E. Jean Gubbins
University of Connecticut
There is probably one word that you have seen or heard on a daily basis since January 1, 1999. The word has taken on an almost prophetic quality. Web sites, newscasts, reporters, parents, children, educators, business people, and members of the community at large use it and react to it. “Millennium” is the recurring word. The word is interesting because of its prominence in discussions and documents and its potential effect on people’s wishes, hopes, and dreams. What will the year 2000 be like? Will the visions of school and schooling change? How will we engage students in the intricacies of learning in such a fast-paced world? What type of content will ignite their interests and motivate them to continue learning?
As we think about the year 2000 and beyond, we reflect on our accomplishments and the work that still needs to be done. Since 1990, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented has launched several studies to gain a better understanding of how to
- develop appropriate techniques to identify students’ talents and gifts,
- improve classroom practices by studying ways to create high-end learning opportunities for students, and
- guide programs and services for gifted and talented students by evaluating program impact, grouping practices, and affective needs.
Under the Jacob K. Javits Gifted Students Education Act, the priorities were students who were historically overlooked by traditional assessment methods (including economically disadvantaged individuals, individuals of limited English proficiency, and individuals with disabilities). We have studied classrooms at all grade levels in urban, rural, and suburban environments, observed students working in various content areas tailored to their needs, and developed professional development techniques that were integrated in lesson design and instructional techniques. Setting these priorities was certainly a collaborative effort.
Researchers, practitioners, parents, business leaders, and others guided the creation of our research agenda. The needs assessment process is described in Setting an Agenda: Research Priorities for the Gifted and Talented Through the Year 2000 (Renzulli, Reid, & Gubbins, n.d.). The resulting agenda continues to inform our qualitative and quantitative studies. Research priorities include:
- impact of gifted programs on student outcomes,
- regular curriculum modifications,
- professional development necessary for curriculum modification or development, and
- grouping patterns and impacts on learning outcomes.
Words and numbers form the critical mass of what we have learned about young people’s talents and abilities. Our research findings fill volumes of books, journals, and newsletters; use considerable space on multiple zip disks; and end up in homes, schools, businesses, and libraries. Yes, NRC/GT information is stored on computers; captured on film, printed on paper; and recorded on audiotapes. Topics of interest can be studied further as desired. Over 408,000 copies of our products have been requested. Information seekers then use the data as they work with young people, guide the progress of their children’s talents and abilities, or extend the findings by conducting similar studies in their own region, state, or country. NRC/GT data will be there beyond 2000 or 2001 (as the next millennium begins). Finding meaning and relevance in all the words and numbers takes time. You just can’t scan a research monograph quickly and link it to your current situation. You need to really understand how conclusions, guidelines, or recommendations were determined. If you visit our web site (www.gifted.uconn.edu), choose The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, then select Abstracts, you will see a very long list of publications. Click on topics of interest by title or author, then review the brief abstracts and the major guidelines, recommendations, or conclusions. You can download the information or read it on your computer screen. When people ask questions about identification, programming, curricular modifications, acceleration, grouping, underachievement, or other topics, we direct them to our work or to that of other researchers and scholars. Obviously, our research studies only represent a small fraction of information about bright children and youth.
Our NRC/GT web site is similar to “Cliffs Notes” used by so many of us who needed to be reminded of the key points in a novel for an undergraduate course. For example, recommendations or conclusions related to the following research priorities include:
- A strong program begins with an administrator who is an advocate of gifted education. The administrator must be able to describe the needs and characteristics of gifted children and elicit support from the district and community.
- Gifted and talented children have special characteristics that require different strategies. Teachers need to be aware of the needs and various options available for meeting these needs.
- Identification and program activities should be sensitive to the needs of diverse populations of gifted and talented children. Culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged students should be actively recruited. (Delcourt & Evans, 1994)
- Achievement and underachievement are not disparate concepts. Talented students in an urban high school experienced both periods of achievement and underachievement throughout their school careers.
- High ability students who achieved acknowledged the importance of peers in supporting and challenging them to succeed and the positive effects of being grouped with other students of similar abilities.
- High ability students who underachieved in high school acknowledged that their underachievement began in elementary school when they were not provided with appropriate levels of challenge.
- The abilities of high ability students who underachieved were often unrecognized by their parents, teachers, and guidance counselors during their elementary years. (Reis, Hébert, Díaz, Maxfield, & Ratley, 1995)
We would like to know more about how you have used our research. We want to give you time to think about the research-based books, articles, newsletters, videos, and web site produced by The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. The questions that need to be addressed focus on impact:
- What is the impact of the NRC/GT research?
- How have you used the data?
- To what extent have our research findings changed your approach to teaching?
- To what extent have you used our research findings to review and modify your curricular options?
- To what extent have the suggestions about identifying and serving gifted and talented persons influenced your policies and procedures?
- To what extent have multiple forms of dissemination (e.g., monographs, videotapes, newsletters, web site, and presentations) of research findings been effective?
- To what extent have our research products contributed to your knowledge about gifted and talented young people?
- To what extent does our work contribute to your knowledge or understanding of educational issues related to identifying and serving students with high abilities?
Tell us your story via e-mail, web site, fax, phone, or letter. Our phone numbers and address are listed on page 16. You helped us determine our research priorities almost a decade ago. So now as we approach the millennium, it is important for us to understand what you have learned and how you have benefited from our research. Check our web site (www.gifted.uconn.edu) for survey questions. We hope to hear from you.
Storrs: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.