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F. Richard Olenchak
The University of Alabama
Joseph S. Renzulli
University of Connecticut
This study examined the effectiveness of a year long application of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model in eleven schools. Subjects consisted of 1,698 elementary grade students, 236 teachers, 120 parents, and 10 principals. Data analysis revealed positive changes in student and teacher attitudes. Student creative products were numerous and exceeded the norm of typical student creative output. Most notable among qualitative data analysis were: remarkably favorable changes in attitudes toward education of the gifted on the part of classroom teachers and the general student population, large increases in student centered enrichment activities and work on self-selected interests, greater cooperation between classroom teachers and gifted education specialists, and more favorable attitudes toward special programming on the part of parents.
Although programs that serve gifted and talented students have traditionally been restricted to small and select groups, there has been a trend in recent years to experiment with more flexible approaches to both identification and programming. This trend is undoubtedly the result of recent research on the nature of human abilities (e.g., Sternberg, 1982; Gardner, 1983; Bloom, 1985) and a realization that some of the activities recommended for the gifted can successfully be applied to larger segments of the school population (Renzulli, 1977; Reis & Renzulli, 1982; Shore & Tsiamis, 1985; Feldman, 1983; and Birch, 1984). A greater interest in performance based identification, and a concern about the “condition of separateness” that often exists between special and regular programs have also contributed to a willingness to experiment with approaches that hold promise for overcoming some of the problems that historically have drawn criticism to the field of gifted education.
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a programming model that was specifically designed to apply some of the technology of gifted education to the overall process of schoolwide enrichment. The model employed as the experimental treatment in the study is entitled The Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM, Renzulli & Reis, 1985a), and the experimental design consisted of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. The study compared differences between a control group and several groups participating in year long SEM programs. The specific factors examined were student attitudes toward learning, teacher attitudes toward teaching, the extent and quality of students’ creative productivity, and the processes involved in the implementation of SEM. Two overall goals of the study were (1) to determine if a school’s participation in this type of program would result in specific and quantifiable indicators of schoolwide change, and (2) to examine whether or not such participation would result in more favorable attitudes toward the entire concept of gifted education.
Subjects, Site Selection, and Randomization
The subjects in this study consisted of 1,698 students in grades K-6, 236 elementary grade teachers, and 120 parents, representative in general proportion to the grade levels involved. Qualitative data dealing with implementation procedures were also gathered from 10 elementary principals. The student sample represented 28% of the total population of approximately 6,000 pupils enrolled in the 11 participating schools. The student sample was stratified according to grade level and randomly selected from all K-6 classrooms. The teacher sample included all regular classroom teachers at each of the 11 school sites.
Because the Schoolwide Enrichment Model encompasses entire school units, it was important to realize that experimental and control groups could not be located within the same school buildings. Therefore, entire schools had to be assigned to either treatment or control groups in order to protect control populations from contamination by aspects of the SEM treatment. A detailed demographic examination of each interested site was undertaken in an effort to locate similarities among schools prior to assignment. This investigation entailed an extensive review of the most recent school and United States Census data pertaining to district socioeconomic levels, school attendance, staff educational levels, and the curriculum offered to students through both gifted and regular education programs. Schools that were selected, enrolled between 350 and 750 students and served either urban or suburban populations.
After this review of demographic and curricular information had been completed, the schools were compared for similarities. Using those data, subjects were divided among 10 treatment schools and one control sight. In the world of public education, it was found that randomization of subjects by schools into experimental and control groups was not possible in this study. Although over 25 schools were sought to provide control subjects, a great hesitancy on the parts of administrations to serve as control sites was encountered. Moreover, school administrators evinced an offsetting desire to provide experimental subjects on the parts of school administrators—so much so that the 10 treatment sites were randomly selected from over 30 that had indicated a willingness to experiment with the program model employed as treatment. At least superficially, the unequal number of control and treatment sites was a result of schools’ general desire to participate in a novel treatment and general unwillingness to serve as a control for this experiment. For this reason, we will not report the results of hierarchical regression comparisons of student and teacher attitudes toward learning and teaching between the experimental groups and the single control group; however, the results of these analyses are available from the authors upon request.
Since true random assignment of either students or teachers to the treatment or control groups was impossible because of the all-encompassing schoolwide nature of the treatment itself, extensive research of the demographic and curricular characteristics of the schools was undertaken in an effort to secure schools that were as alike as possible. Special consideration of demographic data was made in an attempt to equalize the student groups according to grade level, classroom teacher experience, classroom teaching style, and classroom climate. In similar fashion, the teacher group was studied with special consideration for grade level taught, gender, experience, educational training level, nature of leadership in the school, student discipline, and staff conflict. In order to enhance the demographic data collected and analyzed and to reflect more clearly the aforementioned variables, extensive interviews with central office administrators were conducted to obtain additional information.
In order to be selected for participation in this study, school officials had to agree to a specified set of enrichment programming procedures set forth in the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (Renzulli & Reis, 1985a). It was also necessary for each school to have an enrichment resource teacher on at least a half- time basis. In all cases, written agreement was obtained from administrations and boards of education as further assurance that actual SEM implementation would take place. Each site also agreed to permit the researchers and one objective and independent observer to visit on a quarterly basis in order to insure that actual implementation was taking place. Participating schools were expected to identify students who were of above average ability in one or more areas of performance or potential. Identification was based on achievement test scores, teacher nominations, student interests, and other procedures set forth in the model.
Space limitations prevent a detailed description of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model; however, we have attempted to summarize the major organizational and service delivery components in Figure 1. These service delivery components constitute the major focus of the experimental treatment so far as student services are concerned and are briefly described as follows:
Curriculum Compacting. Modifying or “streamlining” the regular curriculum in order to eliminate repetition of previously mastered material, upgrade the challenge level of the regular curriculum, and provide time for appropriate enrichment and/or acceleration activities while ensuring mastery of basic skills.
Assessment of Student Strengths. A systematic procedure for gathering and recording information about students’ abilities, interests, and learning styles.
Type I Enrichment: General Exploratory Experiences. Experiences and activities that are designed to expose students to a wide variety of disciplines (fields of study), visual and performing arts, topics, issues, occupations, hobbies, persons, places, and events that are not ordinarily covered in the regular curriculum.
Type II Enrichment: Group Training Activities. Instructional methods and materials that are purposefully designed to promote the development of thinking and feeling processes.
Type III Enrichment: Individual and Small Group Investigations of Real Problems. Investigative activities and artistic productions in which the learner assumes the role of a first hand inquirer; the student thinking, feeling, and acting like a practicing professional.
Figure 1. Overview of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (Click on the figure to see it as a PDF file. )
At each experimental school site, enrichment teams working in cooperation with resource teachers organized a wide variety of general enrichment activities. These activities (Types I and II in Figure 1) encompass exploration of topics, issues, and materials not ordinarily covered in the regular curriculum and a wide variety of systematically organized process training skills. General enrichment was provided to all students in the experimental schools for one academic year. Calendars of exploratory activities (Type I) were developed, and students participated through all-school events, grade level or single -classroom events, or through cross-grade special interest groups. Process training activities were organized in all classrooms in the treatment schools using a scope and sequence approach called the Type II Taxonomy (Renzulli & Reis, 1985a). Whenever possible, these activities were integrated with regular curricular experiences.
The ways in which individual students or small groups responded to particular activities served as the bases for determining which students would revolve into more advanced and self-selected follow-up studies related to a given topic or area of study (Type III). In other words, performance based “identification situations” served as a means for decision making about the nature and extent of subsequent program involvements. Type III Enrichment opportunities were available for students who demonstrated above average ability in a self-selected area of interest and who also showed a willingness to develop task commitment and creativity in connection with the topic. Teachers were provided with information that would encourage students to pursue their topics using the modus operandi of the practicing professional.
In addition to participating in all aspects of the schoolwide enrichment process, high ability students also received supplementary services in the form of curriculum compacting in regular classrooms, and advanced level enrichment experiences and acceleration provided by resource teachers in pull-out and cluster grouping arrangements. Cluster groups generally consisted of top level reading and math students or students who shared a similar interest in a particular topic or area of study. Experimental schools were expected to participate in inservice training related to the implementation of the treatment model and to maintain careful records through the various planning guides. These guides, referred to as Action Forms in the SEM, provide consistency of treatment and serve as management devices that provide form and structure to the model. Each participating school had to verify that all specified activities within the model were in fact implemented throughout the course of the school year during which this experimental treatment took place.
Research Design and Instrumentation
The first portion of the research was quasi-experimental, and examined variations in students’ and teachers’ attitudes through the use of hierarchical multiple regression procedures. Analysis of the quality of student products was carried out through simple mean calculations from comparisons of tallies of the number of Type III investigations initiated to the number actually completed. In addition, mean rankings for each completed Type III product were determined from individual rankings of two independent raters. The group means were then compared to mean scores on the product assessment instrument (described below). A minimal inter- rater reliability criterion level of .75 was maintained. The quality of student products was determined through the use of The Student Product Assessment Form (Reis, 1981). This instrument operationally defines product quality by analyzing the degree of presence/absence of the following factors:
- Early Statement of Purpose
- Problem Focusing
- Level of Resources
- Diversity of Resources
- Appropriateness of Resources
- Logic, Sequence, and Transition
- Action Orientation
- Overall Assessment
- Originality of the Idea
- Achieved Objectives Stated in Plan
- Advanced Familiarity with Subject
- Quality Beyond Age/Grade Level
- Care, Attention to Detail, etc.
- Time, Effort, Energy
- Original Contribution
The instrument has an estimated reliability of .96, and levels of agreement among raters on individual items range from 86.4% to 100%. The test-retest (r=.96) reliability was established over a period of one year by having a group of independent raters assess the same set of student products on two separate occasions with an intervening period of time between the two assessments.
A two pronged qualitative analysis was selected to examine the processes involved in the implementation of SEM. Data obtained from interviews, observations, and logs was reduced by selecting, focusing, simplifying, abstracting, and transforming into key themes (listed below) based on the methodology of natural history. Second, all themes were analyzed by a team of researchers who were selected because of their general experience in programming for the gifted and talented. The themes were examined for relevance to implementation of SEM and were sequenced according to the point at which each theme would be included in the implementation process. There was 95% agreement among the rating groups on the sequence of events. This process enabled the researchers to support placement of these themes into a particular events sequence based on both the data collected and on the judgment of the content experts.
Qualitative data were obtained from students, teachers, principals, and parents through the use of four separate interview agendas that were developed for the respective groups. Factors examined by these agendas will be discussed in the sections that follow. Additionally, enrichment activity logs were maintained by six randomly selected teachers at each experimental school site and field notes were recorded by the researchers as part of the observation process.*
Student Creative Productivity
The major aspect of this research concentrated on an examination of the quality of students’ creative products that emerged as a result of Type III investigations (i.e., individual and small group studies of real problems) at the treatment schools. Although previous research has examined this issue from a comparative perspective involving Talent Pool and non-Talent Pool youngsters, the question of student products has not been explored in schools that have undertaken systematic schoolwide enrichment activities.
Tallies of the number of Type III investigations initiated and of the number actually completed were maintained at each treatment site. Calculation of a simple mean from the tallies yielded the mean number of Type III products that emerged from those initiated. Because control group students would not be expected to produce creative products of the Type III genre due to their lack of training in schoolwide enrichment processes that evoke such products, comparison to the control site was not carried out. Table 1 displays the relationship between the number of Type III investigations initiated and those completed.
Type III Investigations: Initiated Versus Completed
|Treatment Site||N of Started Type III’s||N of Completed Type III’s||Percent|
|Standard Deviation =||11.47||8.11||6.93|
In addition, a 20% random sample of the completed Type III products was submitted to assessment by two objective and independent raters using the Student Product Assessment Form (SPAF) (Renzulli & Reis, 1985b). The sample was stratified according to treatment sites so that each of the schools experimenting with schoolwide enrichment would have a portion of their students’ creative products represented in the sample.
Mean ratings for the random sample of products selected for evaluation were calculated on the basis of each rater’s scoring of his/her sample. Mean ratings were also calculated across raters. Inter-rater reliability was calculated for level of agreement between the two raters and a t-test was employed to locate any statistically significant differences between the raters.
The Type III investigations initiated in the 10 treatment schools were tallied by gifted education resource teachers. This information resulted in a total of 297 reported Type III investigations that had been initiated. Of this number, 216 were deemed by the students and the gifted education resource teachers to have been completed. This translates to 72.73% of Type III investigations initiated that actually came to fruition as completed products. The completion rate is quite high based on previous research about Type III investigations (Reis, 1981). Completed products ranged in frequency at each treatment school from 12 to 43, with the mean number of completed Type III investigations being 21.6.
Two independent raters evaluated each product.* The inter-rater reliability, using the results of the Type III ratings, was calculated at .886, exceeding the .75 criterion level that was established prior to the advent of the data collection for this study. The results of the t-test analysis indicated that there were not significant differences between the two raters based on the ratings of all of the sample Type III products (p = .36).
The results of this analysis revealed that students at the SEM sites produced a large number of individual and small group Type III investigations based on previous studies of Type III production (Reis, 1981). The quality of Type III products can be estimated by comparing the independent raters’ scores with the range (0 – 80) and the mean scores (M = 45, SD = 5.30) from previous administrations of the SPAF used in assessing products of other students who had demonstrated above average ability, creativity, and task commitment. Treatment site scores ranged from a low of 48.25 to a high of 65.0l. The lowest mean rating across raters at any treatment school was 49.50, and the average of all evaluated Type III products was 53.2l. These results indicate that student creative productivity was clearly in the well above average to superior range based on previous SPAF administrations.
Enrichment Implementation Steps
Qualitative research techniques intended to trace patterns in descriptive data were pursued in response to an examination of enrichment implementation steps. Descriptive information ideally should be derived through several types of data sources so that conclusions are drawn across sources. This procedure offered a positive alternative to formulating conclusions based on only one type of data source. The Dynneson-Bastian Model for school ethnography (Hirsch, 1981) provided the researcher with a logical system for the collection and analysis of descriptive data from three sources using triangulated comparison analyses of the results of various types of interviews, observations, and logs. This procedure involved detailed examinations of interviews with students, teachers, principals, and parents. Augmenting the interviews, were analyses of observations of students and teachers and reviews of teacher activity logs. Interviews, observations and activity log analyses focused on the extent and nature of implementation of the service delivery components described above, problems encountered in the implementation process (e.g., demands made upon students’ and teachers’ time, availability of resources, cooperation among regular and special program teachers), and general attitudes toward the program.
Using a two-pronged analyses, the raw data were reduced by selecting, focusing, simplifying, abstracting, and transforming into key themes based on the inductive and deductive methodology of natural history (Dobbert, 1984; Spradley, 1979, 1980). The pretreatment and post treatment interview data and the observational data were reduced to internal themes. Individual themes were then combined to form composite themes. Once these procedures had been completed, the themes that had been identified were submitted to examination by a group of four experts who were well versed in the Schoolwide Enrichment Model and its service delivery components. These expert resource persons displayed 95 percent agreement on the sequence of events and characteristics of the key themes relating to the process of implementing schoolwide enrichment.
Teacher, student, and parent interview data were further examined by tallying the responses and comparing the percentages occurring in each category before and after treatment. Garrett’s (1958) formula was used to determine the level of significance between correlated percentages. Percentage data from this procedure are presented in Tables 2, 3, and 5.
Results of Qualitative Analyses
Items on a Teacher Interview Agenda concentrated on the nature of activities within the framework of regular classrooms and whether there is time allocated for student exploration of self-determined topics. Based on the concept of enrichment as described in the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, items also focused on whether teachers accessed experts in fields of study. Such access encourages students to be exposed to practicing professionals. Hence, items also addressed whether or not the concept of gifted education actually encompassed some of the regular education activities as a means for fostering the emergence of gifted behavior in youngsters.
Pre and Post teacher interviews were carried out with a 25% sample that was representative of all elementary grades in the treatment schools. This group can be described as having had a good deal of experience (Range = 1-35 years) and as adequately representing all elementary grades. Table 2 provides an overview of the alterations in teacher perceptions related to 12 concepts crucial to the implementation of enrichment and the statistical difference between correlated percentages. All 12 concepts were highly significant (p<.001). Teachers reported they could provide classroom exploration time without necessarily having students complete regular seatwork beforehand. Moreover, teachers grew to appreciate the need for and importance of teamwork in securing resource persons and sharing their expertise among many classrooms.
Teacher Interviews: A Pretreatment -Posttreatment Comparison (N=66)
|Topic||Pre Percent||Post Percent||Statistical Difference Between Correlated Percentages|
|can provide exploration within classroom||71||93-3||3.90*|
|students must complete seatwork before exploration||91.3||40.7||5.75*|
|gifted education teacher facilitates classroom exploring||0||66.4||6.65|
|exploration built into classroom through learning centers or curriculum compacting||16||47||4.45|
|view school library as the only place to send child for more exploration time||63.8||6||6.19*|
|view library as resource to be used in combination with gifted program, mentors, extra materials||0||94||9.55*|
|use community professionals as means for enrichment in classroom||31.9||88.7||6.19*|
|resource person arrangements made by myself||71.5||9.8||6.40|
|resource persons shared between classrooms and grade levels||33.4||94.9||6.40|
|resource person arrangements facilitated by gifted teacher||2.3||69.8||6.65|
|gifted education viewed negatively||84.6||18.8||6.65|
|gifted education viewed positively||15.4||81.2||6.65|
The student interview and observation sample of 120 randomly selected students was divided equally among the 10 treatment sites to provide 12 student interviews per treatment using a Student Interview Agenda. This seven-item instrument concentrated on the nature of the school day from student perspectives: time for exploration of interests, how such time is allowed within the framework of the school day, knowledge of enrichment activities and their availability, and knowledge of the gifted program. As with teachers, the same students were interviewed twice, prior to treatment and once after treatment. The results of these interviews are summarized in Table 3. The difference in percentages before and after treatment was significant on 13 of the 14 items (p.001). After treatment, students indicated they had more school time, with teacher support, to spend in interest areas aside from regular school material. Increasingly, students among the general school population felt that they had some involvement with the gifted program, and a smaller post-treatment percentage viewed the gifted program as restricted to a special group.
Student Interviews: A Pretreatment- Posttreatment Comparison (N=120)
|Topic||Pre Percent||Post Percent||Statistical Difference Between Correlated Percentages|
|have time in school to study interests aside from regular school material||39.2||84.2||7.38*|
|must complete regular seatwork prior to exploring interests||100||62.5||6.75*|
|can pursue exploration of interests during regular class time in my classroom||44.2||57.3||3,95*|
|curriculum compacting understood as means for creating enrichment time||0||46||7.43*|
|currently want to work on an interest area project idea||78.3||50.8||5.80*|
|can have time to work on my interest area project with teacher support||8.4||94.2||10.16*|
|have already been provided with adequate time in school to work on interest projects this year||0||71.6||9.30*|
|have some involvement with the gifted program for interests||4.2||31.6||5.80*|
|have adequate time to leave my classroom to work on interests||33.3||84.2||7.83*|
|mostly work on interests in library||98.3||64.2||6.50*|
|work on interests through visits to gifted resource room||3.6||36.7||6.30*|
|have heard of the gifted program||90.8||96.6||.85|
|have something to do with the gifted program||9.2||72.6||8.70*|
|think gifted program is restricted to a particularly “smart” group||89.6||14.8||9.49*|
Employing the identical qualitative research design as that employed with teachers and students, the principals of the 10 treatment schools were interviewed in pre and post-treatment fashion using a Principal Interview Agenda. Unlike the teacher and student interviews, however, the principal interviews did not evidence very large changes in perceptions. For example, in the fall principals largely viewed the gifted education program as:
“important…regarded as part of our whole school plan…activities that are available to many students and not only those who have been assigned the label of ‘gifted;'”
“shifting to a schoolwide approach and as an enhancer of the basic curriculum…progress is tied directly to the type of gifted teacher and the amount of time allocated to each school;”
“evolving from a rather elitist program for a few to one that serves many children;” and “starting to become more of an integral part of the school.”
In similar fashion, the post interviews with principals revealed the following comments that described the schoolwide enrichment program as:
“serving many roles now…serving those children who are extremely bright and motivated to pursue an interest area to its depths…serving students who all need extension beyond the basics…enhancing the self-concepts of virtually every child in the building because of an increasingly positive school climate attributable to the gifted program;”
“slowly progressing with a broadened conception of serving gifted children…teachers’ thinking about what gifted programs are for has changed to consider that giftedness may not be just children with high test scores…parents are frustrated with the slow pace of change but love the program;”
“having much more impact on the school than ever before because kids, regardless of scores and grades, can possibly achieve high quality work in an area they love.”
While principals may have become stronger in their convictions about implementing the Schoolwide Enrichment Model as the year progressed, the principals’ roles in their schools as instructional leaders were clearly evident in both sets of interviews. It was the principals who offered positive impressions about the gifted program at the outset in order to motivate their schools in pursuing implementation of schoolwide enrichment. Consequently, it follows logically that principals would have maintained those impressions as the treatment project began to be implemented. Perhaps it was most important that the perceptions of principals did not grow less positive during the course of the treatment. Table 4 summarizes the comparison of principals’ perceptions.
Principal Interviews: A Pretreatment-Posttreatment Comparison
|Topic||Pre Comments||Post Comments|
|perception of gifted program||important; activities for many children: starting to become integrated into the school||serves many children; helps self-concept of children; major role in school program; integrated more than ever thought|
|perceptions of enrichment||something new and different beyond basic curriculum; a nice break from the stress and rigor of basic instruction||creative extensions based on child interest beyond basic skills; provides opportunities for children to apply their basic skills to something they care about|
|role of gifted teacher||acting as key resource to classroom teachers in planning and implementing enrichment and process skill instruction||serving the needs of children who want to work at something and helping classroom teachers provide more appropriate instruction to all students|
Principals also did not alter their perceptions regarding enrichment or the roles of the gifted education teacher. Typically this group described the term, “enrichment,” as “something new and different beyond the basic curriculum” or as “creative extensions beyond the regular curriculum that are based on interests of students.” From fall to spring interviews, these definitions changed very little. In the fall and again during the post interviews, the principals viewed the role of the teacher of gifted as “acting as a key resource to classroom teachers by helping them plan and implement enrichment activities and process skill instruction across grade levels and by assisting students who want to work on a project of quality, or “as serving the needs of kids who seem to want to work at something in-depth and working with teachers to make classrooms more appropriate learning places for all children.” During both interview series, it was stressed by every principal that the gifted education teacher must maintain strong ties to the classroom in order to develop schoolwide enrichment teams as forums for sharing resources, planning events, and encouraging students.
The 10% randomly selected sample of 120 parents was interviewed twice, once prior to treatment and once after. There were 12 parents per treatment school who were selected by a computerized program for randomization from all of the parents of each of the 10 sites. Specific demographic information was intentionally not obtained in order to encourage parents to cooperate as openly as possible, though the computer selection process likely eliminated any possibility of interviewing only certain demographically typed parents. Items on the Parent Interview Agenda concentrated on an understanding of enrichment, knowledge of the gifted program, and the use of practicing professionals in classrooms as resource persons and as mentors. Table 5 provides a summary of parent responses and indicates that significant changes were made in most of their responses before and after the treatment (p.001).
Parent Interviews: A Pretreatment -Posttreatment Comparison (N=120)
|Topic||Pre Percent||Post Percent||Statistical Difference Between Correlated Percentages|
|enrichment is either outside of classrooms or for bright children||95||55||6.93*|
|enrichment includes activities for all children in our school||4.3||45||6.67*|
|my child has ample chance for enrichment in the regular classroom||19.2||81.6||8.70*|
|sufficient time for my child to pursue interest studies during school day||23.6||88.4||8.83*|
|does not at all understand the gifted program or what it is intended to do||52.5||29.2||5.25*|
|gifted program seems very restricted to certain children||34.2||26.6||3.10**|
|some understanding of the broader schoolwide approach and how it can help my child||13.3||44.2||6.10*|
|my child’s class has some professionals come into the room as special resource persons||18.3||20.8||1.90|
|I have visited my child’s classroom to share my profession or skills with the class||14.3||15||1.11|
Teacher logs provided interesting documentation of the types of enrichment activities that were incorporated into regular classrooms during the course of implementation of schoolwide enrichment. These logs were maintained by interviewed teachers using a semistructured format as a means for tracing the nature of activities that each teacher personally identified as enrichment. The log format allowed the researchers to assess the roles of teachers and students within the context of each activity listed.
Over the period from the fall of 1986 through May, 1987, the number of enrichment activities listed by teachers remained relatively consistent after some dramatic increases during the initial steps of the implementation of the SEM treatment (September – December).but the roles of teachers and students shifted greatly. With early log entries, activities tended to have a teacher-centered/ passive student orientation, while later log entries tended to emphasize a student-centered/ active student orientation. The emphasis of SEM on students as active participants in learning clearly provided indication that the enrichment activities were actually becoming integrated into the regular classroom program at the treatment schools. Table 6 presents numbers of enrichment activities offered per month and the nature of teacher and student roles in the activities.
Summary of the Nature of Teacher-Logged Enrichment Activities
|Month||Activities Logged Number||Teacher- Centered Percent||Student- Centered Percent|
|Standard Deviation =||65.02||13.81||13.81|
Of the enrichment activities logged by teachers, all appeared to qualify as verifiable opportunities for students to become acquainted with information and areas of study that are not usually encompassed within each experimental school’s basic curriculum. Although the logged activities span a wide range, several examples provide illustration of the manner in which teachers have worked to integrate enrichment into their programs:
First graders in one pilot school were familiarized with ornithology by their teacher through stories about birds. In order to increase the student opportunities for interest in the field, students constructed bird feeders, maintained observations of the birds visiting the feeders, and ultimately wrote about their experimentation in bird feeding. Such an activity, while it successfully incorporates basic instruction, also served to involve students actively.
Similarly, third grade students in another school were introduced to American Indian culture by a guest speaker from the Indian Cultural Center. While the study of the Plains Indians is part of the basic curriculum, the exposure to an expert in the field of Indian lore created high interest in preparation for student research work about Indians. Each student was encouraged to pursue in-depth study of a particular Indian related interest.
Guest speakers also played an important part in the enrichment of sixth graders at one of the pilot schools. In studying careers, several guests visited and shared their knowledge about careers. While some of the guests were practicing professionals, speakers also included a career counselor and an employment agent. Students arranged for the speakers and prepared appropriate guidelines and questions for them. As with the preceeding examples, students were able to enter their study of a particular area through exposure to exciting real aspects connected with that field.
Although some of the treatment school teachers appear to have conducted a number of enrichment- type activities in their classrooms prior to the implementation of schoolwide enrichment, the logs clearly indicated that efforts to promote student interests have increased. Not only have teachers tried to increase the active classroom involvement of students through enrichment, but the logs provided evidence that there was a new emphasis on encouraging students to become interested enough to continue study in enrichment topic areas. In essence, classroom teachers were working to identify student interests and to nurture them so that students might possibly exercise gifted behavior with respect to self-selected topics. It was clear that teachers were encouraging excellence in the classroom by virtue of their emphasis on high quality enrichment explorations and products.
The results of this study revealed that student attitudes toward learning were positively enhanced by participation in the schoolwide enrichment treatment. The descriptive data provided evidence that students had become increasingly positive about school and the variety of opportunities offered for learning. This was particularly evident in terms of students’ beliefs that their interests were considered in determining the nature of classroom assignments in which they would become involved. The results also indicated that, after participation in the treatment, teachers had been involved in more frequent incidents of shared planning with fellow classroom teachers and with the gifted education resource teacher and that they developed a much more positive impression of gifted education. Perhaps more importantly, these results provide evidence that participation in the treatment did not negatively influence teacher attitudes toward teaching. Research on school change (Berman & McLaughlin, 1979; Fullan, 1982; Hord et al., 1987; Loucks, 1982; Louis & Kell, 1981; Sarason, 1982) has indicated that teachers tend to be slow in altering attitudes toward large-scale aspects of education. Such large-scale aspects include school as a total entity and teaching as a profession. The same group of researchers of school change have provided support for the notion that when teachers are confronted with new curricula or methods, they typically will become more negative in their attitudes about their positions in schools. Usually, these negative attitudes are ameliorated after the stress related to implementation of new programming has subsided and as the new methods begin providing positive outcomes for students.
The results of the present investigation make several important points about students and teachers. First, as schools implement schoolwide enrichment, it is likely that youngsters’ attitudes toward school learning processes will be positively enhanced. In light of the plethora of research criticizing education on many counts, not the least of which is that schools produce poorly prepared graduates (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983), the results of this study appear to offer a possible solution. While there have been no comprehensive studies that have examined the relationship between student attitudes toward learning and students’ eventual preparedness for future study or employment, it seems logical to hypothesize that heightened levels of student attitudes toward learning would ultimately enhance both the quantity and quality of pupils’ learning.
Students consistently supported the attitudinal portion of this study with their remarks. They collectively viewed school as a place that more accurately addressed their personal needs and as providing them with opportunities that they might not have ever had, even aside from school. Perhaps of even greater importance were some attitudinal alterations that were not statistically assessed but nonetheless became obvious through the qualitative portions of this research. These included:
- A general feeling that pursuit of individual interests is both acceptable and encouraged in school;
- a perception that completion of workbook pages and other traditional classroom assignments is not an end but rather a means for obtaining opportunities for greater exploration, training, and creative production within topics based on one’s interests;
- beliefs that school is intended for students to become more attuned to their own personal needs and interests while acquiring the skills necessary for successful adulthood.
Second, implementation of a system of schoolwide enrichment activities is likely to at least maintain teachers’ attitudes toward teaching. While there are many factors that contribute to teacher attitudes toward their work, the results of this examination suggest that teachers who teach in SEM schools will not become less enthusiastic about teaching. As changes evolve within schools, it is not unusual for teachers, particularly at the onset of an innovation, to become less enthused about their work because the innovations may not quite match the preimplementation promotion (Fullan, 1982). Further, teacher feelings of disappointment may be compounded by the pressures related to having to acquire new innovation induced skills or to the different expectations suddenly placed on them from administration. The results of this investigation provided no evidence that teachers’ attitudes had grown less positive about teaching as a result of SEM.
Excellence Begets Excellence
Keeping in mind that traditional gifted education activities are made available to a restricted number of students, it appears fair to conclude that excellence in the gifted program evidently has been separate from excellence in the remainder of the school. An unfortunate by product of this condition of separateness has been negative attitudes toward gifted education on the parts of many people in general education; and a reluctance to allocate funds and supplementary resources because they are perceived as favoritism toward a disproportionately small segment of the total school population.
As early as 1962, Ward suggested that an effective gifted education program should help to promote a “radiation of excellence” through the entire school (Ward, 1962). And in recent years a number of writers have recommended that various types of enrichment opportunities be made available to larger segments of the school population (Shore & Tsiamis, 1985; Birch, 1984; Feldman, 1983; and Renzulli, 1984). Research studies have been generally supportive of these efforts to extend certain aspects of gifted education technology to larger groups (Reis, 1981; Delisle & Renzulli, 1982; Gubbins, 1982; and Cooper, 1983). The fact that the research reported here confirms previous findings adds further support to the broadened conception of giftedness that is recommended by numerous theorists and researchers (see especially Sternberg & Davidson, 1986). Perhaps even more importantly, this research clearly elevates the role that gifted education technology can play in overall school improvement and the promotion of educational excellence. Finally, this research offers a solution to the schism that traditionally has existed between programs for the gifted and general education. The gains that gifted education has made in instructional technology, and the commitment that this field has made to serving our most potentially able youth will only have long term endurance when it becomes woven into the fabric of general education rather than being perceived as dangling threads that can be snipped off at any time.
*Sample copies of instruments available from the authors upon request.
**Data available from authors upon request.