The Schoolwide Enrichment Model Executive Summary

– This article may be reproduced and distributed without permission. Electronic reproduction is not permitted.

Joseph S. Renzulli and Sally M. Reis
University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA


Enrichment programs for gifted and talented students have been the true laboratories of the world’s schools because they have presented ideal opportunities for testing new ideas and experimenting with potential solutions to long-standing educational problems. Programs for high potential students have been an especially fertile place for experimentation because such programs are not usually encumbered by prescribed curriculum guides or traditional methods of instruction. It was within the context of these programs that the thinking skills movement first took hold in American education, and the pioneering work of notable theorists such As Benjamin Bloom, Howard Gardner, and Robert Sternberg first gained the attention of the education community. Other developments that had their origins in special programs are currently being examined for general practice. These developments include: a focus on concept rather than skill learning, the use of interdisciplinary curriculum and theme-based studies, student portfolios, performance assessment, cross-grade grouping, alternative scheduling patterns, and perhaps most important, opportunities for students to exchange traditional roles as lesson-learners and doers-of-exercises for more challenging and demanding roles that require hands-on learning, first-hand investigations, and the application of knowledge and thinking skills to complex problems.

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model¹ (SEM) is a detailed blueprint for total school improvement that allows each school the flexibility to allow each school to develop its own unique programs based on local resources, student demographics, and school dynamics as well as faculty strengths and creativity. Although this research-based model is based on highly successful practices that originated in special programs for the gifted and talented students, its major goal is to promote both challenging and enjoyable high-end learning across a wide range of school types, levels and demographic differences. The idea is to create a repertoire of services that can be integrated in such a way to create “a rising tide lifts all ships” approach. This approach allows schools to develop a collaborative school culture that takes advantage of resources and appropriate decision-making opportunities to create meaningful, high-level and potentially creative opportunities for students to develop their talents. SEM suggests that educators should examine ways to make schools more inviting, friendly, and enjoyable places that encourage the full development of the learner instead of seeing students as a repository for information that will be assessed with the next round of standardized tests. Not only has this model been successful in addressing the problem of students who have been under-challenged but it also provides additional important learning paths for students who find success in more traditional learning environments.

The present reform initiatives in general education have created a more receptive atmosphere for enrichment approaches that challenge all students, and accordingly, the Enrichment Triad Model has evolved over the last 20 years based on the previous experiences and current changes in general education. The evolution of the Enrichment Triad Model will be described in this chapter as well as the newest adaptation of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model including a description of the school structures upon which the model is targeted and the three service delivery components.

The original Enrichment Triad Model (Renzulli, 1976) was developed in the mid-1970s and initially implemented by school districts primarily in Connecticut in the United States. The model, which was originally field tested in several districts, proved to be quite popular and requests from all over the United States for visitations to schools using the model and for information about how to implement the model increased. A book about the Enrichment Triad Model (Renzulli, 1977) was published, and more and more districts began asking for help in implementing this approach. It was at this point that a clear need was established for research about the effectiveness of the model and for practical procedures that could provide technical assistance for interested educators to help develop programs in their schools. We had become fascinated by the various kinds of programs being developed by different types of teachers. In some programs, for example, teachers consistently elicited high levels of creative productivity in students while others had few students who engaged. in this type of work. In some districts, many enrichment opportunities were regularly offered to students not formally identified for the program, while in other districts only identified ‘gifted’ students had access to enrichment experiences. We wondered how we could replicate the success of one teacher or one district in implementing the model. For example, if one teacher consistently produced high levels of creative productivity in students, how could we capture that technology and replicate it in other teachers? And if certain resources proved to be consequential in promoting desirable results, how could we make these resources available to larger numbers of teachers and students?

In the more than two decades since the Enrichment Triad Model has been used as the basis for many educational programs for gifted and talented students, an unusually large number of examples of creative productivity have occurred on the parts of young people whose educational experiences have been guided by this programming approach. Perhaps, like others involved in the development of theories and generalizations, we did not fully understand at the onset of our work the full implications of the model for encouraging and developing creative . productivity in young people. These implications relate most directly to teacher training, resource procurement and management, product evaluation, and other theoretical concerns (e.g. motivation, task commitment, self-efficacy) that probably would have gone unexamined, undeveloped, and unrefined without the favorable results that were reported to us by early implementers of the model. We became increasingly interested in how and why the model was working and how we could further expand the theoretical rationale underlying our work, and the population to which services could be provided. Thus, several years of conceptual analysis, practical experience, and an examination of the work of other theorists, has brought us to the point of tying together the material in this chapter, which represents approximately twenty years of field testing, research, evolution and dissemination.

In this chapter, an overview of the conception of giftedness upon which this model is based is presented, and a description of the original Enrichment Triad Model is provided as is a chronology of how the model has expanded and changed. Research about the model is presented as is a brief summary of research dealing with selected studies about student creative productivity. In the final section, new directions for the model are presented along with suggestions for future directions for research on creative productivity.

A Broadened Conception of Giftedness

The field of gifted education, like any other specialized area of study, represents a spectrum of ideologies that exists along a continuum ranging from conservative to liberal points of view. Conservative and liberal are not used here in their political connotations, but rather according to the degree of restrictiveness that is used in determining who is eligible for special programs and services.

Restrictiveness can be expressed in two ways; first, a definition can limit the number of specific performance areas that are considered in determining eligibility for special services. A conservative definition, for example, might limit eligibility to academic performance only, and exclude other areas such as music, art, drama, leadership, public speaking, social service, creative writing or skills in interpersonal relations. Second, a definition can limit the degree or level of excellence that one must attain by establishing extremely high cutoff points.

Although liberal definitions have the obvious advantage of expanding the conception of giftedness, they also open up two theoretical concerns by introducing: (1) a values issue (How do we operationally define broader conceptions of giftedness?) and (2) the age-old problem of subjectivity in measurement. In recent years the values issue has been largely resolved. Very few educators cling tenaciously to a ‘straight IQ’ or purely academic definition of giftedness. ‘Multiple talent’ and ‘multiple criteria’ are almost the bywords of the present-day gifted education movement, and most people have little difficulty in, accepting a definition that includes most areas of human activity which are manifested in socially useful forms of expression.

The problem of subjectivity in measurement is not as easily resolved. As the definition of giftedness is extended beyond those abilities that are clearly reflected in tests of intelligence, achievement, and academic aptitude, it becomes necessary to put less emphasis on precise estimates of performance and potential and more emphasis on the opinions of qualified persons in making decisions about admission to special programs. The crux of the issue boils down to a simple and yet very important question: How much of a trade-off are we willing to make on the objective to subjective continuum in order to allow recognition of a broader spectrum of human abilities? If some degree of subjectivity cannot be tolerated, then our definitions of giftedness and the resulting programs will logically be limited to abilities that can be measured only by objective tests.

Two Kinds of Giftedness

It is generally accepted that intelligence is not a unitary concept, but rather there are many kinds of intelligence and therefore single definitions cannot be used to explain this multifaceted phenomenon (Neisser, 1979). The confusion and inconclusiveness about present theories of intelligence has led Sternberg (1984) and others to develop new models for explaining this complicated concept. Sternberg’s ‘triarchic’ theory of human intelligence consists of three subtheories: a contextual subtheory, which relates intelligence to the external world of the individual; a two-facet experiential subtheory, which relates intelligence to both the external and internal worlds of the individual; and a componential subtheory, which relates intelligence to the internal world of the individual. Gardner (1983) proposed seven distinctive types of intelligent behavior which he called linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and the recently added naturalist intelligence.

In view of these recent works and numerous earlier cautions about the dangers of trying to describe intelligence through the use of single scores, it seems safe to conclude that this practice has been and always will be questionable. At the very least, attributes of intelligent behavior must be considered within the context of cultural and situational factors. Indeed, some of the most recent examinations have concluded that “[t]he concept of intelligence cannot be explicitly defined, not only because of the nature of intelligence but also because of the nature of concepts” (Neisser, 1979, p. 179).

There is no ideal way to measure intelligence and therefore we must avoid the typical practice of believing that if we know a person’s IQ score, we also know his or her intelligence. Even Terman warned against total reliance on tests: “We must guard against defining intelligence solely in terms of ability to pass the tests of a given intelligence scale” (as cited in Thorndike, 1921, p. 131). E. L. Thorndike echoed Terman’s concern by stating “to assume that we have measured some general power which resides in [the person being tested] and determines his ability in every variety of intellectual task in its entirety is to fly directly in the face of all that is known about the organization of the intellect” (Thorndike, 1921, p. 126).

The reason we have cited these concerns about the historical difficulty of defining and measuring intelligence is to highlight the even larger problem of isolating a unitary definition of giftedness. At the very least, we will always have several conceptions (and therefore definitions) of giftedness. To help in this analysis, we will begin by examining two broad categories of giftedness that have been dealt with in the research literature: ‘schoolhouse giftedness’ and ‘creative-productive giftedness’. Before describing each type, we want to emphasize that:

  1. Both types are important.
  2. There is usually an interaction between the two types.
  3. Special programs should make appropriate provisions for encouraging both types of giftedness as well as the numerous occasions when the two types interact with each other.
Schoolhouse Giftedness

Schoolhouse giftedness might also be called test-taking or lesson-learning giftedness. It is the kind most easily measured by IQ or other cognitive ability tests, and for this reason it is also the type most often used for selecting students for entrance into special programs. The abilities people display on IQ and aptitude tests are exactly the kinds of abilities most valued in traditional school learning situations. In other words, the tasks required in ability tests are similar in nature to tasks that teachers require in most lesson-learning situations. A large body of research tells us that students who score high on IQ tests are also likely to get high grades in school, and that these test-taking and lesson-learning abilities generally remain stable over time. The results of this research should lead us to some very obvious conclusions about schoolhouse giftedness: it exists in varying degrees, it can be identified through standardized assessment techniques, and we should therefore do everything in our power to make appropriate modifications for students who have the ability to cover regular curricular material at advanced rates and levels of understanding. Curriculum compacting (Renzulli, Smith, & Reis, 1982; Reis, Burns, & Renzulli, 1992) is a procedure used for modifying standard curricular content to accommodate advanced learners. Other acceleration techniques should represent essential parts of every school program that strives to respect the individual differences that are clearly evident from classroom performance and/or scores yielded by cognitive ability tests.

Creative-Productive Giftedness

If scores on IQ tests and other measures of cognitive ability only account for a limited proportion of the common variance with school grades, we can be equally certain that these measures do not tell the whole story when it comes to making predictions about creative-productive giftedness. Before defending this assertion with some research findings, we briefly review what is meant by this second type of giftedness, the important role that it should play in programming, and, therefore, the reasons we should attempt to assess it in our identification procedures—even if such assessment causes us to look below the top 3 to 5% on the normal curve of IQ scores.

Creative-productive giftedness. describes those aspects of human activity and involvement in which a premium is placed on the development of original material and products that are purposefully designed to have an impact on one or more target audiences. Learning situations that are designed to promote creative-productive giftedness emphasize the use and application of information (content) and thinking skills (process) in an integrated, inductive, and real-problem oriented manner. The role of the student is transformed from that of a learner of prescribed lessons to one in which she or he uses the modus operandi of a firsthand inquirer. This approach is quite different from the development of lesson-learning giftedness, which tends to emphasize deductive learning, structured training in the development of thinking processes, and the acquisition, storage, and retrieval of information. In other words, creative-productive giftedness is simply putting one’s abilities to work on problems and areas of study that have personal relevance to the student and that can be escalated to appropriately challenging levels of investigative activity. The roles that both students and teachers should play in the pursuit of these problems have been described elsewhere (Renzulli, 1977, 1982), and have been embraced in general education under a variety of concepts such as constructivist theory, authentic learning, discovery learning, problem based learning, and performance assessment.

Why is creative-productive giftedness important enough for us to question the “tidy” and relatively easy approach that has traditionally been used to select students on the basis of test scores? Why do some people want to rock the boat by challenging a conception of giftedness that can be numerically defined by simply giving a test? The answers to these questions are simple and yet very compelling. A review of the research literature (Renzulli, 1986) tells us that there is much more to identifying human potential than the abilities revealed on traditional tests of intelligence, aptitude, and achievement. Furthermore, history tells us it has been the creative and productive people of the world, the producers rather than consumers of knowledge, the reconstructionists of thought in all areas of human endeavor, who have become recognized as “truly gifted” individuals. History does not remember persons who merely scored well on IQ tests or those who learned their lessons well. The definition of giftedness (See Fig. 1) which characterizes creative productive giftedness and serves as part of the rationale for the Enrichment Triad Model is the three-ring conception of giftedness (Renzulli, 1978, 1986), in which giftedness: . . . consists of an interaction among three basic clusters being above average general ability, high levels of creativity. Gifted and talented capable of developing this composite set of potentially valuable area of human performance or capable of developing an interaction among these require a variety of educational opportunities and services those not normally through regular instructional programming. (1978, p. 6)

We have advocated that gifted behaviors can be developed through systematic enrichment opportunities described in the Enrichment Triad Model (Renzulli, 1977, 1978, 1988b).


Figure 1. The three-ring conception of giftedness. (Reprinted with permission from Creative Learning Press). (Click on the figure to see it as a PDF file. pdf )

An Overview of the Enrichment Triad Model

The Enrichment Triad Model was designed to encourage creative productivity on the part of young people by exposing them to various topics, areas of interest, and fields of study, and to further train them to apply advanced content, process-training skills, and methodology training to self-selected areas of interest. Accordingly, three types of enrichment are included in the Triad Model (see Fig. 2).

Type I enrichment is designed to expose students to a wide variety of disciplines, topics, occupations, hobbies, persons, places, and events that would not ordinarily be covered in the regular curriculum. In schools – that use this model, an enrichment team consisting of parents, teachers, and students often organizes and plans Type I experiences by contacting speakers, arranging minicourses, demonstrations, or performances, or by ordering and distributing films, slides, videotapes, or other print or non-print media.


Figure 2. The enrichment triad model. (Click on the figure to see it as a PDF file. pdf )

Type II enrichment consists of materials and methods designed to promote the development of thinking and feeling processes. Some Type II training is general, and is usually carried out both in classrooms and in enrichment programs. Training activities include the development of. (1) creative thinking and problem solving, critical thinking, and affective processes; (2) a wide variety of specific learning how-to-learn skills; (3) skills in the appropriate use of advanced-level reference materials; and (4) written, oral, and visual communication skills. Other Type II enrichment is specific, as it cannot be planned in advance and usually involves advanced methodological instruction in an interest area selected by the student. For example, students who become interested in botany after a Type I experience might pursue additional training in this area by doing advanced reading in botany; compiling, planning and carrying out plant experiments; and seeking more advanced methods training if they want to go further.

Type III enrichment involves students who become interested in pursuing a self-selected area and are willing to commit the time necessary for advanced content acquisition and process training in which they assume the role of a first-hand inquirer. The goals of Type III enrichment include:

  • providing opportunities for applying interests, knowledge, creative ideas and task commitment to a self-selected problem or area of study,
  • acquiring advanced level understanding of the knowledge (content) and methodology (process) that are used within particular disciplines, artistic areas of expression and interdisciplinary studies,
  • developing authentic products that are primarily directed toward bringing about a desired impact upon a specified audience,
  • developing self-directed learning skills in the areas of planning, organization, resource utilization, time management, decision making and self-evaluation,
  • developing task commitment, self-confidence, and feelings of creative accomplishment.
The Revolving Door Identification Model

As our experience with Triad Programs grew, our concern about who was being identified to participate in these programs also grew. We became increasingly concerned about students who were not able to participate in enrichment programs because they did not score in the top 1-3% of the population in achievement or intelligence tests.

Research conducted by Torrance (1962, 1974) had demonstrated that students who were rated highly on creativity measures do well in school and on achievement tests but are often not selected for gifted programs because their scores are often. below the cutoff for admission. Some of our own research (Reis, 1981) indicated that when a broader population of students (15-20% of the general population called the ‘talent pool’) were able to participate in Types I and II enrichment experiences, they produced equally good Type III products as the traditional ‘gifted’ students (the top 3-5%). This research produced the rationale for the Revolving Door Identification Model (RDIM) (Renzulli, Reis, & Smith, 1981) in which a talent pool of students receives regular enrichment experiences and the opportunity to ‘revolve into’ Type III creative productive experiences. In RDIM, we recommend that students be selected for participation in the talent pool on the basis of multiple criteria that include indices of creativity, because we believe that one of the major purposes of gifted education is to develop creative thinking and creative productivity in students. Once identified and placed in the talent pool through the use of test scores, teacher, parent, or self-nomination, and examples of creative potential or productivity, students are observed in classrooms and enrichment experiences for signs of advanced interests, creativity, or task commitment. We have called this part of the process ,action information’ and have found it to be an instrumental part of the identification process in assessing students’ interest and motivation to become involved in Type III creative productivity. Further support for expanding identification procedures through the use of these approaches has recently been offered by Kirschenbaum. (1983) and Kirschenbaum. and Siegle (1993) who demonstrated that students who are rated or test high on measures of creativity tend to do well in school and on measures of achievement. The development of the RDIM led to the need for a guide dealing with how all of the components of the previous Triad and the new RDIM could be implemented and the resulting work was entitled The Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) (Renzulli & Reis, 1985, 1997).

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM)

In the SEM, a talent pool of 15-20% of above average ability/high potential students is identified through a variety of measures including: achievement tests, teacher nominations, assessment of potential for creativity and task commitment, as well as alternative pathways of entrance (self-nomination, parent nomination, etc.). High achievement test and IQ test scores .automatically include a. student in the talent pool, enabling those students who are underachieving in their academic school work to be included.

Once students are identified for the talent pool, they are eligible for several kinds of services; first, interest and learning styles assessments are used with talent pool students. Informal and formal methods are used to create or identify students’ interests and to encourage students to further develop and pursue these interests in various ways. Learning style preferences which are assessed include: projects, independent study, teaching games, simulations, peer teaching, programmed instruction, lecture, drill and recitation, and discussion. Second, curriculum compacting is provided to all eligible students for whom the regular curriculum is modified by eliminating portions of previously mastered content. This elimination or streamlining of curriculum, enables above average students to avoid repetition of previously mastered work and guarantees mastery while simultaneously finding time for more appropriately challenging activities (Reis, Burns, & Renzulli, 1992; Renzulli, Smith, & Reis, 1982). A form, entitled The Compactor (Renzulli & Smith, 1978), is used to document which content areas have been compacted and what alternative work has been substituted. Third, the Enrichment Triad Model, offers three types of enrichment experiences. Type I, II, and III Enrichment are offered to all students; however, Type III enrichment is usually more appropriate for students with higher levels of ability, interest, and task commitment.

Separate studies on the SEM demonstrated its effectiveness in schools with widely differing socioeconomic levels and program organization patterns (Olenchak, 1988; Olenchak & Renzulli, 1989). The SEM has been implemented in several hundred school districts across the country (Burns, 1998) and interest in this approach continues to grow.

Newest Directions for the Schoolwide Enrichment Model

The present reform initiatives in general education have created a more receptive atmosphere for more flexible approaches that challenge all students, and accordingly, the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) has been expanded to address three major goals that we believe will accommodate the needs of gifted students, and at the same time, provide challenging learning experiences for all students. These goals are:

To maintain and expand a continuum of special services that will challenge students with demonstrated superior performance or the potential for superior performance in any and all aspects of the school and extracurricular program.

To infuse into the general education program a broad range of activities for high-end learning that will: (a) challenge all students to perform at advanced levels, and (b) that will allow teachers to determine which students should be given extended opportunities, resources, and encouragement in particular areas where superior interest and performance are demonstrated.

To preserve and protect the positions of gifted education specialists and any other specialized personnel necessary for carrying out the first two goals.

A graphic representation of the newest adaptation of the model is presented in Figure 3.


Figure 3. The schoolwide enrichment model. (Click on the figure to see it as a PDF file. pdf )

School Structures

The Regular Curriculum
The regular curriculum consists of everything that is a part of the predetermined goals, schedules, learning outcomes, and delivery systems of the school. The regular curriculum might be traditional, innovative, or in the process of transition, but its predominant feature is that authoritative forces (i.e. policy makers, school councils, textbook adoption committees, state regulators) have determined that the regular curriculum should be the ‘centerpiece’ of student learning. Application of the SEM influences the regular curriculum in three ways. First, the challenge level of required material is differentiated through processes such as curriculum compacting and textbook content modification procedures. Second, systematic content intensification procedures should be used to replace eliminated content with selected, in-depth learning experiences. Third, types of enrichment recommended in the Enrichment Triad Model (Renzulli, 1977) are integrated selectively into regular curriculum activities. Although our goal in the SEM is to influence rather than replace the regular curriculum, application of certain SEM components and related staff development activities has resulted in substantial changes in both the content and instructional processes of the entire regular curriculum.

The Enrichment Clusters
The enrichment clusters, one component of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, are non-graded groups of students who share common interests, and who come together during specially designated time blocks during school to work with an adult who shares their interests and who has some degree of advanced knowledge and expertise in the area. The enrichment clusters usually meet for a block of time weekly during a semester. All students complete an interest inventory developed to assess their interests, and an enrichment team of parents and teachers tally all of the major families of interests. Adults from the faculty, staff, parents, and community are recruited to facilitate enrichment clusters based on these interests, such as creative writing, drawing, sculpting, archeology and other areas. Training is provided to the facilitators who agree to offer the clusters, and a brochure is developed and sent to all parents and students that discusses student interests and select choices of enrichment clusters. A title and description that appeared in a brochure of clusters in a school using the SEM follows:

Invention Convention
Are you an inventive thinker? Would you like to be? Brainstorm a problem, try to identify many solutions, and design an invention to solve the problem, as an inventor might give birth to a real invention. Create your invention individually or with a partner under the guidance of Bob Erikson and his students, who work at the Connecticut Science Fair. You may share your final product at the Young Inventors’ Fair on March 25th, a statewide daylong celebration of creativity.

Students select their top three choices for the clusters and scheduling is completed to place all children into their first, or in some cases, second choice. Like extracurricular activities and programs such as 4-H and Junior Achievement, the main rationale for participation in one or more clusters is that students and teachers want to be there. All teachers (including music, art, physical education, etc.) are involved in teaching the clusters; and their involvement in any particular cluster is based on the same type of interest assessment that is used for students in selecting clusters of choice.

The model for learning used with enrichment clusters is based on an inductive approach to solving real-world problems through the development of authentic products and services. Unlike traditional, didactic modes of teaching, this approach, known as enrichment learning and teaching (described fully in a later section), uses the Enrichment Triad Model to create a learning situation that involves the use of methodology, develops higher order thinking skills, and authentically applies these skills in creative and productive situations. Enrichment clusters promote cooperativeness within the context of real-world problem solving, and they also provide superlative opportunities for promoting self-concept. “A major assumption underlying the use of enrichment clusters is that every child is special if we create conditions in which that child can be a specialist within a specialty group” (Renzulli, 1994, p. 70).

Enrichment clusters are organized around various characteristics of differentiated programming for gifted students on which the Enrichment Triad Model (Renzufli, 1977) was originally based, including the use of major disciplines, interdisciplinary themes, or cross-disciplinary topics (e.g. a theatrical/television production group that includes actors, writers, technical specialists, costume designers). The clusters are modeled after the ways in which knowledge utilization, thinking skills, and interpersonal relations take place in the real world. Thus, all work is directed toward the production of a product or service. No lesson plans or unit plans are created in advance by the cluster facilitator; rather, direction is provided by three key questions addressed in the cluster by the facilitator and the students:

  1. What do people with an interest in this area (e.g. film making) do?
  2. What knowledge, materials, and other resources do they need to do it in an excellent and authentic way?
  3. In what ways can the product or service be used to have an impact on an intended audience?

Enrichment clusters incorporate the use of advanced content, providing students with information about particular fields of knowledge, such as the structure of a field as well as the basic principles and the functional concepts in a field (Ward, 1960). Ward defined functional concepts as the intellectual instruments or tools with which a subject specialist works, such as the vocabulary of a field and the vehicles by which persons within the field communicate with one another. The methodology used within a field is also considered advanced content by Renzulli (1988a), involving the use of knowledge of the structures and tools of fields, as well as knowledge about the methodology of particular fields. This knowledge about the methodologies of fields exists both for the sake of increased knowledge acquisition, and also for the utility of that know-how as applied to the development of products, even when such products are considered advanced in a relative sense (i.e. age, grade, and background considerations).

The enrichment clusters are not intended to be the total program for talent development in a school, or to replace existing programs for talented youth. Rather, they are one vehicle for stimulating interests and developing talent potentials across the entire school population. They are also vehicles for staff development in that they provide teachers an opportunity to participate in enrichment teaching, and subsequently to analyze and compare this type of teaching with traditional methods of instruction. In this regard the model promotes a spill-over effect by encouraging teachers to become better talent scouts and talent developers, and to apply enrichment techniques to regular classroom situations.

The Continuum of Special Services
A broad range of special services is the third school structure targeted by the model; a diagram representing these services is presented in Fig. 4. Although the enrichment clusters and the SEM-based modifications of the regular curriculum provide a broad range of services to meet individual needs, a program for total talent development still requires supplementary services that challenge young people who are capable of working at the highest levels of their special interest and ability areas. These services, which cannot ordinarily be provided in enrichment clusters or the regular curriculum, typically include: individual or small group counseling, direct assistance in facilitating advanced level work, arranging for mentorships with faculty members or community persons, and making other types of connections between students, their families, and out-of-school persons, resources, and agencies.


Figure 4. The continuum of services for total talent development. (Click on the figure to see it as a PDF file. pdf )

Direct assistance also involves setting up and promoting student, faculty and parental involvement in special programs such as Future Problem Solving, Odyssey of the Mind, the Model United Nations program, and state and national essay, mathematics, art, and history contests. Another type of direct assistance consists of arranging out-of-school involvement for individual students in summer programs, on-campus courses, special schools, theatrical groups, scientific expeditions, and apprenticeships at places where advanced level learning opportunities are available. Provision of these services is one of the responsibilities of the schoolwide enrichment teaching specialist or an enrichment team of teachers and parents who work together to provide options for advanced learning. A schoolwide enrichment teaching specialist in Barrington, Rhode Island, estimates she spends two days a week in a resource capacity to the faculties of two schools, and three days providing direct services to students.

Service Delivery Components

The Total Talent Portfolio
The Schoolwide Enrichment Model targets specific learning characteristics that can serve as a basis for talent development. Our approach to targeting learning characteristics uses both traditional and performance-based assessment to compile information about three dimensions of the learner—abilities, interests, and learning styles. This information, which focuses on strengths rather than deficits, is compiled in a management form called the ‘Total Talent Portfolio’ (see Fig. 5) which is used to make decisions about talent development opportunities in regular classes, enrichment clusters, and in the continuum of special services. The major purposes of the Total Talent Portfolio are:

  1. To collect several different types of information that portray a student’s strength areas, and to regularly update this information.
  2. To classify this information into the general categories of abilities, interests, and learning styles and related markers of successful learning such as organizational skills, content area preferences, personal and social skills, preferences for creative productivity, and learning-how-to-learn. skills.
  3. To periodically review and analyze the information in order to make purposeful decisions about providing opportunities for enrichment experiences in the regular classroom, the enrichment clusters, and the continuum of special services.
  4. To negotiate various acceleration and enrichment learning options and opportunities between teacher and student through participation in a shared decision making process.
  5. To use the information as a vehicle for educational, personal, and career counseling and for communicating with parents about the school’s talent development opportunities and their child’s involvement in them.

This expanded approach to identifying talent potentials is essential if we are to make genuine efforts to include more under-represented students in a plan for total talent development. This approach is also consistent with the more flexible conception of developing gifts and talents that has been a cornerstone of our work and our concerns for promoting more equity in special programs.


Figure 5. The total talent portfolio. (Click on the figure to see it as a PDF file. pdf )

Curriculum Modification Techniques
The second service delivery component of the SEM is a series of curriculum modification techniques designed to: (1) adjust levels of required learning so that all students are challenged, (2) increase the number of in-depth learning experiences, and (3) introduce various types of enrichment into regular curricular experiences. The procedures that are used to carry out curriculum modification are curriculum compacting, textbook analysis and surgical removal of repetitious material from textbooks, and a planned approach for introducing greater depth into regular curricular material. Due to space restrictions, curriculum compacting is described in depth here and other modification techniques are described in detail in other publications (see, for example, RenzuIli, 1994; Reis et al., 1993).

How to Use the Compacting Process
Defining goals and outcomes. The first of three phases of the compacting process consists of defining the goals and outcomes of a given unit or segment of instruction. This information is readily available in most subjects because specific goals and outcomes can usually be found in teachers’ manuals, curriculum guides, scope-and-sequence charts, and some of the new curricular frameworks that are emerging in connection with outcome based education models. Teachers should examine these objectives to determine which represent the acquisition of new content or thinking skills as opposed to reviews or practice of material that has previously been taught. The scope and sequence charts prepared by publishers, or a simple comparison of the table of contents of a basal series will provide a quick overview of new vs. repeated material. A major goal of this phase of the compacting process is to help teachers make individual programming decisions; a larger professional development goal is to help teachers be better analysts of the material they are teaching and better consumers of textbooks and prescribed curricular material.

Identifying students for compacting. The second phase of curriculum compacting is identifying students who have already mastered the objectives or outcomes of a unit or segment of instruction that is about to be taught. This first step of this phase consists of estimating which students have the potential to master new material at a faster than normal pace; knowing one’s students is, of course, the best way to begin the assessment process. Scores on previous tests, completed assignments, and classroom participation are the best ways of identifying highly likely candidates for compacting. Standardized achievement tests can serve as a good general screen for this step because they allow us to list the names of all students who are scoring one or more years above grade level in particular subject areas.

Being a candidate for compacting does not necessarily mean that a student knows the material under consideration. Therefore, the second step of identifying candidates consists of finding or developing appropriate tests or other assessment techniques that can be used to evaluate specific learning outcomes. Unit pretests, or end-of-unit tests that can be administered as pretests are readymade for this task, especially when it comes to the assessment of basic skills. An analysis of pretest results enables the teacher to document proficiency in specific skiffs, and to select instructional activities or practice material necessary to bring the student up to a high level on any skill that may need some additional reinforcement.

The process is slightly modified for compacting content areas that are not as easily assessed as basic skills, and for students who have not mastered the material, but are judged to be candidates for more rapid coverage. First, students should have a thorough understanding of the goals and procedures of compacting, including the nature of the replacement process. A given segment of material should be discussed with the student (e.g. a unit that includes a series of chapters in a social studies text), and the procedures for verifying mastery at a high level should be specified. These procedures might consist of answering questions based on the chapters, writing an essay, or taking the standard end-of-unit test. The amount of time for completion of the unit should be specified, and procedures such as periodic progress reports or log entries for teacher review should be agreed upon. Of course, an examination of potential acceleration and/or enrichment replacement activities should be a part of this discussion.

Another alternative is to assess or pretest all students in a class when a new unit or topic is introduced; although this may seem like more work for the teacher, it provides the opportunity for all students to demonstrate their strengths or previous mastery in a given area. Using a matrix of learning objectives, teachers can fill in test results and establish small, flexible, and temporary groups for skill instruction and replacement activities.

Providing acceleration and enrichment options. The final phase of the compacting process can be one of the most exciting aspects of teaching because it is based on cooperative decision making and creativity on the parts of both teachers and students. Efforts can be made to gather enrichment materials from classroom teachers, librarians, media specialists, and content area or gifted education specialists. These materials may include self-directed learning activities, instructional materials that focus on particular thinking skills, and a variety of individual and group project oriented activities that are designed to promote hands-on research and investigative skills. The time made available through compacting provides opportunities for exciting learning experiences such as small group, special topic seminars that might be directed by students or community resource persons, community based apprenticeships or opportunities to work with a mentor, peer tutoring situations, involvement in community service activities, and opportunities to rotate through a series of self-selected mini-courses. The time saved through curriculum compacting can be used by the teacher to provide a variety of enrichment or acceleration opportunities for the student.

Enrichment strategies might include a variety of Type I, II, or III or a number of options included on the continuum of services. Acceleration might include the use of material from the next unit or chapter, the use of the next chronological grade level textbook or the completion of even more advanced work. Alternative activities should reflect an appropriate level of challenge and rigor that is commensurate with the student’s abilities and interests.

Decisions about which replacement activities to use are always guided by factors such as time, space, and the availability of resource persons and materials. Although practical concerns must be considered, the ultimate criteria for replacement activities should be the degree to which they increase academic challenge and the extent to which they meet individual needs. Great care should be taken to select activities and experiences that represent individual strengths and interests rather than the assignment of more-of-the-same worksheets or randomly selected kits, games, and puzzles! This aspect of the compacting process should also be viewed as a creative opportunity for an entire faculty to work cooperatively to organize and institute a broad array of enrichment experiences. A favorite mini-course that a faculty member has always wanted to teach, or serving as a mentor to one or two students who are extremely invested in a teacher’s beloved topic are just a few of the ways that replacement activities can add excitement to the teachers’ part in this process as well as the obvious benefits for students. We have also observed another interesting occurrence that has resulted from the availability of curriculum compacting. When some previously bright but underachieving students realized that they could both economize on regularly assigned material and ‘earn time’ to pursue self-selected interests, their motivation to complete regular assignments increased; as one student put it, “Everyone understands a good deal!”

The best way to get an overview of the curriculum compacting process is to examine an actual example of how the management form that guides this process is used. This form, ‘The Compactor’, presented in Fig. 6, serves as both an organizational and record keeping tool. Teachers should fill out one form per student, or one form for a group of students with similar curricular strengths. Completed Compactors should be kept in students’ academic files, and updated on a regular basis. The form can also be used for small groups of students who are working at approximately the same level (e.g. a reading or math group). The Compactor is divided into three sections:

  • The first column should include information on learning objectives and student strengths in those areas. Teachers should list the objectives for a particular unit of study, followed by data on students’ proficiency in those objectives, including test scores, behavioral profiles and past academic records.
  • In the second column, teachers should detail the pretest vehicles they select, along with test results. The pretest instruments can be formal measures, such as pencil and paper tests, or informal measures, such as performance assessments based on observations of class participation and written assignments.


Figure 6. The compactor. (Click on the figure to see it as a PDF file. pdf )

Specificity is extremely important; recording an overall score of 85% on ten objectives, for example, sheds little light on what portion of the material can be compacted, since students might show limited mastery of some objectives and high levels of mastery on others.

  • Column three is used to record information about acceleration or enrichment options; in determining these options, teachers must be fully aware of. students’ individual interests and learning styles. We should never replace compacted regular curriculum work with harder, more advanced material that is solely determined by the teacher; instead, students interests should be taken, into account. If for example, a student loves working on science fair projects, that option may be used to replace material that has been compacted from the regular curriculum. We should also be careful to help monitor the challenge level of the material that is being substituted. We want students to understand the nature of effort and challenge and we should ensure that students are not simply replacing the compacted material with basic reading or work that is not advanced.
Rosa: A Case Study in Curriculum Compacting

Rosa is a fifth grader in a self-contained heterogeneous classroom; her school is located in a lower socio-economic urban school district. While Rosa’s reading and language scores range between four or five years above grade level, most of her 29 classmates are reading one to two years below grade. level. This presented Rosa’s teacher with a common problem: what was the best way to instruct Rosa? He agreed to compact her curriculum. Taking the easiest approach possible, he administered all of the appropriate unit tests for the grade level in the Basal Language Arts program, and excused Rosa from completing the activities and worksheets in the units where she showed proficiency (80% and above). When Rosa missed one or two questions, the teacher checked for trends in those items and provided instruction and practice materials to ensure concept mastery.

Rosa usually took part in language arts lessons one or two days a week; the balance of the time she spent with alternative projects, some of which she selected. This strategy spared Rosa up to six or eight hours a week with language arts skills that were simply beneath her level. She joined the class instruction only when her pretests indicated she had not fully acquired the skills or to take part in a discussion that her teacher thought she would enjoy. In the time saved through compacting, Rosa engaged in a number of enrichment activities. First, she spent as many as five hours a week in a resource room for high ability students. This time was usually scheduled during her language arts class, benefiting both Rosa and her teacher, since he didn’t have to search for all of the enrichment options himself. The best part of the process for Rosa was she didn’t have make-up regular classroom assignments because she was not missing essential work.

Rosa also visited a regional science center with other students who had expressed a high interest and aptitude for science. Science was a second strength area for Rosa, and based on the results of her Interest-A-Lyzer, a decision was made for Rosa to proceed with a science fair project on growing plants under various conditions. Rosa’s Compactor, which covered an entire semester, was updated in January. Her teacher remarked that compacting her curriculum had actually saved him time—time he would have spent correcting papers needlessly assigned! The value of compacting for Rosa convinced him that he should continue the process. The Compactor was also used as a vehicle for explaining to Rosa’s parents how specific modifications were being made to accommodate her advanced language arts achievement level and her interest in science. A copy of The Compactor was also passed on to Rosa’s sixth grade teacher, and a conference between the fifth and sixth grade teachers and the resource teacher helped to ensure continuity in dealing with Rosa’s special needs.

The many changes that are taking place in our schools require all educators to examine a broad range of techniques for providing equitably for all students. Curriculum compacting is one such process. It is not tied to a specific content area or grade level, nor is it aligned with a particular approach to school or curricular reform. Rather, the process is adaptable to any school configuration or curricular framework, and it is flexible enough to be used within the context of rapidly changing approaches to general education. The research study described above, and practical experience gained through several years of field testing and refining the compacting process have demonstrated that many positive benefits can result from this process for both students and teachers.

Enrichment Learning and Teaching
The third service delivery component of the SEM, which is based on the Enrichment Triad Model, is enrichment learning and teaching which has roots in the ideas of a small but influential number of philosophers, theorists, and researchers such as Jean Piaget (1975), Jerome Bruner (1960, 1966), and John Dewey (1913, 1916). The work of these theorists coupled with our own research and program development activities, has given rise to the concept we call enrichment learning and teaching. The best way to define this concept is in terms of the following four principles:

  1. Each learner is unique, and therefore, all learning experiences must be examined in ways that take into account the abilities, interests, and learning styles of the individual.
  2. Learning is more effective when students enjoy what they are doing, and therefore, learning experiences should be constructed and assessed with as much concern for enjoyment as for other goals.
  3. Learning is more meaningful and enjoyable when content (i.e. knowledge) and process (i.e. thinking skills, methods of inquiry) are learned within the context of a real and present problem; and therefore, attention should be given to opportunities to personalize student choice in problem selection, the relevance of the problem for individual students at the time the problem is being addressed, and authentic strategies for addressing the problem.
  4. Some formal instruction may be used in enrichment learning and teaching, but a major goal of this approach to learning is to enhance knowledge and thinking skill acquisition that is gained through formal instruction with applications of knowledge and skills that result from students’ own construction of meaning (Renzulli, 1994, p. 204).

The ultimate goal of learning that is guided by these principles is to replace dependent and passive learning with independence and engaged learning. Although all but the most conservative educators will agree with these principles, much controversy exists about how these (or similar) principles might be applied in everyday school situations. A danger also exists that these principles might be viewed as yet another idealized list of glittering generalities that cannot be manifested easily in schools that are entrenched in the deductive model of learning; developing a school program based on these principles is not an easy task. Over the years, however, we have achieved success by gaining faculty, administrative, and parental consensus on a small number of easy-to-understand concepts and related services, and by providing resources and training related to each concept and service delivery procedure. Numerous research studies and field tests in schools with widely varying demographics have been carried out (Renzulli & Reis, 1994). These studies and field tests provided opportunities for the development of large amounts of practical know-how that are readily available for schools that would like to implement the SEM. They also have shown that the SEM can be implemented in a wide variety of settings and used with various populations of students including high ability students with learning disabilities and high ability students who underachieve in school.

Amabile, T. (1983). The social psychology of creativity. New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.
Bruner, J. S. (1960). The process of education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Bruner, J. S. (1966). Toward a theory of instruction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Burns, D. E. (1998). SEM network directory. Storrs: University of Connecticut, Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.
Dewey, J. (1913). Interest and effort in education. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.
Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York, NY: Macmillan.
Dunn, R., Dunn, K., & Price, G. E. (1977). Diagnosing learning styles: Avoiding malpractice suits against school systems. Phi Delta Kappan, 58, 418-420.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind. New York, NY: Basic Books.
James, W. (1885). On the functions of cognition. Mind, 10, 27-44.
Kirschenbaum, R. J. (1983). Let’s cut out the cut-off score in the identification of the gifted. Roeper Review: A Journal on Gifted Education, 5, 6-10.
Kirschenbaum, R. J. & Siegle, D. (1993, April). Predicting creative performance in an enrichment program. Paper presented at the Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students 6th Annual Conference, Portland, OR.
Neisser, U. (1979). The concept of intelligence. In R. J. Sternberg & D. K. Detterman (Eds.), Human Intelligence (pp. 179-189). Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Olenchak, F. R. (1988). The schoolwide enrichment model in the elementary schools: A study of implementation stages and effects on educational excellence. In: J. S. Renzulli (Ed.), Technical Report on Research Studies Relating to the Revolving Door Identification Model (2nd ed., pp. 201-247). Storrs: University of Connecticut, Bureau of Educational Research
Olenchak, F. R., & Renzulli, J. S. (1989). The effectiveness of the schoolwide enrichment model on selected aspects of elementary school change. Gifted Child Quarterly, 32, 44-57.
Piaget, J. (1975). The development of thought: Equilibration on of cognitive structures. New York, NY: Viking.
Reis, S. M. (1981). An analysis of the productivity of gifted students participating in programs using the revolving door identification model. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Connecticut Storrs.
Reis, S. M., Burns, D. E., & Renzulli, J. S. (1992). Curriculum compacting: The complete guide to modifying the regular curriculum for high ability students. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
Reis, S. M., Westberg, K. L., Kulikowich, J., Caillard, F., Hébert, T. P., Plucker, J. A., … Smist, J. (1993). Why not let high ability students start school in January? the curriculum compacting study (Research Monograph 93106). Storrs: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.
Renzulli, J. S. (1976). The enrichment triad model: A guide for developing defensible programs for the gifted and talented. Gifted Child Quarterly, 20, 303-326.
Renzulli, J. S. (1977). The enrichment triad model: A guide for developing defensible programs for the gifted and talented. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
Renzulli, J. S. (1978). What makes giftedness? Re-examining a definition. Phi Delta Kappan, 60, 180-184, 26 1.
Renzulli, J. S. (1982). What makes a problem real: Stalking the illusive meaning of qualitative differences in gifted education. Gifted Child Quarterly, 26, 147-156.
Renzulli, J. S. (1986). The three ring conception of giftedness: A developmental model for creative productivity. In R. J. Sternberg & J. E. Davidson (Eds.), Conceptions of giftedness (pp. 53-92). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Renzulli, J. S. (1988a). The multiple menu model for developing differentiated curriculum for the gifted and talented. Gifted Child Quarterly, 32, 298-309.
Renzulli, J. S. (Ed.). (1988b). Technical report of research studies related to the enrichment triad/revolving door model (3rd ed.). Storrs: University of Connecticut, Teaching The Talented Program.
Renzulli, J. S. (1994). Schools for talent development: A practical plan for total school improvement. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (1985). The schoolwide enrichment model: A comprehensive plan for educational excellence. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (1994). Research related to the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. Gifted Child Quarterly, 38, 2-14.
Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (1997). The schoolwide enrichment model: A how-to guide for educational excellence. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
Renzulli, J. S., Reis, S. M., & Smith, L. H. (1981). The revolving door identification model. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
Renzulli, J. S., & Smith, L. H. (1978). The compactor. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
Renzulli, J. S., Smith, L. H., & Reis, S. M. (1982). Curriculum compacting: An essential strategy for working with gifted students. The Elementary School Journal, 82, 185-194.
Sternberg, R. J. (1984). Toward a triarchic theory of human intelligence. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 7, 269-287.
Sternberg, R. J. (1988). Three facet model of creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), The Nature of Creativity (pp. 125-147). Boston, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Sternberg, R. J. (1990). Thinking styles: Keys to understanding student performance. Phi Delta Kappan, 71, 366-371.
Thorndike, E. L. (1921). Intelligence and its measurement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 12, 124-127.
Torrance, E. P. (1962). Guiding creative talent. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Torrance, E. P. (1974). Norms-Technical manual: Torrance tests of creative thinking. Bensenville, IL: Scholastic Testing Service.
Ward, V. S. (1960). Systematic intensification and extensification of the school curriculum. Exceptional Children, 28, 67-71,77.

¹Research for this chapter was supported under the Javits Act Program (Grant No. R206R00001) as administered by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education. Grantees undertaking such projects are encouraged to express freely their professional judgment. This report, therefore, does not necessarily represent positions or policies of the Government, and no official, endorsement should be inferred.