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Gifted Education Programs and Procedures
In this research paper I review research related to the practices within the field of gifted education. Talent-giftedness is a phenomenon that greatly interests our society. However, educators have a somewhat ambivalent attitude toward giftedness and gifted children. There is no agreed-upon definition of giftedness to guide practice and programs as there is with other special categories of children and no federal mandate to serve gifted children. As a result, the kinds of services available to gifted children in schools vary widely. I try to capture that variability and the issues that frame practice and theory within this emerging field of psychology and education.
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Conceptions of Giftedness
The IQ Tradition
The field of gifted education has been dominated throughout its history by a conception of intellectual giftedness that emphasized individual differences in IQ. In practice, IQ is still widely used as a measure to identify giftedness in school children (Cox, Daniel, & Boston, 1985) and the research on giftedness is overwhelmingly done on groups defined as gifted on the basis of IQ scores (Tannenbaum, 1983).
The emphasis on IQ resulted largely from the work of Louis Terman. In 1921 Terman initiated a study of 1,500 children with IQ scores above 140 on the Stanford-Binet test. He and his colleagues studied these individuals longitudinally and prospectively resulting in numerous publications about the Termites (Cox, 1926; Terman, 1925; Terman & Oden, 1947; Terman & Oden, 1957). The Termites were found to be well-adjusted, high-achieving adults. Few of them, however, attained eminence in their fields.
Terman believed that giftedness involved quantitative but not qualitative differences in intellectual ability; gifted children are able to learn more quickly and solve problems more readily than are children with lower IQ scores, but their thinking and the organization of their intellectual abilities are not qualitatively different from those of other children. Terman also assumed that intelligence was a unitary construct, that it was constant and stable at least through the school years, and that heredity dominated over environment in influencing it. These beliefs and others of Terman regarding IQ have since been challenged and disputed, including the indispensability of IQ for adult success (Tannenbaum, 1983).
In response to the notion that intelligence is an indivisible, unitary construct, several researchers subsequently proposed multifactor theories of intelligence. Thurstone (Tannenbaum, 1983) proposed a list of seven primary abilities—verbal meaning, number ability, memory, spatial relations, perceptual speed, and reasoning abilities. Guilford produced the structure of the intellect model with 150 separate factors obtainable through the combinations of four different kinds of contents (e.g., figural), six different kinds of products (e.g., transformations), and five different kinds of operations (e.g., evaluation). In contrast to the IQ tradition, these multifactor theories have had very little influence on the practice of identifying or serving gifted children in schools although they have been used as identification rubrics in some research studies.
The last 15 years have brought a flurry of theories regarding intellectual giftedness. Only a very few of these new conceptions have yielded changes in school practices, however.
Cultural Perspectives on Giftedness and Talent
Tannenbaum (1990, 1983) proposes a psychosocial conception of giftedness.According toTannenbaum, “. . . whereas the psyche determines the existence of high potential, society decides on the direction toward its fulfillment by rewarding some kinds of achievement while ignoring or even discouraging others” (1990, p. 21). Tannenbaum proposes four different categories of talents. Scarcity talents are those of which society is always in need and that are in short supply, such as the talents of a Jonas Salk or a Martin Luther King Jr. Surplus talents elevate and bring society to new heights, are not essential for life, and include individuals who make great contributions to art, literature, music, and philosophy. Individuals with surplus talents “are treated as ‘divine luxuries’ capable of beautifying the world without guaranteeing its continued existence” (Tannenbaum, 1990, p. 24).
Quota talents are those that require a high level of skill to produce goods and services needed by society, such as the talents needed to become physicians, lawyers, and engineers. These individuals typically do not provide creative breakthroughs, and society only needs a certain amount of them. Schools are most responsive to society’s need for certain quota talents (e.g., current need for computer programmers and software engineers).
The last category is anomalous talents; this category includes specific, isolated, or idiosyncratic abilities such as speed-reading or great feats of memory. These talents provide amusement for others and may serve some practical purpose, but are examples of high-level or prodigious performance and are typically not recognized by society for excellence.
Tannenbaum (1990) is concerned with how ability in childhood is translated into adult achievement:
Keeping in mind that developed talent exists only in adults, a proposed definition of giftedness in children is that it denotes their potential for becoming critically acclaimed performers or exemplary producers of ideas in spheres of activity that enhance the moral, physical, emotional, social, intellectual, or aesthetic life of humanity (p. 33).
Tannenbaum (1983, 1990) proposes five factors that link childhood potential to adult productivity—general intelligence such as high IQ or g, specific abilities, nonintellective factors such as personality and motivation, environmental factors such as support from the home, opportunities within the community or society’s valuing of the talent area, and chance. The major contribution of Tannenbaum’s theory is its emphasis on cultural context in defining talent.
Emphasis on Performance in Defining Giftedness
Renzulli (1990; see also Renzulli & Reis, 1986) proposes a model of giftedness that de-emphasizes the role of ability— particularly general ability as measured by IQ—and instead stresses achievement. Renzulli prefers to speak of gifted behaviors and gifted performances rather than gifted individuals. Renzulli believes that typically used IQ cutoff scores for the categorization of giftedness are somewhat arbitrary and too exclusive. Many more individuals who have lower IQs but who do have certain personality characteristics such as task commitment and high levels of motivation can produce gifted levels of performance in a particular domain.
Renzulli rejects the notion of schoolhouse or lessonlearning giftedness, the type most easily assessed by IQ and other cognitive tests, and instead focuses on creative productive giftedness—or giftedness recognized by the development of new products and new knowledge. According to Renzulli, the truly gifted are those who create knowledge, art, or music—not those who are able to consume it rapidly or at a very high level. Educational programs for children should concentrate on developing the characteristics and skills needed for adult creative productivity. School gifted programs should aim to produce the next generation of leaders, musicians, artists, and so on.
Renzulli emphasizes the role of nonintellective factors in achievement, such as task commitment and creativity, along with above-average but not superior general or specific ability. Task persistence includes perseverance, self-confidence, the ability to identify significant problems, and high standards for one’s work. Creativity includes openness to experience, curiosity, and sensitivity to detail. For Renzulli, “. . . giftedness is a condition that can be developed in some people if an appropriate interaction takes place between a person, his or her environment, and a particular field of human endeavor” (Renzulli, 1990, p. 60). The interaction of the three components previously described leads to creative productive giftedness.
Renzulli very deliberately tries to show how his theory can be employed in schools. He and his colleagues have developed materials for both identification and curriculum to be used by educators who work with children. Specifically, Renzulli proposes an identification protocol that involves selecting students performing at the 80th or 85th percentile and giving them different kinds of enrichment opportunities. Students revolve into higher level, more complex activities that include independent research projects, and their placement is based on successful performance at lower levels.
Renzulli’s model is frequently adopted by schools in the United States. Its appeal is twofold: It casts a wide net, so to speak, by including students with achievement levels that are lower than what is typical for gifted programs, and it comes with a ready-to-use set of curriculum and other materials.
Multiple Intelligence Perspective on Talent and Giftedness
Gardner (1983) postulates the existence of eight relatively autonomous human intellectual competencies or intelligences. These are linguistic, musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, interpersonal (knowledge of others) and intrapersonal (knowledge of self), and naturalistic (scientific knowledge). Each intelligence has distinct manifestations— such as poetry and writing for linguistic intelligence; dance for bodily and kinesthetic intelligence; and chess, painting, and sculpting for spatial intelligence. At the most fundamental level,eachhasabiologicalbasisandabrain-based,neuralsubstrate. Each intelligence has a unique computational capacity or information-processing device upon which more complex manifestations are based and built.
Gardner’s criteria (1983) for the existence of a separate intelligence include the following: (a) that it can be found in relative isolation in special populations such as in individuals with brain damage or so-called idiot savants; (b) that it exists at very high levels in some individuals such as prodigies and is manifested in their performances of various tasks; (c) that it has an identifiable core operation or set of operations such as a sensitivity to pitch for musical intelligence; (d) that there is a distinct development history of the intelligence “ranging from universal beginnings through which every novice passes, to exceedingly high levels and/or special forms of training” (Gardner, 1983, p. 64) with a definable set of end state performances; (e) that it has an evolutionary history; (f) that there is support from experimental psychological tests for the intelligence; (g) that there is susceptibility of the intelligence to encoding as a symbol system; and (h) that there is support from psychometric studies for its existence (e.g. high correlations between measures of the same intelligence and low correlations between measures of different types of intelligence).
Gardner (1983) proposes that the types of intelligence are “‘natural kinds’ of building blocks out of which productive lines of thought and action are built” (p. 279). They can be combined to yield a variety of abilities, processes, and products. Normal human interaction typically requires that various types of intelligence work together in complex and seamless ways to accomplish human activities.
Many schools make reference to multiple types of intelligence within their mission statements. Multiple intelligences (MI) theory is increasingly being used as the basis of gifted programs, affecting identification systems as well as programs (see Fasko, 2001). Gardner suggests that one can speak about the particular intelligences that are used in specific educational encounters. Additionally, one can characterize the material or content to be learned as falling within the domain of a particular intelligence: “. . . Our various intellectual competencies can serve as both means and as message, as form and as content” (Gardner, 1983, p. 334). The implications of Gardner’s theory for identification of talents has been explored in several projects including the Key School in Indianapolis (in which MI theory is also being used by teachers as a basis for designing curricula and instructional activities) and Project Spectrum, which is directed by David Feldman of Tufts University (see Garner & Hatch, 1989). In research on Project Spectrum, Gardner found evidence that children who were assessed for the various intelligences in an intelligence-fair manner (e.g., using modes of assessment that respect the ways of thinking in the various intelligences, such as putting together household objects to assess spatial intelligence) exhibited profiles of relative strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, there was some evidence that more children were identified as talented in some domain than when more traditional measures were used. Although it is limited, this research supports Gardner’s contention about the separateness of the various intelligences.
Gardner also asserts that a lengthy time period is required before the raw computational devices of an intelligence develop into expression in a mature, cultural mode. Part of that long time period is the natural process of development of the intelligence within an individual—a process of going through domain-specific developmental milestones. Another part is the less natural process of acquiring information that is deliberately transmitted via school or other agents such as parents orotheradults.Thislatterpart,whichmaybethoughtofastalent development, does not occur within a vacuum. Factors such as motivation, an affective state conducive to learning, and a supportive cultural context are also important—even necessary. Although Gardner does not deal with these factors in depth, he recognizes their contribution to the development of high levels of performance within each of the domains of the intelligences.
The Role of Training in Defining Talent and Giftedness
Gagne (1993, 1995, 1998, 1999) proposes a theory of giftedness and talent that has as its base the roles of training or learning. For Gagne, giftedness refers to exceptional “natural abilities which appear more or less spontaneously during the early years of children’s development and give rise to significant individual differences without any clear evidence of any systematic learning, training, or practice” (1995, p. 105). There are four domains of natural abilities: intellectual abilities, physical abilities (which includes sensory and motor abilities), creativity, and socioaffective abilities (which includes leadership). A fifth possible domain of natural ability is the personal abilities, which include the ability to delay gratification, to focus one’s attention on the task at hand, to perceive one’s needs, and so on.
At the other end of the spectrum from natural abilities are talents, which are “systematically developed abilities which define the characteristic performance of an individual in a field of human activity: these are the abilities shown by competent pianists, teachers, carpenters, swimmers, journalists, pilots, and so forth” (1995, p. 105).
Gagne notes that whereas “natural abilities are defined in reference to characteristics of the person (intelligence, creativity, sociability, motoricity), systematically developed abilities or skills are labeled according to the field of human activities that governs the set of appropriate skills to master” (1995, p. 106). Also, natural abilities provide the component operations that are used to acquire the skills and knowledge associated with expertise in a particular domain or field. Thus, natural abilities are the building blocks or constituent elements of systematically acquired abilities.
According to Gagne, the growth of aptitudes or talents occurs through four developmental processes: maturation, daily use in problem-solving situations, informal training and practice, and formal training and practice. Gagne (1993) stresses that the relationship between aptitudes and talents is co-univocal, which means that one aptitude can be involved in the development of many different talents, and any talent can use abilities from more than one aptitude domain as its constituents.
For Gagne, gifted individuals are those who possess a natural ability in at least one of the four ability domains to a degree that places them in the top 10% of their age group. Similarly, talented individuals are those who possess levels of systematically developed abilities and skills that place them in the top 10% of individuals within the same field of endeavor. Gagne (1998) also advocates differentiation within this top 10% of individuals into categories (mild, moderate, high, exceptional, extreme) that are increasingly selective and consist of the top 10% of the previous category.
According to Gagne’s theory, one can be gifted and not talented; however, one cannot be talented and not be gifted. A child could be intellectually gifted by virtue of high IQ or test scores but may not be academically talented if he or she does not display exceptional performance—via grades or awards—in an academic area. Giftedness is childhood promise, whereas talent is adult fulfillment of promise. The process of talent development is then the systematic training and education sought by the gifted individual to develop talent to a high degree.
Gagne (1993, 1995) proposes the existence of catalysts that are both positive and negative influences that affect the development of childhood giftedness into adult talent. Intrapersonal catalysts include motivation, temperament, and personality dimensions of the individual such as adaptability, attitudes, competitiveness, independence, and self-esteem. Environmental catalysts include surroundings (home, school, community), persons (parents, teachers, mentors), undertakings (activities, courses, special programs), and events (significant encounters, awards, accidents such as the loss of a parent).For Gagne, catalysts, personality dimensions, or other nonintellective factors are not essential elements or components of a talent but are contributors to the results of the talented performance.
Triarchic Theory of Intelligence, Giftedness, and Talent
Sternberg (1986) proposes a general theory of intelligence that consists of three subtheories. The componential subtheory includes the processes that occur within the minds of individual—the “mental mechanisms that lead to more or less intelligent behavior” (p. 223). These mechanisms enable individuals to learn how to do things, plan what to do, and carry out their plans. The experiential subtheory deals with the role of experience in intelligent behavior. It specifies those points in an individual’s continuum of experience at which a task or situation is novel and therefore requires intelligent behavior and those points at which the individual has so much experience that response to a particular task or situation is mostly automatic. The third subtheory, the contextual subtheory, has to do with how the individual deals with the external environment. It specifies three classes of acts— environmental adaption, selection, and shaping that constitute intelligent behavior in different contexts.
According to Sternberg, the componential subtheory addresses the question of how behaviors are “intelligent in any given setting” (p. 223). The experiential subtheory addresses the question of “when behaviors are intelligent for a given individual” (p. 224). The contextual subtheory addresses the questions of “what behaviors are intelligent for whom and where these behaviors are intelligent” (p. 224). Therefore, according to Sternberg, the componential subtheory is universal, and the mental mechanisms specified are used by all individuals—some better than others. The experiential subtheory is relativistic and the types of situations and activities that are novel or very familiar varies for each individual; however, it is universal that every person has a range of experience that varies from very familiar to very unfamiliar. The contextual subtheory is also relativistic with respect to both individuals (what is intelligent for one individual may not be the same for another) and the contexts in which they live and work (what is an intelligent thing to do in one situation may not be in another situation).
Sternberg (1986, 2000) asserts that giftedness can be obtained via different combinations of strengths among the skills that correspond to the three subtheories. For example, an individual who excels in utilizing the componential mechanisms in learning from school or books or in academic situations might be what we typically call a gifted learner. These individuals are most easily identified by educators and are typically selected for special gifted programs.They may excel on traditional achievement tests. Their strengths are in analytical skills. However, such persons may not necessarily be exceptional at “nonentrenched” tasks or display creativity in dealing with problems. Individuals who are adept at utilizing componential processes in novel situations might be characterized as exceptional problem solvers, as possessing unusual levels of insight, or as creative. These individuals are exceptional at generating new ideas of high quality. Individuals may be adept at both using componential mechanisms in prescribed learning situations and in novel ones, but may be unable to adapt successfully to different environments—what Sternberg refers to as practical intelligence or skills. Such individuals may be regarded as smart, creative, or both, but they may be unable to achieve at commensurately high levels in a career. More recently, Sternberg proposed and illustrated seven different patterns of intelligence involving different combinations of analytical, creative, and practical abilities (Sternberg, 2000).
Sternberg’s componential theory has intrigued educators and researchers who work with and study gifted children. However, it has not been widely used as the basis for identification protocols for gifted children. Its major contribution has been to broaden the definition of intelligence beyond that defined by traditional IQ tests.
A Developmental Theory Approach to Giftedness and Talent
David Feldman (1986a, 1986b) proposes a conception of giftedness within the tradition of developmental psychology. Developmental psychologists are fundamentally interested in any kind of change and typically in broad changes experienced by all human beings; individual differences in intelligence or achievement have not traditionally been their concern. Feldman asserts that reaching expert or gifted levels of performance in a field requires traversing a developmental path that involves moving through increasingly higher levels of stages—stages that are not reached by everyone and are therefore nonuniversal. Each stage is marked by a major mental reorganization of the domain. Nonuniversal development therefore accounts for gifted-level performances.
For the average person, the number of stages or levels that he or she will master in a given domain is obviously fewer than for the ‘gifted’ individual. Another way of approaching the issues is to think of certain domains as being less likely to be selected for mastery than others; in so doing, ‘giftedness’ might be revealed not only by the number of levels one achieves, but also by the domain within which an individual chooses to pursue mastery. (Feldman, 1986a, p. 291)
Feldman (1981, 1986a) asserts that nonspecific environmental stimulation is sufficient for progress through broad universal stages of cognitive development such as those that Piaget proposes. However, he says that the development of expert levels of performance requires a more active and specific role for environmental forces. As individuals acquire expertise in a field, they do not rediscover all of the developmental history of the field; rather, they rely on teachers to instruct them. The role of environmental factors such as family support, schooling, and other opportunities to acquire the skills of the field are critically important to progress through nonuniversal stages of development. Moreover, unlike Piaget’s stages, which assume that broad general intellectual structures must be present before their application to specific domains, Feldman posits that an individual child can move rapidly through the stages of intellectual development within a single domain (e.g., chess, mathematics) “without bringing all of cognitive development with it” (Feldman, 1981, p. 38).
For Feldman (1981, 1986a), the term giftedness refers to individuals who master all of the stages within a domain. Creativity is the extension of a field or domain beyond what it is at the present. Genius refers to individuals whose work results in a complete reorganization of a field or domain such as Darwin or Freud.
Feldman (1986a, 1986b) recognizes the contribution of other factors beyond education and training to the development of giftedness. He says that a strong desire to do a certain specific thing on the part of the individual must also be present as well as a sociohistorical time that values the talents of the gifted person. Feldman’s main contribution is to present giftedness as a phenomenon with developmental characteristics that are similar to other developmental phenomena: “Giftedness . . . can best be comprehended within a framework of both broader and more specific stage transitions” (Feldman, 1986a, p. 291) and as a “sequential transformation of overall systems” (p. 302).
The Role of Emotional Characteristics in Defining Giftedness and Talent
Recent thinking about giftedness by a current group of psychologists, educators, and parents (the Columbus Group, named after their meeting place, Columbus, OH) has included an increased emphasis on the nonintellectual aspects of the phenomenon. According to this perspective, giftedness includes not only advanced or exceptional cognitive capacities, but also unique personality or social-emotional dimensions that are just as important to the phenomenological experience of being gifted. The Columbus Group (1991) proposed the following definition that gives equal weight to cognitive and emotional components of giftedness:
Giftedness is asynchronous development in which advanced cognitive abilities and heightened intensity combine to create inner experiences and awareness that are qualitatively different from the norm. This asynchrony increases with higher intellectual capacity. The uniqueness of the gifted renders them particularly vulnerable and requires modification in parenting, teaching and counseling in order for them to develop optimally. (Columbus Group, 1991 as cited in Silverman, 1993, p. 634)
Note that this definition includes heightened intensity as an integral component.The notion of heightened intensity comes from the work of Dabrowski, a Polish researcher who proposed a theory of emotional development. Dabrowski’s stage theory has two major components. One is that there are five levels of development, each of which represents aqualitatively different mode of relating to experience. At the lowest level are individuals whose main concern is immediate gratification; the highest level is characterized by harmony, altruism, lackof inner conflict, and universal values.Although the order of the levels is invariant, progression through the stages is not necessarily related to age. Advanced emotional development, which is the “commitment to live one’s life in accordance with higher order values” (Silverman, 1993, p. 639), is determined by an individual’s innate capacities to respond in a heightened manner to various stimuli—called overexcitabilities, which is the second major component of Dabrowski’s theory. “The five overexcitabilities can be thought of as excess energy derived form physical, sensual, imaginational, intellectual, and emotional sources. Only when these capacities for responsiveness are higher than average do they contribute significantly to developmental potential” (Silverman, 1993, p. 641). See Dabrowski (1964) for a more complete explanation of Dabrowski’s theory.
The overexcitabilities have the potential to stimulate movement from a lower stage of emotional development to a higher one. Because gifted individuals, according to Dabrowski’s research, are likely to possess one or more of these heightened sensitivities—particularly emotional overexcitabilities—they have greater potential to reach advanced levels of development. The overexcitabilities in combination with advanced intellectual ability makes gifted individuals unique and puts them at odds with the rest of the world. They are vulnerable to psychological stress because this combination of qualities results in rich but intense emotions that makes them feel out of synch with and different from others.According to Silverman (1993),
The Columbus Group definition emerged in reaction to the increasing emphasis on products, performance and achievement in American thinking about giftedness. In the United States, it had gradually become politically incorrect to think of giftedness as inherent within the child and safer to talk about its external manifestations. Experts were recommending that ‘gifted children’be replaced with ‘gifted behaviors,’ ‘talents in different domains,’ and ‘gifted program children.’Something vital was being missed in these popular formulations: the child. (p. 635)
Conceptions of giftedness that emphasize socialemotional dimensions rest in part on the assumption that gifted children—by virtue of their intellectual giftedness and concomitant emotional characteristics—have increased vulnerability to emotional stress and psychiatric problems. However, the research on gifted children does not emphatically support that assumption (Neihart, 1999), although a number of studies suggest that creative adults (e.g., writers, artists) have increased risk for psychiatric mood disorders (Neihart).
Federal Definitions of Giftedness and Talent
The most often cited definition of giftedness appeared in the U.S. Commissioner of Education’s 1972 report to Congress. Sidney P. Marland, Jr., then U.S. Commissioner of Education, was directed in 1969 to undertake a study to determine the extent to which gifted students needed federal educational assistance programs to meet their educational needs. Referred to as the Marland report, the definition he proposed for giftedness has been the mainstay of many local gifted programs.
Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities, are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society. Children capable of high performance include those with demonstrated achievement and/or potential ability in any of the following areas, singly or in combination: 1) general intellectual ability, 2) specific academic aptitude, 3) creative or productive thinking, 4) leadership ability, 5) visual and performing arts, 6) psychomotor ability. It can be assumed that utilization of these criteria for identification of the gifted and talented will encompass a minimum of 3–5%. (Marland, 1972, p. ix)
Later, Category 6 was dropped from the definition. The Marland definition has been criticized for the lack of emphasis on nonintellective factors and because the categories were not parallel (e.g., creative and productive thinking are skills, not abilities). It has been lauded because it included different domains of abilities and because it emphasized potential as well as demonstrated achievement (Gagne, 1993). Passow (1993) credits the Marland report with stimulating interest in gifted and talented children and initiatives to serve them in schools. Prior to the Marland report, only two states in the United States had mandated programs for gifted children and only three states had discretionary or permissive programs. By 1990, all 50 states had policies on the education of gifted children in place—a fact often attributed to the effects of the Marland report and definition of giftedness (Passow, 1993).
Beyond the broadened definition, use of the phrase, ‘gifted and talented’and the assertion that these children and youth had special needs which required differentiated educational experiences, the Marland Report began the formulation of a national strategy for identifying and educating this special population. (p. 30)
A more recent definition was released by the U.S. Department of Education in a report entitled National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent (1993).
Children and youth with outstanding talent perform, or show the potential for performing, at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment.
These children and youth exhibit high-performance capability in intellectual, creative, and/or artistic areas, possess an unusual leadership capacity, or excel in specific academic fields. They require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the schools.
Outstanding talents are present in all children and youth from all cultural groups, across all economic strata, and in all areas of human endeavor.
This definition, which is increasingly being adopted by individual states, also includes a broad definition of giftedness across different domains and emphasizes capability or potential.
An Educational Emphasis in Defining Giftedness and Talent
Gallagher and Courtright (1986) make a distinction between psychological and educational definitions of giftedness. Psychological definitions focus on individual differences or an individual’s relative ranking on a continuum representing a particular ability. Giftedness from this perspective could be exceptional ability on almost any dimension of human performance, regardless of how narrow or specific. Educational definitions take into account the context of schools and specifically those abilities or areas of human performance that are under the purview of schools. Most typically, schools are concerned with those students whose abilities warrant some significant alteration in their education by way of grouping arrangements, grade placement, content being taught, and so on. Borland (1989) goes further to recognize that the specific context of a particular school affects the definition of giftedness: “For the purposes of education, gifted children are those students in a given school or school district who are exceptional by virtue of markedly greater than average potential or ability in some area of human activity generally considered to be the province of the educational system and whose exceptionality engenders specialeducational needs that are not being met adequately by the regular core curriculum” (pp. 32–33).
Thus, there is not one fixed educational definition. Indeed, the educational definition will continue to change because what is considered to be the purview of the schools has changed historically and will continue to do so. The essential feature of the educational definition is that the school curriculum and school characteristics define the scope of abilities or domain within which exceptional performance should be considered.
As can be seen from the brief summary of conceptions of giftedness described previously, great variability surrounds many issues. Some conceptions emphasize demonstrated performance rather than high ability, such as Gardner (in adult domains of activity) and Renzulli (in children). Several theories give equal weight to nonintellective factors such as motivation and personality dimensions as to cognitive ones (e.g., Renzulli, the Columbus Group) or included them as important components in their model (e.g., Tannenbaum, Gagne). Some models include creativity as an essential component of giftedness (e.g., Renzulli), whereas others view it as a separate category or type of giftedness (e.g., Feldman, Marland definition) or natural ability (e.g., Gagne). Several theories emphasize the role of society and culture (e.g., Gardner, Tannenbaum) or the educative process of schools (e.g., Marland definition, Borland definition) in defining and recognizing different types or categories of giftedness. Other conceptions recognize and emphasize the contributions of more immediate environments such as the family, schooling, the community, and so on, and the process of developing talent as essential components of giftedness (e.g., Gagne, Tannenbaum).
Other Issues in Defining Giftedness and Talent
Adult Versus Childhood Giftedness
Currently, there are two separate research traditions within the field of gifted education—the study of childhood giftedness and the study of adult giftedness. Researchers who study gifted children are very concerned with issues surrounding educational practice, such as the identification of gifted children and appropriate educational interventions or models. Within this tradition, emphasis is given to general intellectual ability or IQ, above-level scholastic achievement, precocity of achievements with respect to age peers, identification through testing, and schooling as the main context for talent development (Olszewski-Kubilius, 2000). In contrast, those who study adult giftedness focus on domain-specific abilities, the creativity of achievements or products and their contribution to the field, and an individual’s standing or stature as judged by other experts in the field (Olszewski-Kubilius, 2000). A major difference between child and adult giftedness is the emphasis on the field. A measure of the quality of adult achievements is the critical acclaim they receive from other experts—the extent to which they break new ground or move the field forward. Gifted children do not often typically create new knowledge; they discover what is already known— earlier and faster than most other children.
Generally, studies involving children examine short-term, developmental issues or issues regarding educational practice and use cross-sectional, multigroup designs. Finding an appropriate comparison group is a challenge if one of the aims of the study is to differentiate developmental or agerelated effects from those due to differences in intellectual ability. To accomplish this goal, researchers use multiple comparison groups that are alternatively equivalent to the gifted group in either chronological or mental age. Few studies of children are prospective and longitudinal with the exception of the Terman studies, the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY), a study of more than 30 years of verbally and mathematically talented students identified in the late 1970s and early 1980s (Benbow, 1988; Benbow & Lubinski, 1994; Benbow & Stanley, 1983), and the Illinois Valedictorian Project (Arnold, 1995), which is following high school valedictorians from the class of 1982 through adulthood. See Subotnik and Arnold (1994) for a more comprehensive listing of longitudinal studies.
There are many more retrospective studies of gifted adults than there are prospective studies of gifted children. Typically, the adults are identified as eminent or renowned in their field either by cultural impact of their work or by the judgments of other experts. These studies look back into the lives of these individuals, usually through analysis of historical documents, biographies, and autobiographies. Some of these studies include interviews with the individual (if still living) and with other family members. They present detailed case studies of the gifted individuals. The purpose of most of these studies is to determine what contributes to the development of high levels of talent and creative productive ability. Examples of these kinds of studies are Goertzel and Goertzel (1962), who studied the emotional and intellectual family environments of eminent individuals form the twentieth century; Roe (1953), who studied 23 eminent male scientists in different fields; Zuckerman (1977), who studied Nobel Laureates; Subotnik, Karp, and Morgan (1989), who studied high IQ individuals who graduated from the Hunter College Elementary School from 1948 to 1960; and Bloom (1985), who studied high achievers in six different talent areas.
Prodigious achievement by children has always fascinated our culture. Child prodigies are very rare and historically were regarded either as freaks or gods. Morelock and Feldman (1993, quoted from Feldman, 1986b) have studied child prodigies and define them as “a child who, before the age of 10, performs at the level of an adult professional in some cognitively demanding field” (p. 171). According to Feldman, child prodigies differ from geniuses and do not necessarily become geniuses, although “the prodigy’s early mastery of a domain may put him in a better position for achieving works of genius, for he has more time to explore, comprehend, and experiment within a field” (Feldman, 1986b, p. 16). Prodigies are also distinguished from high-IQ children in that their talents are very narrowly specialized to a particular field of endeavor, whereas high-IQ children have intellectual abilities that enable them to function at high levels in a variety of different contexts. Prodigies are extreme specialists according to Feldman (1986b, p. 10) in that “they are exceptionally well tuned to a particular field of knowledge, demonstrating rapid and often seemingly effortless mastery.”
The prodigious achievement of a child is evidence of a rare coming-together of a variety of supportive conditions— a process that is termed co-incidence (Feldman, 1986a, 1986b). The supportive conditions include a domain or field that is structured in a way and developed to the extent that it is available and comprehensible to a young child. The child’s capacity and ways of learning must fit well with knowledge base of the domain and the forms in which learning and instruction occur. The talented child must be living in a historical time in which the domain is valued and high-level mastery of it is prized. Furthermore, the prodigy must come from a home with a family that recognizes and supports the ability and can obtain resources to insure its development (Feldman, 1986b).
According to Feldman (1986b) only some domains that can be described as developmental produce prodigies. Developmental domains typically have a long history of knowledge development and major changes over time in structure, technology, organization, and practice. They have several different levels of expertise to master in sequence—each level marked by a different set of skills. Feldman notes that the largest numbers of child prodigies have been found in chess and music, whereas many fewer have been found in writing, the visual arts, or mathematics. Child prodigies in fields such as physics or the natural sciences are virtually unheard of (Feldman, 1986b).
Although prodigies display exceptional capacity to master the levels of a particular field, their tremendously fast learning rate appears limited to a single domain. “Perhaps the purest essence of domain-specific talent is the ability to holistically intuit the syntactic core of rules and regularities lying at the heart of a domain of knowledge . . .” (Morelock & Feldman, 1993, p. 179). That these children do develop skills to such a high level in an area is a result of a delicate and rare interaction between the capabilities and developmental trajectory of the child and of the domain (Feldman, 1986b). And, despite early and rapid advancement in a field, Feldman’s prodigies did not necessarily stay with the same field into adulthood. Most often, they gave up their commitment to that one field and branched out to others.
The Relationship Between Creativity and Intellectual Giftedness
The field of gifted education has had an ambivalent attitude toward the concept of creativity. Some, like Renzulli (described previously), believe that creativity is the essence of giftedness—one should not even speak about giftedness except to mean creative production.Alternatively, creativity is included as one of several categories of giftedness within the Marland definition (described previously) equal in status with other categories. Others believe that creativity is a phenomenon distinct from, yet larger than intellectual giftedness; creativity rests on the acquisition of skills and knowledge acquired via intellectual giftedness but goes beyond it (see Feldman, described previously). Others believe that creativity can only be thought of within the context of a domain and in reference to adult work. It is “impossible to define creativity independently of a judgment based on criteria that change from domain to domain and across time” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1994, p. 143).
Definitions of creativity can be categorized according to four different emphases—personality, process, press (situation), and product (Fishkin, 1999). Work on the creative personality aims to illuminate the personality traits of creative producers, usually through retrospective research studies (examples of such studies are listed earlier in this research paper). Creative producers have been found to possess personality characteristics such as risk taking, flexibility, a preference for disorder, androgyny, the ability to tolerate ambiguity and delay gratification, and an introspective and introverted personality (Rogers, 1999).
Other researchers primarily focus their definition on the process of creativity, attempting to delineate the intellectual activities involved in creative thought such as use of imagery, problem-finding, and metacognitive components (Fishkin, 1999). Studies that focus on press are interested in the contextual determinants of creative productivity, particularly environmental factors. Work in this area has looked at aspects of the home environment such as encouragement of freedom of thought and risk taking, features of the work place such as leadership style of a supervisor, temperature, and physical climate, and other psychological and social variables that affect creativity (Keller-Mathers & Murdock, 1999).
Research on creative products has focused on determining how decisions about the uniqueness of products are made (e.g., criteria used, judgements by whom) within and across different domains, the relevance of creative production to the definition of creativity (e.g., can one be creative if one does not produce?), and the development of rating scales to make judgments about children’s creative products (Keller-Mathers & Murdock, 1999).
Researchers who have tried to assess creativity have used a variety of instruments and techniques depending upon their theoretical perspective. Creativity measures include tests of divergent thinking, attitude and interest inventories, personality inventories, biographical analyses, ratings by teachers or others, judgments of products, criteria of eminence, and self-reports of creative activities or achievements (Johnson & Fishkin, 1999). The most extensively used and researched instruments to identify creative children are standardized measures of divergent thinking such as the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking or several subtests of the Structure of the Intellect Test. Many assessments of creativity suffer from low reliability and questionable validity (see Johnson & Fishkin for a review).
An important issue of construct validity for creativity measures are their distinctiveness or independence from IQ. The relationship between IQ and divergent thinking measures has been described as nonlinear, with evidence of a threshold effect (Johnson & Fishkin, 1999). Across a wide range of IQ scores, the correlation between intelligence and creativity is about .40 (Johnson & Fishkin); however, beyond an IQ of 120, the correlation is negligible. The threshold relationship is interpreted to mean that greater creativity is associated with higher intelligence up to a certain point only. Beyond an IQ of 120, higher intelligence does not guarantee greater creativity, and other variables such as motivation and personality disposition are more influential. The relationship between creativity and academic achievement is complicated; some studies show a positive correlation, some show no correlation, and others indicate that the relationship is mediated by gender, type of creativity, and type of creativity assessment (Ai, 1999).
There have been many programs developed to advance the creative thinking skills of children. The assumption behind these programs is that creative thinking skills are not innate but instead are acquired through practice and deliberate teaching. Creative thinking programs include synectics, a form of analogical reasoning in which thinkers examine connections between seemingly unrelated objects; lateral thinking (e.g., the Cognitive Research Trust program or CoRt); Odyssey of the Mind (OM), a creativity training program in which teams of children practice skills such as brainstorming, suspending judgment, and listening to others in order to solve complex, open-ended problems in a competition; and the Future Problem Solving program (FPS), which teaches students to use creative problem-solving techniques applied to ill-defined, complex problems about futuristic issues in competition with other teams of students (Meador, Fishkin, & Hoover, 1999).
Pyryt (1999) reports on several meta-analyses that examined the effects of various types of creativity training on aspects of children’s thinking. The outcome measure in these studies is typically performance on divergent thinking tests, mainly the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. Pyryt found effects sizes averaging close to one standard deviation across a variety of groups of students, not just the gifted ones. Effect size correlated with the amount of training, and different types of training differentially affected performance on verbal versus figural divergent thinking measures.
An important issue for researchers and educators is the predictive validity of creativity measures for adult accomplishments. Cramond (1994), in a review of research on the Torrance tests, concludes that there are moderate correlations between childhood divergent thinking scores and adult accomplishments. However, Tannenbaum (1983) notes that Torrance’s studies are the only ones that consistently support the predictive validity of divergent thinking measures for adult creative activities.
There is an accumulated body of research about highly creative, eminent individuals. These studies have sought to understand the factors that contribute to high levels of creative production. A major finding is that many creative producers experienced stressful and traumatic childhoods— particularly, the early loss of parents (Olszewski-Kubilius, 2000). Stressful childhoods are thought to contribute to the development of creativity by engendering strong motivations to express and thereby ameliorate childhood wounds through some creative outlet and to gain acceptance, love, or admiration from others. Early family environments that stress individual thought, expression, and independence, and those in which there is an emotional distance between parent and child and less vigilant parent monitoring and socialization of children create contexts for the development of personality traits (e.g., risk-taking) that are thought to be essential to the development of creativity (Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, & Arnold, in press).
The Education of Gifted Children
The identification of gifted children is a major issue for educators. It is inextricably tied to one’s definition of and beliefs about the nature of giftedness and also to the programs and services that are put into place for children who have been identified as gifted. These two components serve as bookends to determine or bound the identification procedures.
For example, if you believe strongly that the aim of identification is to find children who have the potential to become creative producers in adulthood (see discussion of Renzulli earlier in this research paper), identification procedures might include a focus on demonstration of exceptionally creative work in school coupled with task persistence and motivation to produce unusual products at a high level. On the other hand, if your beliefs about giftedness are that it is exceptional intellectual ability regardless of actual achievement or performance, measures such as IQ scores could be used for identification, and you would aim to include children with high ability yet low school achievement. If you subscribe to an educational definition of giftedness and believe that gifted children are those for whom the typical school curriculum is inadequate, you would use measures of achievement to find students who are able to perform beyond their current school placement in the subjects typically taught in schools. If you subscribe to a multiple intelligences view of ability, you would want to establish identification procedures to find children with talent in the various domains and provide programs to help them develop that talent.
Programming or services affect identification procedures. If you believe that your goal is to prepare children to become creative producers in adulthood, you would build a program that gives them many opportunities to practice making or generating creative products. If you believe that your goal is to ensure that every child in school experiences academic challenges, you would design classes that through pacing or rigor of the content provide challenge to gifted learners.
In reality, identification procedures for gifted children are often put into place without a clear rationale or understanding of the beliefs about giftedness and its development upon which they rest. Moreover, there is often a mismatch between identification procedures and programming. A frequent and often valid criticism of gifted programs is that they often have very selective identification procedures that include high IQ and achievement scores, but the enrichment programs provide general enrichment appropriate for which most students could be successful.
Identification of Academic Talent
Anational survey of school gifted programs conducted by the Richardson Foundation in the mid-1980s showed that teacher nomination was the most frequently used means to identify academically gifted students (91%), followed by achievement tests (90%), and IQ tests (82%; Cox et al., 1985). All other types of criteria—grades, peer or self-nomination, and creativity measures—were used significantly less often by schools (less than 10% in most cases).
Although it is frequently used, teacher nomination is not highly regarded as a method of identifying gifted students (Tannenbaum, 1983).Teachers tend to nominate children who are high achievers, polite, and well-behaved; sometimes use placement in a gifted program as a reward for high achievement; and often fail to identify underachieving gifted children (Borland, 1989). One of the problems in assessing the accuracy of teacher nomination is the lack of precise standards against which their judgments can be compared. Teachers improve in identifying children who turn out to be gifted as defined by IQ scores when they receive training about the behavioral characteristics of gifted children (Tannenbaum, 1983).
IQ tests, which are probably best viewed as predictors of aptitude for academic achievement, are relevant to educationally oriented definitions of giftedness. One of the problems with IQ tests is that the information is not very useful for programming planning because it does not relate well to the content areas typically included in the school curriculum. Furthermore, IQ tests are limited in their prediction of adult success as well. However, IQ tests may reveal intellectual ability among underachieving students (Subotnik &Arnold, 1994).
Achievement tests and domain-specific aptitude tests do map onto the school curriculum better than do IQ tests and can indicate students’ mastery of the in-grade curriculum. Due to severe ceiling problems, however, these tests do not reveal what students know beyond the information assessed on the test, which may be considerable. Sometimes, achievement tests are used off-level, so to speak, or tests (or test forms) designed for older students are given to younger ones, thereby eliminating the ceiling problems. However, it is also not clear to what extent achievement or special aptitude test performance predicts adult success in different fields (Tannenbaum, 1983). Asubstantial amount of evidence exists about this issue for mathematics; high mathematics scores on the Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) in the seventh or eighth grade are associated with high academic achievement in high school and college and with the choice of mathematics as a career (Lubinski & Benbow, 1993).
Checklists for teachers and parents are also frequently used as part of an identification system. Very often, these are included primarily for political reasons—that is, to include the opinions of a particular group in the process. There are some published instruments available, including the Scales for Rating the Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students (Renzulli, Smith, White, Callahan, & Hartman, 1976), which assesses abilities in 10 areas: learning, motivation, leadership, artistic, musical, dramatics, communication-precision, communication-expressive, planning, and creativity. Also available are the PurdueAcademic Rating Scales, designed to identify secondary students for honors, advanced placement (AP), or accelerated classes: It focuses on signs of superior academic performance in mathematics, science, English, social studies, and foreign languages (Feldhusen, Hoover, & Saylor, 1990). See Johnson and Fishkin (1990) for a compendium of rating scales for creativity. Most often, schools devise their own questionnaires; hence, there is typically little or no validity or reliability information available on them.
Schools generally use multiple pieces of information about a student to make a decision about placement into a gifted program and employ some means or system of organizing and evaluating the data. Borland (1989) and others (Feldhusen & Jarwan, 1993) recommend that identification be viewed as a process consisting of several distinct phases. These phases include screening, which involves using available information about students to nominate them as potential candidates for the gifted program—candidates who need further scrutiny or examination to determine their match to the program. Sources of information for screening include existing student records, group tests, referrals, and nominations. At the screening phase, the goal is to cast a wide net, so to speak, using generous cutoffs so in order to include as many students as possible.
The second phase is selection or placement. This phase involves the gathering of more specific and reliable information, usually through additional testing (Borland, 1989). Tests to be used for selection or placement should be selected on the basis of their relevance to the educational program, their reliability and validity, the availability of normative data, and the extent to which they are free from ceiling effects and test bias (Feldhusen & Jarwan, 1993).
Placement decisions are usually based on the results of synthesizing the data in some fashion and typically involve one of the following mechanisms: constructing a matrix that involves assigning points to scores on different tests and summing them to yield a single giftedness index; computing standard scores for each measure in order to ensure comparability across measures; a comprehensive case study on each nominated student; or a multiple-cutoff method, which requires students to meet minimum score cutoffs for each measure included in the identification system (Feldhusen & Jarwan). More sophisticated methods such as multiple regression models that determine a formula based on the predictive validity of each identification instrument for program performance are rarely used (Feldhusen & Jarwan). Domain-specific measures may be used in areas such as the visual or performing arts and include portfolio assessment, product assessment or critique, auditions, and so on.
The third phase of the identification process that is rarely implemented is the evaluation of the viability of the identification protocol (Borland, 1989). This involves an analysis of students’ performance in relation to the identification criteria and can involve a possible reformulation of the identification protocol. The questions being addressed at this phase of the identification process are Are the students who were selected for the program succeeding in it?, Are the selection procedures excluding children who also could succeed in the program?, and Are the children in the program achieving at expectedhigh levels over the long term? Methods to assess the appropriateness of the selection protocol include the use of multiple regression to determine the extent to which identification criteria predict achievement in the program or the comparison of the achievement of children who were selected for the program to those who were nominated for the program but not selected. Schools infrequently evaluate their identification protocols.
In summary, typical problems with identification systems include the following: a lack of consistency between the philosophy of the program and the identification protocol; the overreliance on a single measure or instrument for identification; a mismatch between the identification protocol and the program being provided—most typically requiring high scores on measures of verbal and quantitative ability and providing a program in only one area or using very high cutoff scores on IQ or achievement tests and providing a general enrichment program suitable for mildly above-average learners; lack of evaluation of identification criteria to assess their predictive validity for program performance or outcomes; problems with instruments used, such as low reliability or validity and ceiling effects; use of some kind of summative score based on different selection criteria that has dubious validity; and the lack of procedures for periodic reassessment of students, both those in and those not in the program.
Recommended identification procedures include the use of multiple screening measures in an effort to be very inclusive and capture nontraditional students and underachievers, identification protocols tailored to the particular school domain (e.g. using math tests for an accelerated math program), placement decisions made by a committee using all available information, and off-level testing to deal with ceiling effects on on-level tests. See Feldhusen and Jarwan (1993) and Borland (1989) for a fuller discussion of recommended identification procedures for gifted students.
Identification of Underrepresented Students
A major issue within the field of gifted education is the typical underrepresentation of children of color within gifted programs or advanced classes (Olszewski-Kubilius & Laubscher, 1996) regardless of socioeconomic level (Ford, 1996). Reasons for this situation include lower performance on typically used identification instruments by minority students due to environmental factors such as fewer educational opportunities and qualitatively poorer educational environments, instrumentation problems such as cultural bias of tests and their lack of predictive validity for academic achievement of minority students, and the prejudices of teachers and other educational personnel making decisions about students. Ford (1996) recommends using alternative identification procedures that include nonverbal problemsolving tests (e.g., the Ravens Progressive Matrices tests or the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test), surveys and instruments specifically designed to identify giftedness among minority students, and training for educators regarding cultural sensitivity. Although the research evidence suggests that students of color are more likely to be identified as gifted when alternatives are used, they are still much less likely to be referred or nominated for such testing by their teachers (Sacuzzo, Johnson, & Guertin, 1994).
Musical and Artistic Talent
Systematic identification of musical and artistic talent within children is typically not done by schools. Some large urban school districts have performing arts high schools that draw students from a wide geographic area. Standardized tests for both music and art do exist; more often, however, teacher nominations, portfolios, and auditions are relied upon. As Winner and Martino (1993) note, very musically or artistically gifted children usually stand out and are easily identified by teachers.
The early signs of musical talent include exceptional sensitivity to the structure of music, including tonality, key, harmony, and rhythm; strong interest and delight in musical sounds; exceptional musical memory; quick and easy learning of an instrument; and early musical generativity or the ability to compose, transpose, and improvise (Winner & Martino, 1993). Perfect pitch and sight reading are less consistently associated with musical talent. Early signs of artistic talent include the ability to draw realistically at an early age and the ability to imitate the styles of other artists (Winner & Martino). More rare is an exceptional sense of composition, form, or color in childhood drawings. Artistically talented adolescents often produce drawings with elaborate imaginary settings and fantasy characters—a visual representation of a complex story (Winner & Martino).
Predictive Validity of Identification Tools
A major question underlying the identification of gifted students is whether these children do in fact achieve at expected levels in adulthood. It is very difficult to answer this question given that there is no agreed-upon definition of adult success. However, Subotnik and Arnold (1994) summarized the result of longitudinal studies of individuals identified as gifted (typically based on childhood IQ). They concluded that IQ accounted for little of the variability in adult outcomes. Neither did grades or other kinds of school-based, academic criteria. The fruition of childhood ability and promise is very tenuous, and social, environmental, and psychological variables play a huge role and interact in very complex ways (Olszewski-Kubilius, 2000). Researchers agree that beyond a certain point, ability is less important for adult achievement than are factors such as personality dimensions and motivation (Winner, 1996; Csikszentmihalyi, Rathunde, & Whalen, 1993).
Gifted Education and the Law
The federal government has historically, been reluctant to become involved in education; that is especially true for gifted education. Special educational services for gifted children are not required by law as they are for children with disabilities. There does exist an Office of Gifted and Talented in Washington DC (reestablished in 1988), and federal money currently supports a National Research Center for the Gifted and Talented. However, the federal government’s primary role has been in providing definitions of gifted and talented children (Karnes & Marquart, 2000).
Currently, 48% of states in the United States have mandated both identification and the provision of special programs for gifted children, 17% have a mandate for identification but not programs, and 4% have a mandate for programs but not identification (Council of State Directors of Programs for the Gifted, 1996, as quoted in Karnes & Marquart, 2000). Many of these mandates (42%) were not by law, however; 6% were by administrative rule, 3% were by state department of education guidelines, 18% were by a combination of these, and 15% by some other means (Karnes & Marquart). In 1996, seventy-one percent of the states who reported in indicated that there were funds within the state budget specifically allocated for gifted education.
Administratively, most states have a designated state coordinator of services for gifted children (94%), although many have additional responsibilities; also, most of the state-level coordinators are placed under the departments of special education or curriculum (Karnes & Marquardt, 2000).
Almost all states (except five) in the United States have state definitions of gifted and talented students, and the majority use some version of the 1978 federal definition (Karnes & Marquardt, 2000). In terms of categories of ability included in state definitions, the focus is clearly on superior intellectual ability. Specific academic ability was mentioned in 33 states, creative ability in 30, visual and performing arts in 20, leadership in 18, and psychomotor in 3. Almost all of the states’ definitions use the terms demonstrated and/or potential achievement (Karnes & Marquardt). Currently, only 28 states require that teachers have specific certifications or endorsements in order to teach gifted students (Karnes & Marquart).
One of the major strategies for dealing with gifted students in schools is ability grouping.Ability grouping as a technique to accommodate differences in learning rate is not used only by educators of gifted children. In the past, schools have used ability grouping widely, but its use tends to vary with the broader political climate at the time (see Kulik, 1992).Ability grouping was employed and hailed as successful after Sputnik; recently, however, it has been viewed negatively as another form of tracking—a major reform issue in the 1990s. The concerns about ability grouping among educators coalesce around several key issues—student achievement, teachers’ expectations of students, instructional quality, racial and social discrimination and mobility, and social cohesion (Rogers, 1991). The concerns have to do primarily with whether ability grouping negatively affects students who are not in the highest group and specifically whether it lowers their achievement (due to a generally lowering of the intellectual level of the classroom when very bright students are removed or lowered teacher expectations or poorer instruction), self-esteem, or both. The main concerns about ability grouping often voiced by educators of the gifted but not by educators in general is whether placement with other bright students lowers individual gifted students’ self-esteem, stresses them with unrealistic performance demands, or affects their sociability with children who are not as bright. Despite the concerns, the research on ability grouping mainly addresses only two issues—academic performance and self-esteem.
Kulik (1992) and Rogers (1991) agree that the effects of ability grouping vary greatly depending upon the type of program or curriculum that is given to the different groups of learners. Kulik’s (1992) meta-analysis of studies in which students were ability grouped but given the same curriculum show that students in the lower and middle groups learn the same amount as do students of the same ability levels who were placed in heterogeneous classes. Students in the high group learned slightly more than did students of the same ability placed in heterogeneous classes—1.1 compared to 1.0 years on a grade-equivalent scale after a year of instruction. The results of meta-analyses of these types of grouping arrangements have often been used as evidence of the ineffectiveness of tracking by educators (Kulik, 1992). However, Kulik argues that these studies do not properly address the issue of tracking because no real differentiation of curriculum took place. These same groups of studies also revealed slightly negative effects for self-esteem for the high-ability students and slightly positive ones for less able students.
The results of meta-analyses of programs that involved within- or across-grade ability groupings of children who received different curricula showed some increased learning for all groups (Kulik, 1992). Typically, students who were ability grouped gained 1.2 to 1.3 years on grade equivalent scale compared to 1.0 years for students of comparable abilities in heterogeneous classes.
Meta-analysis of 23 studies that compared the achievement of gifted students placed in accelerated classes to students with equal abilities from nonaccelerated control classes showed that the accelerated students outperformed the nonaccelerated ones by nearly 1 year on a grade-equivalent scale of a standardized achievement test (Kulik, 1992). Substantial gains were also found for gifted students who were grouped full-time for instruction in gifted programs (Rogers, 1991). Rogers’analysis by type of accelerated gifted program showed that there were substantial academic gains for the following kinds of programs: nongraded classrooms, curriculum compression (compacting of the curriculum), grade telescoping (completing 2 years of school in one), subject acceleration, and early admissions to college. Also, these forms of acceleration did not have any substantial effect on the selfesteem of the gifted students (Rogers, 1991).
Academic gains of 4–5 months (on a grade-equivalent scale) were also found for gifted students grouped into enrichment classes compared to equally able students in regular mixed-ability classes (Kulik, 1992). Rogers (1991), in a review of research on ability grouping, concluded that there were also positive gains for gifted students who were receiving enrichment in cluster groups within their classes or in pullout programs on measures of critical thinking, general achievement, and creativity.
Rogers (1991) interpreted the results of various metaanalyses of ability grouping to indicate that negative changes found for self-esteem for gifted students are very small and appear only at the initiation of a program that involves fulltime grouping. These effects are not present for other partial programs for gifted students, and some positive effects for self-esteem have been found for pullout types of enrichment programs.
Kulik (1992) concluded that the effects of grouping are strongest for gifted students because the adjustment of the content, curriculum, and instructional rate is more substantial. Rogers (1991) agrees that ability grouping takes many forms that are beneficial to gifted students. Despite the positive research findings regarding ability grouping for gifted students, educators of the gifted often have to vigorously defend their programs.
Acceleration Versus Enrichment
Acceleration and enrichment are the cornerstones of gifted education. These terms encompass the major educational strategies used with gifted children. Acceleration is defined as “progress through an educational program at rates faster or ages younger than conventional” (Pressy, 1949, p. 2, quoted in Southern, Jones, & Stanley, 1993, p. 387). Typically, acceleration is thought of as grade skipping, but it actually encompasses a large number of practices. Southern et al. list 17 accelerative practices including early entrance to any level of schooling, self-paced instruction, grade skipping, concurrent enrollment in two levels of schooling simultaneously, credit by examination, extracurricular programs, and curriculum compacting or compression of curriculum into shorter periods of time (see also Southern and Jones, 1991, for a thorough description and analysis of accelerative practices and options). Southern et al. note that these programmatic options vary along at least three dimensions: the degree to which the student is treated differently from his or her age peers (e.g., early entrance places students outside the normal grade for their age, whereas extracurricular programs and credit by examination involve little differentiation); the degree to which the accelerative option merely represents an administrative arrangement to recognize prior achievement (e.g., early admission to any level of schooling, grade skipping) versus active intervention to respond to students’learning needs (self-paced instruction or fast-paced courses); and the age at which a student could experience the accelerative program.
Despite its many forms, accelerative strategies are infrequently used by schools, and many educators have negative attitudes about them based on single experiences with individuals who were grade skipped (Southern et al., 1993). Acceleration actually involves two components—recognition of previous knowledge levels of the students that typically greatly exceed those of most same-aged students and a capacity to acquire new material at a rate faster than that of other students. Many accelerative strategies simply respond to the first component, whereas fewer are designed to address the latter. Most accelerative strategies bring content reserved for older students down to younger ones and assume that the content is appropriate for younger gifted students, which may or may not be true.
Proponents of accelerative strategies list many benefits for students, including less emphasis on needless repetition and drill, reduction of boredom, a closer match between level of instruction and level of achievement, increased productivity in careers in which early contributions are important, increased opportunity for academic exploration, and more appropriate level of challenge that engenders the acquisition of good study habits and avoidance of underachievement (Southern et al., 1993). Opponents of acceleration give the following as negative consequences of acceleration: academic problems stemming from gaps in content preparation; what has been called a specious precocity due to knowledge without appropriate experience; an undue focus on learning the right answers and short shrift to creativity and divergent production; social adjustment problems as a result of a reduction of time for age-appropriate activities; rejection by older classmates; less opportunity to acquire social skills via interaction with same-aged peers; reduced extracurricular opportunities such as participation in sports or athletics due to age ineligibility; and emotional adjustment problems due to stress and pressure to perform (Southern et al., 1993).
The research evidence regarding the efficacy of acceleration for gifted students is the same research cited previously for grouping and is overwhelmingly positive.The research regarding specific accelerative strategies such as early admission to elementary school is much more varied, however, linking early admission to increased failure and retention rates and to more frequent referrals for placement in special education. However, Southern et al. (1993) characterize much of this research as suffering from serious methodological flaws. The research on early admissions to college is positive regarding both the academic performance and emotionalsocial adjustment of early entrants. Specifically, early entrants do as well as academically or better than do other gifted students who do not enter early, make friends easily and readily with older, typical-aged college students, and more frequently complete college on time, earn honors, and complete a concurrent master’s degree (Olszewski-Kubilius, 1995).
Definitions of enrichment vary, but it is typically considered to be instruction or content that extends the boundaries of the curriculum. The assumptions behind enrichment as a focus of gifted education are (a) that the typical school curriculum leaves out a great deal of content and skill learning that is valuable for students to acquire and (b) that it focuses on lower level cognitive skills such as the learning of facts at the expense of more complex cognitive abilities (Southern et al., 1993). Practitioners attempt to provide enrichment to gifted students in a variety of ways—increasing the breadth of the curriculum by adding content that is not typically covered and perhaps is more abstract; adding depth by allowing students to study a topic more deeply and more thoroughly; adding opportunities for more real-world applications of the content learned through projects; infusion of research opportunities; or a focus on learning skills such as divergent thinking skills, heuristics, or problem-solving skills. Unlike acceleration, enrichment tries to meet the educational needs of gifted students by the addition of content rather than adjustments of pacing of instruction (Southern et al., 1993).
Acceleration and enrichment have often been pitted against each other as opposing educational strategies. In reality, the distinctions between them are often very blurred. Providing additional content via enrichment often results in a student’s being ahead of or accelerated with respect to other students in achievement. Often the additional content provided is content reserved for older students. Programs that truly meet the needs of gifted students will be some combination of enrichment and acceleration—adjustments to content as well as adjustments to instructional pace. The preference for acceleration or enrichment as an educational strategy to serve gifted children often has to do with societal sentiments and political ideologies prevailing at the time (Southern et al., 1993).
Types of Gifted Programs: Elementary Level
Borland (1989) identified seven program formats as typical among program options available in schools for gifted children. These formats include special schools; a school-withina-school, in which a semiautonomous educational program for gifted students exists within a school; multitracked programs, which involve grouping students by ability for each major subject; pullout programs, which are arrangements in which students spend most of their time within a regular classroom and are removed for a given time period each week for special instruction with other gifted students; resource room programs, in which students who are typically grouped within heterogeneous classrooms report to a special site on a part-time basis for instruction; and provisions within the classroom, which may include cluster grouping, special assignments, or some other curricular modification.
The various program options have different benefits and disadvantages for students and teachers. Part-time programs such as resource room and pullout programs have the advantage of giving students contact with both age-mates and intellectual peers in a single day. However, being pulled out of the regular classroom for a program makes the gifted students conspicuous, which they may not like. Part-time programs often fall victim to providing superfluous content as administrators struggle to define the curriculum for these programs and typically opt to not intrude on the traditional school subjects. And, typically, the program may involve only 2–4 hours of instruction and so are quite minimal in scope and impact. Partial, pullout types of programs can be logistical and scheduling nightmares, raise the ire of teachers whose students are being pulled out, and are expensive because they typically require an additional teacher (Borland, 1989).
Full-time programs—whether they involve special schools or a school-within-a-school—give students maximal exposure to intellectual peers and thus peer support for high achievement. If the school specializes in a particular area (e.g., math and science or the arts), students will have a rich and exceptional array of challenging courses and extracurricular activities from which to choose and instructors with exceptional content area expertise. Most of these programs are highly selective, and competition to gain entrance is fierce. In addition, after they are admitted, students can experience unhealthy levels of stress due to competition for grades (Borland, 1989). There is also the danger that students entering special schools may focus on a particular discipline too early without exploring other interests and options fully (Borland, 1989).
Programs that group students by ability for each subject can accommodate students with exceptional ability in only one or two areas and provide a good match between the identification criteria, subject-area achievement, and placement. However, these programs can be difficult for teachers because the class makeup changes for each subject. They can be scheduling nightmares, and very often a truly differentiated curriculum is not provided to the different groups of students (Borland, 1989).
Cox et al. (1985), in a national survey of practices in gifted education at both the elementary and secondary levels, found that the most frequently offered program option was the parttime special class or pullout model (72% of districts reporting). This option was followed by enrichment in the regular classroom (63%), independent study (52%), and resource rooms (44%). However, when criteria were applied to determine whether the program was substantial (e.g., a part-time special class had to meet for at least 4 hours a week in order to be considered substantial), only 47% of the part-time programs, 16% of the enrichment programs, 23% of the independent study programs, and 21% of the resource room programs were deemed substantial.
Less frequently employed program options (28–37% of total programs) were AP classes; continuous progress (defined as allowing students to proceed through the curriculum without age-grade distinctions for subjects); mentorships; full-time special class; itinerant teacher; moderate acceleration (defined as completion of grades K–12 in 10–13 years); concurrent or dual enrollment (defined as enrollment in high school and college simultaneously); and early entrance to any schooling level. The least frequently used program options (11% or less) were radical acceleration (i.e., completion of grades K–12 in 11 or fewer years), fast-paced classes (i.e., completion of two or more courses in a discipline in an abbreviated time frame), special schools, and nongraded schools (Cox et al., 1985). It is interestingly to note that the program options with the highest percentage of substantial programs were those less often employed by schools—early entrance, concurrent or dual enrollment, continuous progress, full-time special class, itinerant teacher, and special schools (Cox et al.).
Research about the efficacy of different program models is scant (Delcourt, Loyd, Cornell, & Goldberg (1994). Delcourt et al. cite only 10 studies (excluding their own study) within the last 20 years that examined academic outcomes of different types of gifted programs. These studies involved students primarily in Grades 2 through 6. These authors compared the performance of second- and third-grade students within four different types of gifted programs—full-time special schools, full-time separate classes, pullout programs, and within-class programs to groups of nongifted students and students nominated by teachers as potentially qualified for the gifted program (the gifted comparison group) but not currently placed in it. Students’ prior performance on a standardized achievement test was used as a covariate, and differences between the gifted students in the four gifted programs and the two comparison groups were assessed. Results were that the students within the separate classes, full-time schools, and pullout programs had higher scores on a standardized achievement test than did students in either of the comparison groups and students in the within-class programs when starting levels of achievement were accounted for. The within-class students had the lowest scores in all areas of achievement of all the groups assessed. Delcourt et al. state, “since Within-Class programs are a popular model in gifted education, their curricular and instructional provisions for the gifted must be carefully maintained lest they disintegrate into a no-program format” (1994, p. xviii).
Delcourt et al. (1994) also found that students in the separate classes had the highest levels of achievement across the comparison groups and other program types but the lowest perceptions of their academic competence and sense of acceptance by peers. Students in the special schools also had lower perceptions of their academic competence than did the other groups of children. Delcourt et al. Concluded that lowered selfesteem or perceptions of academic competence, which appear after initial placement and last for about 2 years subsequently, is a result of social comparison—that is, students comparing themselves to other very bright students. Students in all the groups studied reported that they felt comfortable with the number of friends they had in their own school and their popularity. “The type of grouping arrangement did not influence student perceptions of their social relations for gifted or nongifted students” (Delcourt et al., 1994, p. xix).
Archambault et al. (1993) studied a national sample of third- and fourth-grade teachers to determine what kinds of strategies they use to provide differentiated instruction to gifted students. The results showed that across different types of schools, teachers made only minor modifications in the regular curriculum to meet the needs of gifted students. These included eliminating already-mastered material and assigning advanced readings, independent projects, enrichment worksheets, or reports. In addition, gifted students were given no more opportunities to work at enrichment centers, work with other students on a specific interest, move to another grade for a particular subject, or work on an advanced curriculum unit than were average students within their classrooms (Archambault et al., 1993).
One strategy that has been proposed as appropriate for gifted students is curriculum compacting; this is a strategy whereby needless repetition and drill and already-learned concepts are eliminated from the curriculum through pretesting or some kind of preassessment. Research done by Reis et al. (1993) showed that 40–50% of the in-grade curriculum could be eliminated for gifted students in subjects such as math, social studies, and science without affecting achievement. Specifically these students still scored as well as or higher than did other gifted students who had not had curriculum compacting on achievement tests given above level. This study also showed that teacher training was critical to the implementation of curriculum compacting as a strategy to accommodate gifted students’ higher levels of knowledge and faster learning rates. The quality of compacting was higher for teachers in this study who received more intensive training, including several hours of group compacting simulations and 6–10 hours of peer coaching.
Regardless of how well they compacted the curriculum, most teachers had a tendency to substitute nonacademic kinds of activities such as peer tutoring when content material was eliminated from instruction (Reis et al., 1993). They also preferred to substitute with enrichment rather than accelerative types of learning activities. The authors suggest that further training on substitution strategies was needed as well as access to and assistance with selecting appropriate advanced content materials to use with students.
Types of Gifted Programs: Secondary Level
Within the field of gifted education, the lion’s share of the research and writing about programs is focused on elementary school-aged children. For children in this age range, both program models (e.g., Renzulli’s model, multiple intelligences) and different kinds of administrative and grouping arrangements for the delivery of services (e.g., pullout programs, enrichment, cluster grouping, acceleration, resource room, etc.) abound. However, for secondary-level students, fewer models for programs exist, and creative service delivery options are rarely employed. In most secondary schools, honors-track and AP classes are the only options for students functioning above grade level. However, at the secondary level (in contrast to the elementary level) accelerative options are more readily accepted as a means to accommodate gifted learners owing in part to the success and wide acceptance of the AP program, which implies that students are working at least 1 year above grade level.
Special classes for advanced secondary students typically occur within departments that are organized around major content domains. This means that many opportunities may be available to students to develop high levels of talent within particular domains. It can also result in a program that has many good parts but no whole—no systematic means or process of identifying students who need special programming and no integration across the curriculum (VanTasselBaska, 1998).
At the elementary level, there is often an individual responsible for the gifted program—the gifted coordinator. At the secondary level, this is rarely the case. Programs that are considered appropriate for gifted students at the secondary level are the APprogram of the College Board, which enables students to take college-level courses while in high school and via examination thereby earn college credits; and the International Baccalaureate program (IB), which is a 2-year program of advanced courses taken in the junior and senior years. The IB program emphasizes multicultural perspectives and foreign language proficiency and is an international program designed to prepare high school students to be able to pursue college or university course work at any institution worldwide. The IB program was initially developed in the 1960s as a result of international school efforts to establish a common curriculum and university entry credentials for geographically mobile students. Schools opt to implement the IB program, a process that entails a detailed self-study and several years of planning and preparation. Students who enroll in the IB program take special courses and exams in order to earn the IB diploma. IB is considered to be an academically rigorous course of studies by U.S. colleges and universities (Tookey, 1999/2000).
In 22 states within the United States, legislation enables high school students to be simultaneously enrolled in high school and college—referred to as dual enrollment, concurrent enrollment, or postsecondary option. Students who partake of this option spend part of their day on a college campus taking a college course. The legislation across states varies considerably (McCarthy, 1999; Olszewski-Kubilius & Limburg-Weber, 1999) but typically requires high schools to use their per-pupil state funds to pay part or all of the college tuition. The legislation may stipulate what kinds of courses can be taken (typically only courses that the high school does not offer), the number of courses that can be taken, and the types of institutions (private vs. public) that students can attend. Some states specify the circumstances under which students can earn high school and college credit and the amount of credit that can be earned. Most states reserve dual enrollment for juniors and seniors who have already earned a certain number of high school credits or satisfied a specified number of graduation requirements. Dual enrollment and AP are similar in that they both are ways in which high school students can take classes for college credit while in high school.
Other programmatic options for gifted secondary students include competitions and internships. These options are not exclusively for gifted students, although they typically require demonstration of a high level of interest in a specific area (internships) or require advanced skills in order to be competitive (competitions). Thus, they are often viewed as most appropriate for students who are gifted.
Competitions are typically extracurricular activities, and students can participate via the sponsorship of their school or on their own. There are many different kinds of competitions (see Olszewski-Kubilius & Limburg-Weber, 1999, for resources) in many different domains. The benefits of competitions include learning how to compete, acquiring and honing independent study skills, gaining opportunities for feedback and critique from professionals, and opportunities to work on real-world problems. Competitions also often have significant cash prizes. Several of the best known are the Intel Science Talent Search (formerly Westinghouse) and the Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry Olympiads. Usually, students who get involved in team competitions prepare for them via a high school club. These extracurricular activities have many advantages for students; they provide socially supportive contexts within which students can learn a great deal of specific subject matter (Subotnik, Miserandino, & Olszewski-Kubilius, 1997).
Internships are typically available to college-aged students, although increasingly, these opportunities are being opened to high school students and being organized by high schools. The benefits of internships are primarily in the opportunities to participate in significant adult work and to connect with professionals who can assist with career and educational planning (Olszewski-Kubilius & Limburg-Weber, 1999).
Other options for gifted students include special schools. Currently there are 10 special high schools within the United States (six in the South or Southeast, two in the Midwest, one in the West, and one in the Northeast) designed for students who are mathematically and scientifically talented. These schools are supported by state education dollars, which means that tuition and room and board are free. Typically they are established by the state legislature after extensive lobbying efforts on the part of parents and state lawmakers. Most serve students in Grades 11 and 12 only. These schools offer an advanced curriculum and have a variety of courses in mathematics and science that is wider than the variety that would be found at a typical high school. They can also give students educational opportunities that are not usually available to most high school students, such as opportunities to work with scientists on research, access to state-of-the-art laboratories, and career counseling (Olszewski-Kubilius & Limburg-Weber, 1999). These schools are also home to some internationally ranked chess, debate, and academic teams.
A final option for gifted high school students is early entrance to college. Many students across the United States leave high school 1 year early and enter college; most colleges and universities accept younger students. However, a dozen or so special early college entrance programs exist that accept students 2–4 years early. These programs are often designed so that students simultaneously complete high school graduation requirements and earn college credits. Some are supported by state education dollars. These programs provide special support systems for students in the form of designated counselors, special dormitories, and social events (Olszewski-Kubilius & Limburg-Weber, 1999).
Many programs geared towards gifted and talented students are sponsored by organizations and institutions other than schools—predominantly universities and colleges. Parents have turned to these institutions for services for their gifted children because such services are not available from their local school and because they want their children to have additional academic opportunities. These extraeducational opportunities include summer programs, study abroad, and distance learning programs.
Summer programs have increased tremendously, and there are hundreds of such programs in the United States. Distance learning programs are also growing—for example, virtual high schools. Some distance learning programs offer a complete high school curriculum. Several programs are geared specifically towards advanced learners and offer AP courses or college-level courses in traditional by-mail formats or through online and Internet technologies (OlszewskiKubilius & Limburg-Weber, 1999). Gifted students use distance learning courses to take advanced courses that they cannot fit into their schedule at high school or to take courses not offered by their school. Study abroad programs are generally not specifically targeted at academically gifted students but are often used by such students to enhance their high school studies or are used to fill a semester left vacant by accelerated studies.
In the United States, there exists a nationally available program called talent search that plays a substantial role in educating gifted children but is not sponsored by schools. Talent search programs involve testing children anywhere from Grades 3 through 9 who are performing at the 95th percentile or above on a standardized in-grade achievement test via standardized tests that are given off-level. The most well-developed programs involve having seventh- and eighth-grade students take the SAT or the American College Test (ACT). Other talent search programs involve younger students in taking tests such as the PLUS and EXPLORE. Comparable talent searches are carried out all over the United States by various universities that provide services to a single state or to several states. It is estimated that over 200,000 students across the United States participate in talent search programs annually.
The talent search programs increase families’ access to educational resources specifically designed for gifted students, including special summer programs, distance learning programs, weekend courses for students, and conferences and workshops for parents. They give parents information about gifted children’s developmental, social, psychological, and educational needs through newsletters and magazines (Olszewski-Kubilius, 1998).
Talent search programs are among the most researched models of identification of academic talent and service delivery that exist within the field of gifted education (OlszewskiKubilius, 1998). Research has validated the use of the 95th percentile as a cutoff score for participation in the talent search and the predictive validity of scores on the SAT for performance in accelerated classes (Olszewski-Kubilius, 1998). Talent search scores provide a valid indication of level of developed reasoning ability and learning rate within several academic domains that can be matched to educational programs adjusted for pacing and content. Talent search scores are also predictive of future accomplishments such as grades and course taking in high school; they are also predictive of choice of field of study in graduate school (see Olszewski-Kubilius, 1998 for a review of this research).
Although research evidence about the long-term effects of participation in gifted programs is scant, the most substantial body of research exists surrounding the effects of participation in talent-search-sponsored educational programs. Specifically, students who had participated in special programs were more likely to pursue advanced courses in high school such as BC calculus and AP courses, chose more academically selective colleges, earned more honors, were more likely to accelerate their studies, and had higher educational aspirations than did students who did not (see Olszewski-Kubilius, 1997, for a review). These effects were especially potent for gifted females, enabling them to keep up with gifted boys in mathematics course taking (see Olszewski-Kubilius, 1998, for a review of this research). It is likely that participation in out-of-school educational programs that offer advanced and accelerated courses provides both social support for achievement and a safe setting in which to risk taking challenging courses. Achieving success in classes such as these does much to bolster students’ confidence, there by increasing the possibility that they will pursue advanced courses in their home school setting.
Although institutions other than the local schools are increasingly serving gifted students through programs and courses, there is very little articulation between in-school and out-of-school programs. Many students take courses in university summer programs for their own personal growth and enrichment and do not expect to receive credit from their school. Increasingly, however, students and families use summer programs to complete required high school courses or to complete advanced courses that can fulfill graduation requirements. Credit for summer courses or any outside-ofschool program is infrequently given for a variety of reasons (Olszewski-Kubilius, Laubscher, Wohl, & Grant, 1996). At present, schools and out-of-school institutions that serve gifted students through programs work independently rather than cooperatively.
The Future of Gifted Education
Although it is difficult to make predictions about the future of gifted education, it is certain that there will be significant changes in both what is delivered to students and the manner in which it is given. At present, there is a shift away from offering gifted programs to serving gifted children within their heterogeneous classrooms; this is in part due to dwindling resources for special programs, the fact that the pullout program (the most typical gifted program) is expensive and cumbersome to run, and the current climate of inclusion regarding special needs students. Research cited previously suggests that although having the regular teacher meet the needs of gifted students within the classroom sounds good in theory, it is difficult to implement, and little real differentiation of curriculum and instruction actually takes place. However, this does not mean that this model cannot be salvaged or that the preference for inclusion will diminish. It requires a shift in the conception of the gifted coordinator and in the conception of the gifted.
Typically the gifted coordinator administers the single gifted program. However, a new conceptualization is that of coordinator of resources for children capable of working above grade level and for teachers who work with them. Gifted children cannot be served with a one-size-fits-all program. Research on talented children reveals no single profile of giftedness, and very few children are exceptional across all school subjects. Thus, a variety of programs and services needs to be in place for a variety of children with a variety of exceptional abilities. The talent development coordinator’s role would be to devise and implement identification systems for various domains, assist teachers with grouping arrangements and differentiation of curriculum within the classroom for all children who are advanced, help teachers adjust the level of the curriculum to provide challenge for all students, make special arrangements for students with exceptional needs (learning disabled and gifted or highly gifted), help students access outside-of-school educational programs, coordinate with community organizations and institutions of higher education for services and programs, and design needed school or district programs.
Efforts to help more marginal students reach their potential through special programs could reasonably be considered under the rubric of the talent development program. The research on talent development has shown that schools and the process by which high levels of talent are developed are often at odds. For example, the retrospective literature on eminent adults shows a pattern of early specialization in the talent area and education more akin to apprenticeships and mentorships, unlike our current traditional schooling (Sosniak, 1999; Subotnik & Coleman, 1996). Shifting to a talent development approach to education will require dealing with strongly held beliefs that education—particularly early education—should promote well-roundedness. Can we take what the literature has to offer regarding how talent develops and incorporate it into our schooling process for all children? Gifted education and the talent development literature may have much to say to those who wish to reformulate schools so that all children are motivated to learn to their highest potential. The fundamental basis for gifted education is recognizing individual differences among children and responding to them sothat allchildren are challenged intellectually in school.
The major issues facing gifted education as a field (as well as education generally) is the gap between the achievement of minorities and nonminorities at every socioeconomic level (Reaching the Top; College Board, 1999). Gifted programs have been criticized for underidentifying students of color and for contributing to the inequities that exist in schools regarding the education of poor and minority children (Sapon-Shevin, 1996). Gifted education needs to be responsive to this issue and see itself as an important part of the solution to the problem. More equitable ways of identifying talent need to be developed, and programs need to focus on potential for achievement as well as already developed ability. There are assessments available, such as the Naglieri NoverbalAbilityTest (NNAT) that appear to be better at identifying minority children who are gifted than do the IQ and achievement measures currently in use (Sacuzzo et al., 1994). However, the NNAT and other similar measures are rarely included in gifted identification protocols. In addition, when more children with potential as opposed to actualized and demonstrated ability are included in the gifted program, the nature of the program will necessarily have to change. Verbally articulate, culturally enriched, middle- or uppermiddle-class will not longer be the typical profile of characteristics of children within the gifted program, and curriculum content and instruction will need to respond to a more varied range of interests, abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. These issues will likely frame both research and practice in the upcoming decade.
Another lesson from the studies of talented individuals is the important role of out-of-school agencies in developing talent. Many parents who have financial resources seek additional services and programs for their talented children from universities, summer camps, and other organizations. However, tuition costs make lack of access an important issue and potentially can increase the inequities between talented students of varying economic levels.An important role for gifted education is forging a closer connection between schools and community organizations and institutions in the service of educating children. Communities can offer opportunities for students to connect with mentors and to have internships, additional classes, and enrichment experiences. Gifted education needs to move beyond the school walls to provide the kinds of experiences that talented children need to develop high levels of talent and to remain engaged, motivated, and challenged. Lauren Sosniak (1998) calls for children’s involvement in communities of practice or adult worlds where they can work as novice yet contributing members. These kinds of experiences may be vital to the development of talent because they can affect both the acquisition of needed skills and attitudes and also increase motivation to succeed.
Articulation and cooperation between outside-of-school agencies such as universities and museums and schools is also critical if schooling moves beyond the school walls. It is not unusual for schools to deny students credit or appropriate placement for courses that they have taken outside their local school. Examples included denying high school credit for Algebra I taken in the eighth grade at the elementary or middle school or denying credit for a course taken at a university summer program (Olszewski-Kubilius et al., 1996). Concerns about the quality of outside courses certainly affect schools’ decisions about credit and placement, but if schools cannot provide the needed courses at the appropriate time for gifted students (which may mean earlier than for most students), they must be more willing to work with outside agencies to do so. The boundaries between levels of schooling must become more fluid and the dependence on age for placement into classes less rigid to meet the needs of gifted children.
A theme that emerges from the research on practices in gifted education is the importance of teacher training. It is clear that teachers will improve in the identification of gifted students and provision of differentiated curriculum and instruction if given training. It is also clear that training must involve much more than is typically thought of as professional development—that is, attendance at a workshop or conference—and is more likely to succeed in changing teacher behaviors if modeling and mentoring are provided for an extended length of time. In the Archambault et al. (1993) study cited earlier, 61% of the teachers had not had any inservice training in gifted education despite the fact that their average length of teaching was 10 years. Little more than half of the states in the United States currently require teachers to have special endorsements or certificates to teach gifted students. Preservice training in gifted education typically consists of a few hours of instruction within the Exceptional Children course. Only when there is recognition that meeting the educational needs of gifted students does require special techniques and methods that must be specifically taught to and acquired by teachers will this situation change.
Afinalissuethatwillaffectgiftededucationisthepotential role of distance education in helping to serve gifted students. Already, virtual high schools and universities exist offering advanced curricula to learners from diverse schools and backgrounds. Distance education has the potential to completely reorganize the way special advanced classes can be offered and increase access to them dramatically. It also has the potential to relegate gifted education to outside agencies as schools find it easier to use these programs in lieu of making substantial accommodations in their basic curricula and programs.
Despite the research presented in this research paper, there is a paucity of studies on the effectiveness and outcomes of different types of program models—particularly at the secondary level. Specifically, research on cooperative programs between schools and community institutions or schools and universities is needed as well as research about program models that effectively serve a diverse group of gifted children. Many innovative approaches are being tried, but few are being tested and adequately evaluated. Although there is considerable research on several practices within the field, the literature on best practices is still relatively limited.
Along with best practices, more research is needed on the types of training and professional development models that help teachers to acquire the skills they need. And finally, more research is needed on why attitudes toward certain practices such as acceleration continue to be negative despite the overwhelming positive research support for the practice. Research is sorely needed on how to use research in this field to effect change and affect school policies and classroom practices.
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