Comments and Advice From Teachers Who Have Successfully Used Curriculum Compacting

We asked the teachers involved in one of our research studies on compacting if they would continue to use curriculum compacting in the future, and why they would make this decision. The responses to this were very positive. More than two thirds of all teachers indicated that they would continue to use the curriculum compacting procedure in the future, and most of those who responded positively wrote comments about their experiences when using this procedure. A few of these comments follow.

Yes. I feel their time can be better spent than doing assignments on material they already know. When they share projects and reports with the class, it also enriches their [other students’] learning experiences.

Yes, I will continue this method because it has shown me a very meaningful strategy to use with students who already know grade level material. In turn this enables students to become interested in independent learning they would like to pursue. The capable students are less likely to be turned off by this approach. This was a strategy that kept all students challenged in my class. I will use this next year in math and hopefully other areas as well.

Definitely! This is such an exciting way to teach! I feel the students involved in the compacting program had the opportunity to become such active, independent learners. They had a taste of learning through their own actions not just the material spooned out through limited textbooks. It was amazing to watch this learning process in action! Sparks flew in my classroom this year!!! Now that I’m familiar with the program, I can’t wait for next year to begin!

The vast majority of teachers, we studied were able to implement curriculum compacting for the student(s) they selected. We found, however, that many experienced some frustration over a lack of expertise in knowing what to substitute for high ability students, the limited time they had to plan to meet individual differences, and the logistics of teaching different topics to different groups of students. Some also indicated the lack of support staff needed to implement replacement activities (reading and math specialists, gifted and talented program staff), and other concerns relating to classroom management. While curriculum compacting is a viable process for meeting the needs of high ability students in the regular classroom, it clearly takes time, effort, and planning on the part of classroom teachers.

A substantial number of teachers involved in the study indicated that they were able to extend curriculum compacting to other students, many of whom were not identified and involved in the gifted program. This finding may indicate the usefulness of extending the types of gifted education pedagogy often reserved for high ability students to a larger segment of the population, as has been previously suggested by researchers (Renzulli & Reis, 1991). The follow-up study indicated interesting trends about the continued use of compacting, especially about how the process could be implemented in schools with the support of a principal or someone to coach teachers. These practices included:

  • assisting classroom teachers to incorporate compacting into their yearly goals
  • encouraging the use of compacting in only one area or with only a few students
  • reserving special time at selected faculty meetings to discuss progress with the compacting process
  • exchanging ideas on teachers’ use of the compacting strategy to share and “piggy-back” on each others’ ideas

Advice From Successful Teachers About Compacting

In particular, teachers who participated indicated that teachers who were most successful in compacting used the following strategies to create an ecology of success.

  • First, they worked with a colleague or colleagues with whom they shared a common bond. They wanted to improve their teaching practices and were not afraid to ask each other for help or support.
  • Second, they started with a small group of students and not their entire class. The successful teachers understood that this process would take some time and organization and became committed to trying to work with a group who really needed the process first. By not trying this with all students, they reduced the stress and challenges they would have encountered if they tried to do too much in the beginning of the process.
  • Third, they asked for help from their liaisons, the district content consultants and each other. In each successful district, teachers asked each other how they were handling pretesting and assessment. They shared strategies for management and for replacement, and visited each other’s classrooms at their own suggestions or because a liaison suggested it.
  • Fourth, they understood that like a novice practicing piano scales, they would continue to improve by trying and reflecting on their work in this area. By reflecting on what had worked, they were able to modify and change their own attempts, and consistently improve.

If teachers are provided with appropriate support for compacting, they will eventually incorporate this practice into their classroom repertoire for other than identified gifted students. More importantly, they reported that the benefits to all students certainly make the effort worthwhile. One teacher’s evaluative comment about the compacting process reflects the attitude of most teachers who participated in our research study.

“As soon as I saw how enthusiastic and receptive my students were about the compacting process, I began to become more committed to implementing this method in all my classes.”

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