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Graduate research recommends effective practices in gifted education.

Abstract

These six graduate researches studied the problems they encountered while teaching Gifted Students in public schools in the greater Houston area. Oakes (1995) studied students' learning-style preferences and creativity. Moss (1996) experienced the cultural affective dissonance of gifted Hispanic females and was concerned about male students' attitudes toward females. Parker (1994) noticed the negative impact of assertive discipline techniques used by teachers with gifted middle school students. Frevert (1993) identified the most important personal characteristics and teaching behaviors of teachers of gifted students. Smith (1993) studied in the impact of the character education curriculum on the self-esteem of African American students. Heath (2000) was curious about the influence of gender and ethnicity on learning style preference, reading and mathematics test scores. The common theme through all of the above problems is the search for affective/effective education practices with gifted students. The above researchers presented their finding and their recommendations for teachers and administrators.

Introduction

Recent research, that promotes effective education inclusion practices, often examine curriculum and strategies that produce academic results Smutny, 2000, Winebrenner 2001, Worthy, Jo & Hoffman, J., 1997. The classroom is organized to facilitate free movement with challenging materials and a sense for evaluation of daily progress Smutny, 2000. The curriculum with a differentiated approach is offered as a teaching/learning process that produces academic results Winebrenner, 2001. Research that looks at the affective components considers the psychological, emotional and social needs of gifted students Del Prete, T. 1996; Johnson, S., 1994. Research that combines the effective and affective inclusion education components also examines the value added component of gifted programs Buckner, 1997; Smutny, J. 2000 & Wilkes, P., 2000. Buckner outlines the elements that make an inclusion classroom a practical idea in the elementary classroom. Smutny advocates curriculum compacting as a starting point to ensure that students need not be taught concepts for which they have demonstrated competence. The above research is often the basis of examining current school problems.

Processing Preferences and Creativity of Gifted Students and High Achievers

Oakes (1995) was curious about the relationship between students' learning-style preferences, exceptional creative ability and high academic achievement in identified gifted and non-identified gifted students. This interest was the basis for her study.

Method

There were 117 students in the chronological age group of eleven- to fifteen-year-olds in the study. Thirty-seven of which were high achievers (AA) while thirty-eight students have high creative potential (HCP) and twelve students have academic and creative potential (AH). A parallel group of students were identified as the control group (CG). Three sets of tests were used: the Keefe Profiling and Learning Style Inventory (LSP) measured 24 processing preferences; The Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT) identified six measures of creative potential; and Louisiana's test for academic achievement and identifying gifted students state-wide.

Results

Findings indicated that educators could best serve adolescents of varying academic and creative abilities by modifying instructional processes to suit students' learning style preferences. Furthermore, students' preferences for processing information and creative performance, did not relate to achievement. All students preferred to recall information in a detail, discrete, visual manner. They preferred introspection to action. They demonstrated high performance on resistance to premature closure. Students who indicated preferences for persistence, memory, verbal risk, and emotive responses were significantly different from students who were high achievers and highly creative. Students identified as academic achievers preferred to learn using persistence and introspection rather than argument or discussion. They preferred visual modalities and scanning as opposed to focusing and leveling to encode and recall information. Students identified as having high creative potential preferred to learn by sharpening their memories, scanning, and avoiding emotive reactions. Students with academic and creative abilities were persistent, introspective and demonstrated sharper memories. They also preferred early morning study time, and learning through emotive responses.

Impact in the Classroom

Teachers often work with students of different abilities in one classroom. It is useful to remember that in many ways high academic ability students are more alike than different. Students liked to learn in small groups, alone and in informal postures. Therefore teachers can use any grouping pattern they feel will accommodate teaching objectives. Group projects planned by the teacher with the students of similar ability help to advance achievement and the bonding process. For example, in designing a mosaic, some students may choose to go on the internet to research and design mosaics, others may choose to identify and gather the material and others may choose to put the pieces together.

Suggestions for Administrators

School administrators know that school practices affect academic performance. Most administrators are pleased when their schools are recognized for exemplary achievement. However, effective administrators realize that rigid schedules and constant interruptions affect teachers and students behavior and the environment of the classroom. Whether or not gifted students indicate the correct answer to a given test item may be due to classroom environment as much as the students' cognitive ability. Students control whether or not they learn as well as their rate of learning. This is why it is important that administrators facilitate and support teachers who talk with students about test results. Rigid class schedules and noisy interruptions adversely effect gifted students who have a high need for persistence on a task as well as those who need more time to think of the correct response. Movable classroom furniture in a relaxed environment provides for individual learning styles and is conducive to individual and group achievement in a creative, productive classroom. Effective administrators support teacher success and facilitate student achievement in a happy school environment.

Socialization of Gifted Latinas

Moss (1996) experienced the affective dissonance of gifted Hispanic females in a magnet school and was concerned about male students' attitudes toward females. Moss studied the self-perceptions of female Gifted Latinas (GLs) gender roles at home, during four years in their high school program, in colleges and in their careers after graduation from high school. This ethnographic study examined the affective dissonance resulting from gifted Latinas transferring from their neighborhood home-school environments to multicultural and academically challenging school settings.

Method

Ethnographic interviews were used to gather data from alumni and students currently enrolled in school. In these interviews, the respondents chronicled their lives in response to direct questions. The faculty and staff of the program were interviewed for demographic information. The GLs were seven high school senior Latinas enrolled in a gifted magnet high school during the 1994-95 school year. Using an ethnographic interview key informant process. The questions addressed by the interview were:

1. How do gifted Latinas perceive themselves as different from others in their basic culture and in the mainstream culture(s)?

2. What role does/did the gifted program culture and other persons play in creating and/or supporting the GLs perceptions of differences and aspirations?

3. What attitude do high school students have toward women?

The GLs evaluated their interactions with those persons or events perceived to be in consonance and dissonance with their academic career plans and goals. The interviews were transcribed, categorized and analyzed by domain and taxonomy. The Attitude toward Women Scale (AWSA) was administered to the 243 high school students to determine their attitude toward women. The AWSA helped to determine the nature of the culture of the school and the degree of liberal-conservative attitudes toward gender roles held by participants.

Results

Moss (1996) found that the affective dissonance revealed in the participants life stories resulted from culturally-assigned gender roles, families' strict controls over GLs social lives, and the rejection they suffered from their non-achieving peers and relatives. Two factors were identified as contributing to their successes. One factor was being recognized, although not necessarily spotlighted as academically superior. The recognition of being good students tops in the class, and teachers' pets seemed to create the impression that they could be more successful than their peers. A related effect that caused early dissonance for the GLs was the requirement to conform to the female gender-specific role at home. For example, the GLs were expected to do domestic work and help rear the smaller children in instead of doing academic homework.

The second factor that contributed to success was recognizing the need to pursue academic excellence. The dissonance here was noted when the GLs judged their non-achieving peers as non-working and uninterested in social interaction. In like manner, their non-achieving peers were hostile toward the GLs and excluded them from their social activities. For many GLs, this was the point at which they began to notice that their fellow Latinas had a culture of their own which the GLs basically rejected as being too limiting, too subservient to men, too social, and too ready to accept early marriage and motherhood. They found refuge and support in their same-ability groups, the gifted-talented program, or honors classes. The generalizations from this study are:

1. Academic gifts of gifted Latina students need to be recognized and developed early

2. Elementary gifted Latina students need to be given responsibilities in and out of the classroom

3. Academically gifted or high achieving Latinas need to be separated from their non-achieving peers, at least by middle school

4. Gifted Latina families need to be visited and brought into the school community as much and as soon as possible and helped to permit wider latitude in the social lives of their young daughters

5. Entrance into a multicultural gifted program is an advantage, but gifted Latina need to be in gifted or honors classes by middle school

6. Small gifted programs with nurturing teachers and a multicultural student body tend to provide the needed support

7. Specialized counseling for counselors, teachers, and administrators is crucial for the gifted Latina student. Counseling information should include the role of the family in Latina life in American culture.

Analysis of data from the AWSA found that boys had more traditional attitudes toward women than did girls. However, when considering ethnicity, the Hispanic male student had a more liberal view toward women than did their non-Hispanic male counterparts.

Impact in the Classroom

Teachers are the bridge between the home and school. The parents' ethic of hard work and the practice of assigning non-gender responsibilities at home can also be done in the classroom. However, by middle school it is important that teachers recognize the need for like-abilities academic groups for achievement and social bonding. A teacher can also foster feelings of respect, competence and self-confidence by using words common to the Hispanic culture like "pot favor" for "please." They can gradually have students get used to being recognized in a group by calling attention to such products as a well-written paper, a project or an exemplary product.

Suggestions for Administrators

Administrators should meet with parents of gifted Latinas to find out what they want from school and talk about school practices. Successful Latinas in the community can be guest speakers and academic role models. Some gifted Latina parents may have fears about cultural differences in school practices. Coming home from school on time, questions about studying and playing with classmates during and after school may be a family concern. Effective administrators have a caring attitude toward gifted Latina families.

Assertive Discipline

Parker (1994) experienced the negative impact of assertive discipline techniques used by teachers with gifted middle school students. The purpose of this study was to examine gifted and non-identified gifted middle school students' perceptions of the environment in classrooms where assertive discipline techniques were used and in classrooms these techniques were not used. Assertive discipline prescribed pre-stated consequences for inappropriate classroom behavior.

Method

The homogenously grouped classrooms consisted of male and female students ranging in age from 11 years to 14 years. Ethnic representation included White, African American, Hispanic, and Asian students. Half of the participants came from classrooms of gifted sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students in which principals verified teachers' use of assertive discipline. The other half of the participants came from classrooms where teachers were not using assertive discipline.

The participants were 608 students in 47 classrooms from 13 middle schools in five suburban school districts. There were 18 assertive discipline classrooms and 29 nonassertive discipline classrooms in this study. The Classroom Environment Scale (CES), a 90 item true-false, self-reporting instrument, was used to assess instrument students' perception of their classroom environment.

Results

Parker (1994) found that classroom management programs that allow teachers of gifted students to define their own discipline practices promoted student self-discipline. This practice encouraged affective interaction and academic achievement. Parker concluded that teachers should be caring, supportive, and engage students in higher level learning experiences in non-assertive discipline classroom environments. No significant differences were found in students' perceptions between classrooms using assertive discipline and those not using assertive discipline for the areas of competition, task orientation, organization, and understanding classroom rule. In the assertive discipline classrooms, the gifted students perceived less emphasis on relationships and innovation than students in non-assertive discipline classrooms. Students in the assertive discipline classrooms saw the teacher as controlling.

Impact in the Classroom

Teachers of gifted students know that the classroom environment appropriate for gifted students allows them to develop self-discipline in a caring, supportive environment. Activities for gifted students often require a differentiated epistemological curriculum that interrelates philosophy, psychology and other curriculum components. Gifted students interact freely to research and use their quiet voice in talking about conflicting ideas to come up with a new idea(s).

Suggestions for Administrators

In classrooms where gifted students feel involvement, affiliation, and teacher support, innovation. Effective administrators know that gifted students are encouraged to be actively involved in their learning. They know that teachers spend more time asking higher-level questions and organizing higher level learning experiences than lecturing in the classroom. Safety, orderliness and a supportive environment are present through prevention rather than intervention.

Characteristics of Teachers of Gifted Students

In response to her own curiosity Frevert (1993) effective characteristics of teachers of gifted students, Frevert identified the most important personal characteristics and teaching behaviors of teachers of gifted students. The secondary purpose of her study was to improve learning for gifted students by providing benchmarks for selecting teachers of gifted students. The following questions were asked of elementary school principals.

1. What are the most important personal characteristics?

2. What are the most important teaching behaviors of elementary school teachers of gifted students?

Method

One hundred and sixty-three elementary school principals of programs for gifted students' schools in Texas were nominated to participate in this study. A 15-member panel of judges participated in a three-round Delphi analysis to achieve consensus. The final lists of most important personal characteristics and teaching behaviors were those with the highest average ratings.

Results

The three personal characteristics that received the highest mean ratings were:

1. An open and inquisitive mind, willingness to work with gifted students

2. Love for learning.

The three teaching behavior characteristics that received the highest mean ratings were:

1. Inspires critical thinking,

2. Ability to teach at higher cognitive levels

3. Asks higher-level questions.

Frevert (1993) found that elementary school principals look for different personal characteristics and teaching behaviors when selecting teachers for classrooms of gifted students than when selecting teachers of students not identified as gifted. These characteristics differ in both type and degree for each characteristic from those of regular teachers. Principals look for teachers who:

1. Want to teach gifted children and who are perceived as learners themselves.

2. Want teachers who are inherently curious, enthusiastic, self-confident and creative.

Principals also look for teachers of gifted students who create rich cognitive learning environments in their classrooms. Teachers do this is by:

1. Promoting complex discussions,

2. Demonstrating an excitement and enjoyment when teaching,

3. Enjoy spending extra time in professional growth and in preparation for teaching their students.

Impact in the Classroom

Effective teachers of gifted student like to teach gifted students. They come to the classroom with a spirit of inquiry. They enjoy the verbal repartee and revel in uncovering new knowledge with gifted students.

Suggestions for Administrators

Much of the basic preparation for teachers of gifted students focuses on the students':

1. Social emotional needs,

2. Assessment (identification),

3. Differentiated curriculum,

4. Evaluation of gifted students.

Effective administrators of gifted programs look for the personal and teaching behaviors of teachers of gifted students that facilitate learning in a productive, positive classroom. They see the basic preparation, and the personal characteristics and teaching behaviors as equal in importance.

Self-esteem and Character Education of Gifted African American

The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which a character education curriculum improves the self-esteem of gifted and non-gifted fifth- and sixth-grade African American students.

Method

The participants for this study came from three elementary schools and one middle school in a suburban school district. There were 177 students in eleven classrooms. Six classrooms were in the experimental group and five classrooms were in the control group. The Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale was used to assess student self-esteem. A Character Education Curriculum was the curriculum used with the experimental group.

Results

The major findings revealed a significant difference between the self-esteem of the gifted and non-gifted fifth-grade and sixth-grade African American students who participated in the character education curriculum when compared to those who did not participate in the character education program. No differences were found in self-esteem between boys and girls. Results suggested that implementing a character education curriculum increased the self-esteem of African American students.

Impact in the Classroom

Character development and self-esteem for African American gifted students should be seen as living the curriculum in the classroom. Gifted African American students understand the concept of "respect", if they see it modeled in daily interaction with adults and peers. Smith (1993) found that effective teacher of gifted African American students finds incidents each day to facilitate character development and build self-esteem. The teacher verbally acknowledges when someone returns something borrowed or when one student helps another student.

Suggestions for Administrators

The effective administrator of gifted African American students' models effective school practices in school and classroom. Curricula that students find interesting, appropriate school supplies, smaller class size and enthusiastic teachers who care about African American students are benchmarks of effective schooling for gifted African American students.

Learning Styles and Gifted Students

This researcher was curious about the influence of gender and ethnicity on learning style preference, reading and mathematics test scores. The purpose of this study is to examine the relationship between learning style preferences and mathematics and reading performance of gifted and non-gifted students.

Method

Participants were students from a school district in a metropolitan area in southeast Texas. There were 405 sixth-and seventh-grade (204 gifted and 201 non-gifted) participants. Two instruments were used in this study. They were the Dunn and Dunn Learning Style Preferences Inventory (LSI) and the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). An analysis of variance factorial design yielded the following results.

Results

The findings indicated a significant difference between sixth- and seventh-grade students as follows:

1. Gifted sixth-and seventh-grade students out-performed their non-gifted peers in mathematics and reading.

2. Learning style preference had no effect on mathematics and reading achievement of sixth- and seventh-grade non-identified gifted students.

3. Female sixth-and seventh-grade students out-performed male students in reading.

4. White sixth-and seventh-grade students did better academically in reading than did Asian,

Hispanic and African American students.

Therefore, teachers should become familiar with gifted students' learning preferences and modify activities have an impact on academic performance.

Impact in the Classroom

Teachers are often frustrated with underachieving students. By identifying the students' learning style preferences and talking about test performance, the teacher is able to help students identify the cause of poor performance on academic tests. Examples of learning style preferences that lend themselves to classroom organization are visual (film, pictures), auditory (tapes) and haptic (games). These are three major recognized learning style preferences. Creating learning experiences around these learning style components facilitates learning for gifted students.

Suggestions for Administrators

Effective administrators support learning style differences for gifted students and recognize the impact that individual differences have on test scores. Students should know their learning style preference so that they can arrange their home-study environments to their advantage. When selecting a learning style instrument for use by teachers of gifted students, effective administrators consider the validity, reliability and usability of the instrument. Usability is important to teachers because it takes time to administer, score tests, and arrange learning experiences in their classrooms.

Conclusion

Graduate education that exemplifies what it explicates, emphasizes making informed decisions using research to solve classroom problems. The doctoral dissertation process cited in this article is an example of how graduate students use research to make classroom decisions.

Note

They are co-authors of this article; Theresa Monaco in collaboration with other graduate students identified the following dissertations that made contributions to the database literature. Manisha Dalwadi, Virginia' Livingston, and William Heath added technical support and provided editing expertise for this article.

References

Buckner, C. (1997) Meeting the Needs of Students in the Inclusion Classroom. Annual Convention of the Council for Exceptional Children. Salt Lake City, UT.

Dun, R., Dunn, K., &Price, G. E. (1989). Learning style inventory. Lawrence, KS: Price Systems.

Frevert, A. E. (1993). Elementary principals ratings of the most important Personal characteristics and Teaching Behaviors of Teachers of the gifted. Dissertation Abstracts International. Received ATE and Phi Delta Kappa awards as best dissertation

Heath, W. (2000). Learning Style Difference Between Gifted and Nongifted Sixth and Seventh Grade Students. Unpublished Doctor of Education Dissertation, University of Houston, August 2000. Employed Fort Bend I.S.D., Sugar Land, TX.

Johnson, S. (1994). Examining the Inclusion Movement. Gifted Child Today Magazine. 17 (6) 17-19, 41.

Moss, N. (1996). Magnet School Socialization of Gifted Latinas: A Study in Affective Dissonance. Dissertation Abstracts International. Employed as Director of Gifted Educational Region VI Service Center, Huntsville, TX.

Oakes, V. (1995). Processing Preferences of High Achievers and Exceptionally Creative Adolescents. Dissertation Abstracts International. Employed as Director of a Private School; Cop. roe, TX.

Parker, G. (1994). Gifted Students' Perception of Environment in Assertive Discipline and Non-Assertive Discipline Classrooms. Dissertation Abstracts International. Employed at University of Houston, Clear Lake Campus, Houston, TX.

Piers, E. (1984). Pier-Hams Children's Self-Concept Scale (Rev. ed). Los Angeles: Western Psychological Services.

Prete, D. (1996) Asset or Albatross: The Education and Socialization of Gifted Students. Gifted Child Today Magazine. 19 (2) 24-25, 44-48, 50.

Smith, J. D. (1997). The Effects of Character Education on the Gifted African American Student. Dissertation Abstracts International. Employed as Educational Planner, Texas Education Agency, Austin, TX.

Smutny, J. (2000). Teaching Gifted Children in the Regular Classroom. ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, Council for Exceptional Children.

Winebrenner, S. (2001) Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom: Strategies and Techniques Every Teacher Can Use to Meet the Academic Needs of the Gifted and Talented. Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., Minneapolis, MN.

Worthy, J. and J. (1997). Reading Teacher 50 (5) 436-437.
Theresa Monaco, University of Houston
Elaine Sharpe, University of Houston


Monaco, Ph.D., is professor of Gifted Education and director of the center for Gifted and Talented at the University of Houston. Elaine Sharpe is a teacher/coordinator of Gifted Education at Whorton Independent School District, and doctoral student at the University of Houston.
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Author:Sharpe, Elaine
Publication:Academic Exchange Quarterly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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