What Is the Research Agenda of the Center for Year 2?

November 1991 Masthead

The Research Center is initiating seven new studies based on the priorities that emerged from the National Research Needs Assessment Process. In addition to those described below, three Year 1 studies are continuing: Investigations into Instruments and Designs Used in the Identification of Gifted Students and the Evaluation of Gifted Programs, Evaluation of the Effects of Programming Arrangements on Student Learning Outcomes (The University of Virginia), and A Theory-Based Approach to Identification, Teaching, and Evaluation of the Gifted (Yale University).

A Study of Successful Classroom Practices
The University of Connecticut—Principal Investigators: Dr. Karen L. Westberg and Dr. Francis Archambault, Jr.
Implementation: 1991-92

This study will provide a description of the conditions necessary to meet the needs. of the gifted and talented and the strategies used to modify instructional approaches and regular curriculum materials in the classroom. The research questions that will guide this study include: (1) What factors contribute to classroom teachers’ effective use of differentiated teaching strategies? (2) What environmental factors within the classroom and school contribute to effective use of differentiated teaching strategies? (3) How does the presence of a gifted education specialist affect the instructional strategies and materials used in the regular classroom? (4) How does the presence of a resource room or pull-out program affect the students’ need for instructional and curricular differentiation in the regular classroom?

This research will be an ethnographic study of a few classrooms identified as exemplary in their implementation of curriculum modification and curriculum differentiation. Purposive sampling will be used to identify classrooms that are outstanding examples of this approach while also providing maximum variation in types of districts, such as a predominately white middle-class area, a multi-ethnic area, and, if the data permit, an economically disadvantaged, area. Participant observation will be the major data-gathering technique for this study. Additionally, in-depth, open-ended, tape recorded interviews will be conducted with the classroom teachers observed, the principals of the schools, the curriculum coordinators, the teachers of the gifted and talented students, and possibly other interested parties, such as parents.

Longitudinal Study of Successful Practices
The University of Connecticut—Principal Investigator: Dr. Francis X. Archambault, Jr.
Implementation: 1991-95

This study will formulate plans for a longitudinal assessment of the impact of “most successful practices.” These practices will be gleaned from other studies conducted by the NRC/GT We envision that the study will be implemented in Years 3 through 5 (and beyond if funding can be secured) and that it will employ a true experimental design (i.e., students or classes will be randomly assigned to treatment conditions). One or more Collaborative School Districts and schools within them will be selected to ensure ethnic and economic diversity. The study will be conducted in both regular classroom and resource room settings.

During the planning year the data from the Classroom Practices Study, the Compacting Study, the Successful Practices Study, the Cooperative Learning Study, and the Learning Outcomes Study will be reviewed to determine the most successful practices and how they can be integrated into regular classroom and resource room environments. Other studies funded by OERI will also be reviewed, literature reviews will be conducted, and, where necessary, position papers will be written by University of Connecticut site staff and distinguished researchers at other institutions not directly involved in the NRC/GT Instructional materials will be selected or produced, instruments will be adopted, adapted or developed, and procedures for implementing the experimental design will be formalized.

Case Studies of Gifted Students With Learning Disabilities Who Have Achieved
The University of Connecticut—Principal Investigators: Dr. Sally M. Reis and Dr. Joan McGuire
Implementation: 1991-92

This study will investigate the factors that enable some gifted students with learning disabilities to succeed in an academic setting. The perceptions of the persons investigated in this study may provide information that helps to identify this population and suggest specific educational interventions designed to meet the unique needs of this group. Specifically, we will investigate the following areas with college students or recent college graduates who were identified as having a learning disability:

The self-perceived strengths and weaknesses of gifted students with learning disabilities;
The specific educational intervention and assistance necessary to succeed in an academic environment;
The types of counseling strategies necessary to help gifted students with learning disabilities realize their potential;
The collective view of this population regarding their treatment by others and others’ perception of them (parents, teachers, peers, guidance counselors);
Whether modifications were made in the instructional practices and educational programs designed for this population;
The positive and/or negative effects of labeling (either gifted and/or learning disabled) on this population; and,
The specific nature of the learning disability of the individuals in this study.

Cooperative Learning and the Gifted
The University of Connecticut—Principal Investigators: Dr. David A. Kenny and Bryan W Hallmark
Implementation: 1991-92

The study is designed to assess the effects of cooperative learning methods on gifted students, and their non-gifted peers. Outcome measures will include achievement, attitudes towards self and school, and students’ perceptions of others’ ability, support, appreciation, leadership, likability and acceptance. Both boys and girls representing various ethnic groups will be included. The researchers will work with intact classes selected from a single grade level, grade 4. Students will be assigned to four-person learning groups of Gifted (G) and Non-Gifted (N) students. Three group compositions will be analyzed: a gifted homogeneous group (GGGG), a non-gifted homogeneous group (NNNN), and a heterogeneous group (GNNN). All groups will work on two types of cooperative learning tasks: a group oriented math task and a more traditional cooperative learning task in science.- For each of the tasks, students will participate in multiple one-hour learning sessions in the regular classroom environment.

Three measurement periods will be used. The first will occur immediately after group assignment and prior to any group interaction; the second will be after the first series of learning sessions; and the third will occur after the second series of learning sessions. During measurement period one, students will complete a peer rating questionnaire, an attitude toward school questionnaire, an attitude toward session-specific subject questionnaire, and a self-efficacy measure. Measurement periods two and three will repeat the measures taken during period one, but will also involve the evaluation of task-specific achievement. The following questions will be addressed: Do gifted students learn more than children who are non-gifted? Do gifted children assist the learning of the other children in the group? Does achievement differ in homogeneous versus heterogeneous grouping? These effects can be investigated separately for different ethnic groups, as well as for males and females.

A Research-Based Assessment Plan (RAP) for Assessing Giftedness in Economically Disadvantaged Students
The University of Georgia—Principal Investigator: Dr. Mary M. Frasier
Implementation: 1991-92

The major objective of this study will be to determine the effectiveness of a research-based assessment plan (RAP) in increasing the identification of gifted students from economically disadvantaged populations. To accomplish this objective, two models will be developed and piloted: (a) the RAP and (b) a Staff Development Model (SDM). A secondary objective will be to conduct follow-ups on selected case study students from the first year study. Data from these follow-up case studies will be used to enrich the development of the RAP and the SDM.

Content for the RAP and the SDM will be based on the identification paradigm developed during the first year of The University of Georgia research study to describe giftedness within and across a variety of cultural groups. Additional input on content and procedure will be provided by a panel of expert members and collaborative researchers who participated in the Georgia Study; National Research Center Needs Assessment Survey results; and State Research and National Research Center Advisory Council members. Relevant literature on assessment and staff development will also be used to formulate the models.

Extension of the Learning Outcomes Project
The University of Virginia—Principal Investigator: Dr. Marcia A. B. Delcourt
Implementation: 1991-92

Learning outcomes are broadly defined to include both academic and affective effects of participating in a program for the gifted and talented. For the purposes of this study, academic effects include: performance on standard achievement tests, grades, teacher ratings of student learning behaviors, and student attitudes toward learning. Affective outcomes include: student self-concept and self-motivation, and both parent and teacher ratings of behavioral adjustment. Data will be collected at four stages. Approximately 1,100 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade students will be assessed upon their entrance into one of the four types of programs, at the end of their first year in the program, and at the beginning and end of their second year.

Researchers among the participating universities in the NRC/GT agree that a need exists to add a qualitative dimension to the study of the four types of programming arrangements [(1) within classroom programs; (2) pull-out classroom programs; (3) separate class programs; and (4) special school programs] in the Learning Outcomes Project. This need has evolved during the first year implementation. More specifically, what characterizes a program that is identified as an “exemplary” model of a given program type? What are the influences of such exemplary programs on student achievement and effort? What distinguishes an exemplary representative model in terms of its ability to serve diverse populations of students? A qualitative study to address these questions has been proposed in which one district from each of the four types of programming arrangements will be selected for a thorough investigation. Observing classroom practices, and receiving responses from state-level administrators, selected classroom teachers, parents and students about characteristics and overall effects of the program will serve as the sources of data.

Motivation and Underachievement in Urban and Suburban Gifted Preadolescents
Yale University—Principal Investigator: Dr. Pamela R. Clinkenbeard
Implementation: 1991-95

What creates or inhibits a “gifted” level of performance, both in those who have been identified as gifted and in those who have not? This project will address two important factors in the gap between potential and performance: motivation and disadvantage. This project will describe in qualitative fashion the motivational patterns found in both suburban and economically disadvantaged urban classrooms of gifted preadolescents. Research on achievement motivation has been moving toward discovering and developing more methods for fostering learning goals, or task commitment: that is, a love of learning for its own sake and a desire to persevere on tasks of interest. The goal is equally important for those who have been overlooked in the identification process.

This project will directly address several of the important topics for research on the gifted, as selected by the National Research Center Advisory Council, including motivation; effectiveness of differentiated program for economically disadvantaged, underachieving and other special populations; self-efficacy; and assumptions/stereotypes of underachievement. It would indirectly address many other items, since motivation and underachievement were concerns that arose within the discussions. Expected knowledge includes some answers to these questions: Do suburban classrooms for gifted preadolescents reveal different motivational patterns from those in 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?


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