Jeanne Harris Purcell, Ph.D.
The University of Connecticut
The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented sponsored a study to examine the status of local programs for students with high abilities and the reasons to which educators and key personnel attributed the status of these programs. The study was completed in a purposive sample of 20 states, divided into four groups according to economic health (i.e., good, poor) and the existence or nonexistence of a state mandate to provide program services. This descriptive ex post facto research was completed in two phases. Phase I, a mail survey to more than 3,200 local personnel that yielded a response rate of over 54%, was designed to assess the status of programs for students with high abilities and the reasons attributed by local personnel to the status of their programs. Phase II, interviews with key personnel (the state director of gifted education, the president of the state advocacy organization, a school superintendent, a chairperson of a local board of education), was designed to triangulate the findings from Phase I.
Results from Phase I indicated that programs in states with mandates and in good economic health are “intact” and “expanded,” while programs in all other groups are being “threatened,” “reduced,” and “eliminated” in high numbers. The majority of respondents (68%) from states with mandates to provide services to students with high abilities and who reported programs as intact or expanded attributed the status to the existence of a state mandate and advocacy efforts. Almost half of the respondents from states without mandates and reporting their status as reduced, threatened, or eliminated attributed this status to a decline in state and local funds. The majority of these respondents did not believe programs for high ability students were being threatened, reduced, or eliminated because of policy decisions related to reform issues or on the grounds of racial bias. Additionally, respondents indicated that approximately 75% of students with high abilities in grades three to eight receive program services, that 50% of students in grades one to two and nine to twelve receive similar services, and that program services for students Pre-K to K were almost nonexistent. Results from key personnel in Phase II of the research triangulated the findings from Phase I. Advocacy efforts were most frequently associated by key personnel with programs that were intact or expanding, and reductions in funding were associated with programs experiencing jeopardy.
Scott Edward Johnson
The University of Hartford
West Hartford, CT
Numerous professionals in science and gifted education suggest that elementary teachers should offer interest-based experiences, teach methodological skills, and provide students with the opportunity to engage in research, as promising methods to nurture scientific talent. This study compared the effect of three instructional methods in environmental science (Type I exploratory activities, Type II methodological training, and combined Type I/Type II activities) and the influence of grade level, gender, achievement scores, attitude toward science, and self-efficacy for creative productivity on the initiation of scientific investigations. In addition, these variables and assignment to treatment group were investigated for their effect on post-treatment attitudes toward science and post-treatment self-efficacy for creative productivity.
A quasi-experimental, nonequivalent control group pretest-posttest design was used to examine the effects of the variables during the ten weeks of the study, and grade level and pre-treatment self-efficacy for creative productivity scores were covaried for all analyses. The subjects were 342 above-average 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students in 11 states.
The discriminant function equation used to investigate the effects of variables upon investigation initiation was significant (chi square= 31.53, 5 df, p<00001), with five variables accounting for 9 percent of the variance. Participation in the Type I group was the most powerful predictor of student decisions to initiate investigations.
The stepwise multiple regression used to investigate self- efficacy accounted for 7 percent of the variance, beyond the 37 percent accounted for by the covariates. Participation in the Type II group was the most powerful predictor of posttest self-efficacy.
The stepwise multiple regression used to investigate science attitude accounted for 21 percent of the variance, beyond the 10 percent accounted for by the covariates of grade, pre-treatment self-efficacy, and pre-treatment attitude. Participation in the Type I group and the Type I/Type II group were the most powerful predictors of posttest attitude toward science.
The University of Georgia
One objective of the project being conducted at The University of Georgia site of The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented is to investigate factors that impact the identification of gifted students from economically disadvantaged families and areas. One of those factors is the role played by families. A Family Matters Survey had been developed to examine factors within the familial contextual process that enables gifted disadvantaged children to achieve. Factors to be investigated include: parental beliefs and attitudes regarding education, parental expectations and aspirations for the child, supportive interactions that occur between the parent and the child, and support structures operating within the family setting. Families of students identified through The University of Georgia’s Research-Based Assessment Plan will be interviewed on the Families Matters Survey. Contact The University of Georgia for further information.
Thomas Stephan Hays
University of Hawaii
Recent studies conducted by The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT), found that little curriculum modification is being provided for gifted students in the regular classroom and that between 40-50% of the content can be eliminated for these students. Other research findings indicate that gifted and talented children spend most of their school day in a regular classroom with teachers who have insufficient training and experience to meet their needs. Experts in the field of gifted education have described and advocated instructional and curricular modifications for gifted students in the regular classroom. The methods for differentiating instructional and curricular practices for gifted students in the regular classroom include but are not limited to ability grouping; self-selected independent study; acceleration; higher order, cognitive processing; and questioning strategies.
This research was an ethnographic study of three rural schools identified by experts as effective in meeting the needs of gifted students in the regular classroom by classroom teacher use of curriculum modification and differentiation techniques. Naturalistic observation, in-depth interviewing, and document review were the major information gathering techniques used in this study. Field notes, recorded during observations, interviews and after analyzing documents, were coded and analyzed for patterns themes, and topics using inductive and logical analysis.
Curriculum modification techniques and instructional strategies used by classroom teachers in the three sites were reported. The effect of a gifted education specialist on classroom instruction, curriculum materials, and training strategies was analyzed. The instructional strategies and curricular modifications used most often by classroom teachers were: curriculum compacting, various enrichment activities, and higher order thinking skills. Factors that emerged from the study regarding effective classroom practices with gifted students in rural settings included: collaboration, administrative support, school philosophy, teacher training, good coordination of the program, and community support.