E. Jean Gubbins
University of Connecticut
I feel as if I have been on a long road trip since July 1990. That’s when I signed up to be part of The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT). I thought I knew what I was getting into. I read the initial proposal for the NRC/GT, but didn’t have a real sense of what it would take to carry out the planned mission. I hit the road without road maps or written directions. It is now May 1995 and the “road trip” for the NRC/GT ends within days. It is time to look back to see what has been accomplished.
When I view all of the multimedia products created by the NRC/GT, I am amazed at the level of productivity. A primary mission of the Center was to conduct theory-driven research that would have practical implications for administrators, teachers, schools, and parents. All the results of such research would be presented in practitioner-friendly products in different formats. The written words and visual images have documented our progress over time for millions of people around the world. Over the years, people have accessed the research information from journals, newsletters, newspapers, books, slides, satellite teleconferences, fax machines, computer networks, and computer disks. Those who preferred to hear about the research findings have joined us at presentations in several states and countries during local, state, national, and international conferences and workshops. Our staff has made over 830 presentations to ensure that the research results were not limited to periodical shelves in university libraries.
The talents and energy of our staff have made it possible to chart the course to reach our destination drafted in our original objectives. It is important to look back at the general categories of our objectives and note that they have been accomplished:
- to conduct research studies
- to design and implement research studies responsive to the needs of the field
- to identify Collaborative School Districts to serve as research sites
- to organize and operate a practitioner-responsive advisory network
- to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment
- to develop a comprehensive dissemination program to disseminate research findings by publishing articles and making presentations
- to prepare a series of literature reviews, research syntheses, and meta-analyses
- to establish a comprehensive database and research archives
- to establish a system of monitoring and accounting of the Center’s activities
- to develop a broad-based theoretical framework for the study of the gifted and talented.
And we are still adding to our list of accomplishments! We have been working feverishly to crunch mounds of statistical data, to search for themes and patterns in reams of field notes and transcripts, and to prepare products. During all of this activity, we held our final conference in Connecticut on March 31 and April 1, 1995—Building a Bridge Between Research and Classroom Practices in Gifted Education. We brought together 36 of our researchers for 2 days to share the lessons learned with over 300 people. The lessons learned provided a basis for discussion points for people who were to return to their local districts and determine which findings would help them direct the programs and services for students with known and emergent talents.
As I presented sessions, attended sessions, and met with people formally and informally, I listened and responded to comments and questions. The discussions by all were informative and intriguing. The research was important to them and many of them appreciated the opportunity to be part of the Center’s grand design to include hundreds of Collaborative School Districts across the country as research liaisons in conducting applied studies. In fact, in the past few month the following school districts have joined our network:
Cardinal Community School District
Erie Community Unit District 1
Grosse Point Public School System
Grosse Point, MI
Marshall Public Schools
Onteora Central School District
Quaker Valley School District
Several members of our Collaborative School District network joined us for our conference, along with practitioners, researchers, and parents interested in learning about the accumulated research findings. Participants recognized the importance of research to the field in general and to their particular situation in their districts, universities, or homes. A sample of comments from conference participants serves as support for our original objectives:
South Windsor, CT
Pearl River, NY
The collegial atmosphere between the researchers and the practitioners at this conference is second to none…. I hope that we can continue this kind of dialogue and continue to be in touch with each other so we can have a good exchange-not only between the researchers and practitioners, but between the practitioners and researchers…. It is really a two-way street, and we need to work together to have the best possible education system.
Comments such as these make the “high speeds and rocky roads” I traveled more worthwhile. The 5 years have been a whirlwind of activity, but the opportunity to conduct applied research studies on the education of gifted and talented students has been an unparalleled opportunity. The Research Center has been supported by the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act of 1988, administered by the United States Department of Education Office of Educational Research and Improvement (OERI). I would be remiss if I didn’t send special thanks to the Center monitors from OERI with whom I have worked, including Margaret Chávez, Ivor Pritchard, Patricia O’Connell Ross, Beverly Coleman, and Debra Hollinger. They have all guided the destination. The destination would not have been possible without the federal support and leadership.
So many of you have had a critical role in the research efforts. Each person has been a contributor to the national agenda that dates back to the Research Needs Assessment Survey-remember that form! Thousands of surveys were returned during 1991 (and yes, it is true that one was returned in 1994). The resulting data analyses provided the direction for research from 1991-1995. Well, the research path is coming to an end for now, and I just want to say how much I appreciate all the people involved in The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. Thank you is such a brief phrase, but it carries with it a sincerity that no other words can match.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference