francis X. Archambault, Jr. & Dr. Karen L. Westberg
Implementation:   1992-1995

The University of Connecticut site of the NRC/GT intends to conduct research during the next three years which will examine the impact of a comprehensive educational program for high ability students in the regular classroom. In an experimental study, an educational program will be implemented in two treatment schools and a control group school in a school district with a high concentration of economically disadvantaged students. In addition to collecting quantitative data to assess the program’s impact on teachers and students, qualitative research techniques will be employed to provide rich descriptions of the various aspects of the educational plan. During Year 1, the treatment interventions and assessment instruments will be developed and field tested, and staff development experiences will be provided to teachers in the treatment schools. The educational program, to be implemented during Years 2 and 3, will include instruction in basic and complex thinking skills and instruction and opportunities for application of thinking skills to both advanced content and advanced project work. The need for these components of the educational intervention, as well as the nature of each component, emerged from the studies undertaken during the first two years of the NRC/GT at The University of Connecticut as well as from a review of recommended practices for high ability students.

Gifted Program Performance of Students Identified Through the Research-Based Assessment Plan
Principal Investigators:   Dr. Mary M. Frasier & Dr. Scott Hunsaker
Implementation:   1992-1993

This study will provide information that will help educators make the critical connection between assessment data and programming/curricular decisions. By investigating the gifted program performance of pilot study students identified using the Research-Based Assessment Plan (and comparing their performance with that of traditionally identified students), the study will help validate a theory based on the differential manifestations of gifted behaviors in different students and translate that theory into best-practice recommendations regarding program planning for these students. Both qualitative and quantitative data will be analyzed in order to evaluate achievement and attitudinal variables.

A National Field Test of the Staff Development Model and the Research-Based Assessment Plan
Principal Investigators:   Dr. Mary M. Frasier & Dr. Scott Hunsaker
Implementation:   1992-1993

This field test will investigate the transferability of the Staff Development Model and the Research-Based Assessment Plan developed in 1991-1992. Selected sites that reflect various types of communities (i.e., suburban, urban, rural) will implement the Staff Development Model and the Research-Based Assessment Plan with technical assistance but without direct supervision from personnel at The University of Georgia. These sites will reflect differences in designs such as: administrative organization, school sizes and type, differences in minority/majority population ratios, gifted program delivery models, school location, and personnel resources. However, sites will be selected that have similar philosophies and program goals. Data collected will be used to determine: (a) the degree to which the Staff Development Model can be transferred, (b) the degree to which the Research-Based Assessment Plan can be transferred, and (c) the extent to which the Staff Development Model and the Research-Based Assessment Plan change the attitudes of students, teachers, and administrators toward the participation of target population students in gifted programs.

Investigations Into Instruments and Designs Used in the Identification of Gifted Students and the Evaluation of Gifted Programs
Principal Investigator:   Dr. Carolyn M. Callahan
Implementation:   1990-1993

The University of Virginia has established a National Repository for Instruments and Strategies used in the Identification of Gifted Students and the Evaluation of Gifted Programs. Existing instruments, systems and designs used in identification and evaluation were collected through a nationwide survey. In addition, a paradigm was created for evaluating the identification instruments in light of the wide variety of definitions and conceptions of giftedness. Non-traditional and product/performance instruments currently in use in evaluation of gifted programs will also be reviewed for their usefulness. Potentially useful locally-developed instruments will be examined through formal validation processes.

Pre-Service Teacher Preparation in Meeting the Needs of the Gifted
Principal Investigators:   Dr. Carol A. Tomlinson & Dr. Carolyn M. Callahan
Implementation:   1992-1995

There is evidence of a need to improve teacher attitudes and practices regarding instruction of gifted learners and evidence that positive changes in teacher attitude and practice can be accomplished through interventions with pre-service teachers. This study will examine the impact on pre-service teachers’ attitudes and practices of direct instruction regarding gifted learners, their needs, and strategies which exist for meeting those needs. In addition, one group of pre-service teachers in the study will also receive coaching in instructional differentiation by trained educators of the gifted during their student-teaching placements to determine the relative effectiveness of direct instruction alone in comparison with direct instruction coupled with coaching in the classroom. Further, cooperating teachers who work with pre-service teachers will be studied to see if the interventions have an impact on their attitudes and/or instruction. Finally, a sub-sample of the pre-service teachers studied will be followed into their first year of teaching to determine longevity of attitudinal and instructional impact of the interventions.

Social and Emotional Adjustment of the Gifted
Principal Investigators:   Dr. Claudia J. Sowa, Dr. Kathleen M. May, Dr. Carolyn M. Callahan, & Dr. Marcia A. B. Delcourt
Implementation:   1992-1995

Case studies of interpersonal, family and school factors and the interactions between and among these factors will be the basis for identifying those elements which contribute to healthy development or maladjustment within the gifted population. Data from interviews with teachers, parents and family members and, the children themselves will be used to build a model of resiliency in gifted children, to explicate dynamics of the gifted children and their families, and to identify hypotheses explaining differential adaptations made by gifted students to the environments in which they live.

Continuation of Motivation and Underachievement in Urban and Suburban Gifted Preadolescents
Principal Investigator:   Dr. Pamela R. Clinkenbeard
Implementation:   1991-1995

We will investigate factors that seem to create or inhibit a “gifted” level of performance, both in those who have been identified as gifted and those who have not, at the middle school level. We will focus on two main factors in the gap between potential and performance: motivation and disadvantage. This project will describe in qualitative fashion the motivation patterns found in both suburban and economically disadvantaged urban classrooms of gifted preadolescents. Expected knowledge includes some answers to these questions: Do suburban classrooms for gifted preadolescents reveal different motivational patterns from those in economically disadvantaged urban classrooms? Are motivational patterns of students identified as gifted different in kind and/or degree from motivational patterns of other students? Does the experience of being labeled “gifted” cause a shift in motivation-related behavior?

Continuation of A Theory-Based Approach to Identification, Teaching, and Evaluation of the Gifted
Principal Investigator:   Dr. Robert J. Sternberg
Implementation:   1990-1995

The purpose of this five-year project is to study three major aspects of gifted education—identification, teaching, and student evaluation—within one integrated investigation. A common problem in the education of gifted students is inconsistency between the way these students are identified and the instruction and assessment they receive. The focus of this project is to identify, instruct, and evaluate students based on Sternberg’s Triarchic theory of intelligence. First, we are in the process of identifying students who are gifted in one of the three areas of the triarchic theory: analytic ability, creative-synthetic ability, or practical-contextual ability, as well as students who are balanced among these three kinds of giftedness. Second, we are developing different versions of an introductory course in psychological science that will be taught so as to emphasize analytic, creative, or practical skills. Third, evaluation will cover analytic, creative, and practical achievements. Equal numbers of students with each kind of giftedness will receive each kind of instruction, and all students will be evaluated on analytic, creative, and practical achievements. In summary, the project systematically manipulates identification, instruction, and evaluation of gifted students (as well as control students) in order to determine what would be gained by broadening our identification procedures, teaching in ways that are or are not tailored to gifted students’ particular patterns of abilities, and assessing the students’ performance in ways that either do or do not address their particular strengths.


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