Sally M. Reis
This study addressed the questions and the challenges presented in the report by the United States Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, entitled National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent. Consistent with the priorities of the Jacob Javits Act, this study was designed to assess the impact of providing gifted education pedagogy, specifically, a series of enrichment clusters, to the entire population of two schools in economically disadvantaged urban settings with a high percentage of minority students. Enrichment clusters provide a regularly scheduled time for students and adults, who share a common interest and purpose, to come together. These clusters are based on the acquisition of advanced content through inductive opportunities for multi-age, cross-grade student participation in open-ended investigations of student interests. Three elementary schools in two urban districts were selected to participate in the study. In one school from each of these districts, enrichment clusters were implemented and one school served as a comparison site. Students in each treatment school attended a pilot and two series of enrichment clusters. Students in all schools were assessed regarding their attitudes toward school and their content area preferences, and students from the treatment schools responded to questions regarding the enrichment clusters. Data were also collected from parents and teachers related to school satisfaction, use of enrichment strategies, and other variables. Qualitative data were collected from teachers, administrators, students, and parents about the implementation of enrichment clusters.
The data analyses dealt with various categories of program success, student interests, student attitudes, student products, parental attitudes, and teacher practices. Success of the enrichment clusters in both sites was evident in a variety of ways. Implementation was done successfully as each urban school adapted the program to fit individual school schedules and needs. Both schools continued their enrichment cluster program and serve as model sites for other schools interested in implementing similar programs. Community members and parents were actively involved with the program on a regular basis, and the majority of teachers indicated that they enjoyed facilitating enrichment clusters. Time was able to be set aside each week when the focus was on student and teacher interests, where students have choice, and when there was challenge and enjoyment in learning.
With regard to student interests, attitudes, and products, the findings were positive. Students indicated that they enjoyed their clusters, and students involved in the clusters displayed stronger interests than students from the comparison school. Approximately 90% of the students completed products in their clusters and there was no difference in the frequency of products completed when examined by achievement, gender, special program placement, or ethnicity. With regard to the quality of products, no differences were found among various achievement levels of students, perhaps indicating interests and commitment help to increase the quality of the products developed by students of various achievement levels in the enrichment clusters.
Teacher practices were affected both in the enrichment clusters and in the teachers’ regular classrooms. Advanced content was integrated into 95% of the clusters and included areas such as introduction of new concepts and content, teaching specific investigative methodologies, use of advanced vocabulary and authentic “tools,” and use of advanced thinking and problem solving strategies. Approximately 60% of the teachers who facilitated clusters indicated that they transferred strategies and content from the clusters into their classrooms, although this had not been requested of these teachers.
Extending the Pedagogy of Gifted Education to All Students
Sally M. Reis
- Enrichment clusters were implemented successfully in low socioeconomic, culturally diverse urban schools in which these clusters can be adapted and tailored to fit individual school schedules and needs.
- It was possible to provide a block of time during the school week for enrichment clusters focusing on student and teacher interests, where students have choices, and when there was challenge and enjoyment in learning.
- Total schoolwide enrichment could be provided and gifted education pedagogy was successfully extended to students of all achievement levels using enrichment clusters.
- Approximately 90% of the students completed group or individual products in clusters, and there were no differences in the number of products produced when examined by achievement, gender, special program placement, or ethnicity.
- The quality of products was examined and no differences were found among various achievement levels of students with respect to the quality of their products.
- Teachers who facilitated or assisted with clusters began to use strategies from enrichment clusters in their regular classrooms. These strategies included using both content and methods.
- Teachers used advanced content and methodologies in the enrichment clusters and provided challenges and choices to the students.