We generally associate the word ‘myth’ with historical beliefs and practices. But even the modern world has some myths that have evolved during the past couple of years. Such myths are prevalent in various fields and the education sector also has a particular myth that is the core of this paper. The myth that we shall discuss is the giftedness of children. The approach of teachers and decision-makers, about gifted students, is not based on any data or facts. But even then, during the past couple of years, such an approach has taken the shape of a belief. The educationists believe that such gifted students do not need any special attention during classes. Such beliefs are taken into consideration while formulating educational policies.
It is believed that gifted children do not need any sort of help in their schools and since they know everything, their non-achievement can be attributed to their laziness and nothing else. They can grasp knowledge and information without any stress and as such, they are destined to excel. They have brilliant prospects and are not skeptical about any examinations. Such students can clear all the standards with excellent results and get admission to reputed colleges, enabling them to pursue the course of their preference.
Apart from the positive approach of the educationists, there are certain negative factors that gifted children ought to face. For such students, schools are just like a real battlefield where the war is with the brain. They have to struggle hard to adjust with both teachers and fellow students. The complexity of their brains makes it difficult for them to appear in examinations. Being attentive during studies is an abomination to them. While writing during examinations, it is difficult for them to match their writing speed with that of their brains. As a result, their handwriting becomes awful and this might result in negative scoring. So, it is quite possible that such children, instead of performing well, find themselves in special classes conducted for the under-performers.
According to the National Association of Gifted Children, experts classify around three million students in America as gifted. Gifted students are a unique group of individuals with divergent learning needs (NAGC, 2008a). Renzulli (1968) determined that teachers of the gifted are the most important component in a gifted program and student success. Nationwide, a dearth of training is available to teachers of the gifted (Birdsall & Correa, 2007), forcing teachers of the gifted to be independent, lifelong learners (Vialle & Quigley, 2002). Complicating the problem, such teachers work in isolation with little support from regular education teachers.
Teachers of the gifted in many school districts have autonomous teaching positions. Often schools have only one teacher of the gifted for each grade or the teacher travels between schools, making it difficult for the teachers to collaborate and learn from one another. Learning takes place through discovery and knowledge building involving sharing and collaboration of people. Teachers, such as the instructors of the gifted who have limited contact with other practitioners in their field, have difficulties in forming communities of practice in which to support and learn from one another.
Myths of the gifted
There are several myths about gifted children. It is advisable to compare the myths with the realities. Following are some of the myths and the realities:
Myth # 1
It is usually believed that all children are gifted.
It is very essential to treat every child with the same love and care; they all are important. All of them should be allowed to further develop their special skills to enable them to excel in that particular field. But at the same time, it should be understood that all children don’t have the special ability to grasp things. The word ‘gifted’ refers to those children or students who are par excellence and need special attention (it should not be misunderstood that they need special attention because they are unable to understand) and activities that are not usually provided to the students. Such students need extra attention because they have the potential/caliber in them to do something extraordinary. Such calibers might be great scholarly traits, inventiveness, and leadership, besides others. Apparently, not all the students have such calibers that might necessitate changes in the school curriculum. So, it’s wise to make separate arrangements for the gifted students in order to bring out the qualities within them.
It seems that this particular myth has no standing. If the schools believe this myth to be true they will never provide additional attention to the gifted children and in such circumstances, the capabilities of the gifted children might be suppressed.
Myth # 2
Gifted students don’t need any extra attention because if they are gifted, they can manage themselves.
This myth would have been true if intelligence was an inherited trait. But Chambliss (1996) claims that “The child does not inherit characteristics or traits from its parents. Children do not inherit musical ability, criminal tendencies, or IQ” (p. 1). The fact is that intelligence depends on the reciprocal action between the genes and the surrounding environment in which a child lives. If children, who have the extra caliber, are not inspired and motivated during their growth years, they might tend to lose ground. Earlier, there were not many ways by which intelligence could be stimulated. But now, there are several ways in which a child’s IQ can be improved to extraordinary levels (provided that the child has the caliber to develop and sustain the intelligence).
So, this particular myth also seems to be unrealistic. It is not true that gifted children can compete and excel on their own. They need proper guidance and direction to enable them to concentrate on a particular target. They also require challenges to polish their intelligence. But the dilemma is that schools do not have special or additional courses (that are intended for higher standards) for such gifted students.
Myth # 3
It is a common belief and understanding that it is easy to gauge ‘giftedness’ by making the supposed ‘gifted’ child undergo aptitude and accomplishment tests.
The perception of intelligence is very intricate. It is a fact that the intelligence of a person is related to his/her brain. There are several functions that the brain performs and there are different parts of the brain that perform such functions. Intelligence is a trait that is determined by the brain. But it is worth mentioning that there is no specific portion of the brain that determines the intelligence of a person. All the parts function together and the outcome depends, to a great extent, on the circumstances (Glascher et al., 2010). During an aptitude test, some students might fair extraordinarily and some might be normal performers. So, does this mean that the performance (intelligence) in this case depends on the intelligence? Well, this is not the fact. Actually, the performance of intelligence depends on the capability of the brain to integrate several kinds of processes (Glascher et al., 2010).
Aptitude tests can gauge only the coherent capabilities of a person and moreover, there are several other ways by which the intelligence of a person can be gauged. So such small tests cannot be taken as an ample appraisal of the vast nature of intelligence. It’s true that aptitude tests can be helpful in gauging a student’s performance in school-related tasks but intelligence is not limited to schools. A vast world awaits outside the school to test a person’s intelligence.
Myth # 4
Yet another myth is that if a teacher is good in his/her profession, any child can be taught effectively. So, the consideration of certain things being good for gifted students is true for all the students.
It is beyond any doubt that following better teaching practices should be the main motive of all educational institutions. But it is also a fact that such teaching practices (irrespective of their being good) are not apt or adequate for gifted students. So, in addition to the excellent educational skills that the teachers have (to impart better education to students), they must attain exceptional proficiency to enable them to deal with the gifted students. Since the gifted students are a step ahead of the rest of the students, the teachers should be able to alter their speed of instruction, offer exhaustive information, and augment the standard of content. They should be able to include complex situations and reciprocal relations in the content. The content should be original and enhanced. They should encourage gifted students to have a different perspective of problems and develop ingenious solutions. All these are some of the extraordinary qualities that teachers should have in order to deal with gifted students.
Now suppose that the teachers have this kind of approach with all the students, will the students be able to perform? No, on the contrary, they will get confused and probably depressed. So, it should be understood that gifted students need special attention and the teachers need specific qualifications to deal with them.
Myth # 5
It is generally argued that if the curriculum of schools is stepped up, there would be no need to have special arrangements for gifted students.
All students have the right to have better opportunities to attain a better education. There are several challenges that students have to face during their education. But these challenges differ from student to student in terms of content and pace. When the human brain becomes more competent and articulates higher levels of intelligence, thoughts are processed at a greater speed. So, gifted students grasp things quicker than other students and even acquire knowledge faster. Just as an average student cannot be compelled to learn faster, a gifted student cannot be compelled to learn slower. It is their caliber that determines their place of learning and caliber cannot be imposed.
So, it will not be right to step up the curriculum of schools to be at par with the pace of the gifted students. This might be good for the gifted students but the other students might face dumbness issues that may restrain them from performing. Some schools allow sections to students based on their caliber and performance.
Myth # 6
It is believed that a person fortifies his/her knowledge if he/she teaches what has been learned. It is a good thing to review the learning.
This particular myth has resulted in teachers assigning their duties to gifted students. This action of theirs is not opposed by the schools because this way, the gifted students are being subjected to more exertion while being at the same level as the non-gifted students. The gifted students finish their assignments early and by being able to assist other students, they can brush up their knowledge. This system is agreeable to a certain extent but what if such a system becomes a daily practice? The gifted students will not be able to devote time to their studies. It is of no use to reiterate things that have already been understood perfectly. Repeating the same thing will only waste their time and prevent them from doing something concrete for themselves.
While being gifted is a boon in itself, it poses great barriers for parents of gifted children to be able to keep up with the pace of their children’s calibers. Due to the incessant developments around us, our life has become so busy that we don’t have time to sit and talk with our children. It means that parents don’t have enough time to engage in non-formal and informal learning with their children and form a community of practice.
The research questions in the study stemmed from the desire to examine how to build a virtual community of practice and to determine the nature of learning and collaboration that occurred through this community. A community of practice may form anywhere with any type of social group. A study represented an evaluation of online discussions of adult learners and findings indicated the learners built a community of practice. During the creation of the online community of practice, groups co-constructed knowledge (Guldberg & Pilkington, 2006). Following are the research questions:
- Are ‘gifted children gifted?
- How far is it true that ‘gifted children’ need extra guidance to enhance their in-built qualities?
- Can ‘gifted children’ manage without any external help?
- Is it right on the part of educational institutions to include special curriculum for the ‘gifted children’?
- What will be the result if the standard/level of the overall curriculum of educational institutions is raised?
- Should teachers have special qualifications to deal with ‘gifted children’?
- Can aptitude tests bring out the giftedness in the ‘gifted children’?
- How can the traits of giftedness be identified in children?
- What are the barriers (pertaining to education) that parents of gifted children have to encounter?
The emergence of barriers for parents of the gifted
Parents are means of structuring their child’s future. They have a very crucial role to play in their child’s growth and his/her conduct. During the days when schooling was considered to be accessible only to the children of the opulent, those who were not privileged enough to go to school remained at home and helped their parents in daily chores. Such children used to emulate their parents in their deeds and conduct. But during the years, owing to the numerous opportunities available, parents have started devoting more time towards their work. Moreover, education has been simplified and has easy access. Children have started going to schools and as such, both parents and their children don’t have enough time to spend with each other. But still, there are parents who devote time to their children and try and teach them. It has been observed that children, who have their parents’ guidance and participation in their school activities, achieve more in life as compared to those who depend on their schools. “When parents get involved in their children’s education, they offer not only information specific to the classroom, but likely help in giving children a broader level of academic information” (Jeynes, 2011).
A report claims that the gifted children are, “the most neglected minority in American education” (Colangelo & Dettmann, 1983, p. 20). Obviously, parents of such children fear that their children might not get an appropriate education. Their concern is true because most of the schools have a curriculum that is based on the capabilities of average students. Such a situation will create apprehensions in the minds of gifted children’s parents.
There are various “gifted programs” meant for special children. Parents of mentally retarded children have no option other than to take their children to such programs. But parents of gifted children hesitate to take their children to such programs. The parents have the discretion of taking their gifted children to such programs.
It will not be contradictory to state that parents and schools have an equal effect on the development of children. Both have an important role to play and are links to a child’s future. Even if one of the links is missing, it will hurt the child. Parents can get involved in their child’s upbringing by keeping a constant vigil on his/her school work. They can also visit his/her school on occasions such as parent-teacher meetings, annual days, sports events, social get-togethers, etc. All this will help in developing confidence in the child and also a sense of safety and protection. Once a child is grown up, the parents can still contribute towards building their child’s confidence and identifying his/her qualities by talking to him/her on various career-related issues. Certain family factors have an impact (positive or negative) on the education of children. The following paragraphs discuss such factors.
The mindset of parents regarding their involvement in their children’s education
The mindset of parents regarding certain matters about their children’s education can be detrimental and can act as barriers for gifted children. Firstly, some parents think that their responsibility about their children’s education seizes once they have been admitted to schools. Such parents don’t get involved in their children’s education. According to them, school is the only place that can guide their children properly. They think that since the schools charge exorbitant fees, it is their moral responsibility to take care of their student’s education. Moreover, schools are meant for educating their students. So, instead of being bothered about their children’s education, they are busy earning their livelihoods.
Secondly, the ability of parents to get involved in their children’s education and their belief that they are capable to intervene also has a positive impact on gifted children. On the contrary, parents who believe that they don’t have the competency to involve in their children’s education have a negative impact on their children’s education. Such parents lack confidence and think that if they get involved in their children’s education, their children might be confused. Such lack of confidence increases as the children move on to higher standards. The medium of instruction at schools also acts as a barrier to parental involvement. It is quite possible that parents of some gifted children are not fluent in the language of instruction in their children’s schools.
Finally, parents’ belief in their children’s abilities also acts as a barrier to gifted children’s education. Parents of gifted children feel that their children are very intelligent and don’t need any sort of guidance from them. Whatever little guidance is required by such children, is supposed to be given by their schools. Such parents think that their children are smart enough to enhance their in-built qualities. They feel that since their children are gifted, they are well aware of their responsibilities such as completing their home-works (given by their schools), and devoting time or getting involved in their education is simply a waste of time. Parents who have such a mindset don’t even bother to meet their children’s teachers to get information about their children’s performance at schools. On the contrary, parents who think that the way their children are brought up can make a lot of difference in their performance, get involved in all the activities of their children’s education, including being in touch with the teachers.
Parents’ sensitivity and their discernment about their involvement in their children’s education
Some parents’ mindset suggests that they should be given due importance and that their involvement in their children’s education should be valued. Such parents expect direct or implied indications that they should get involved in their children’s education to enable them to perform better. If parents feel that their involvement in their children’s education is not appreciated by schools, they desist being involved. So, the behavior of schools regarding this perception matters a lot and can have indirect implications on children’s education. Putting it in simple words, parents who are given importance and are invited to get involved in their children’s education are happy to do so. On the contrary, schools that think that parents’ involvement doesn’t make any difference and, owing to this philosophy, don’t promote parents’ involvement might experience the poor performance from their students.
Financial resources of parents
Financial resources mean the income of the parents. If the income of parents is good, they can afford to provide extra study material to their child at home. There is a lot of referencing material required by children (especially the gifted children) and as such, parents earning better can provide their children with books, periodicals, magazines, etc. Technological devices like the computer play an important role in a child’s standard of education. Parents having handsome incomes can provide their children with a computer at home so that they can complete online projects. Poverty has a great impact on the education of students. “Poor children are twice as likely as their more affluent counterparts to repeat a grade; to be suspended, expelled, or drop out of high school; and to be placed in special education classes” (Out-of-school influences and academic success, 2011, para. 11). So, it is understood that being financially unsound can prove to be a barrier to children’s education.
Education level of parents
There are certain realities of life that parents consider while deciding on their involvement in their children’s education. The first among such realities is the educational level of the parents. It is quite possible that parents of some gifted children might not be educated to higher levels (might be due to several reasons such as unavailability of proper resources, financial problems, etc.). Such parents feel that they are not capable of assisting their children in their studies. Moreover, the lower level of education of some parents prevents them from meeting their children’s teachers (who are probably well qualified). They have a sort of inferiority complex and cannot face the teachers. On the other hand, if the parents are well educated, they ought to understand the importance of education and will encourage their child to study better and up to high levels. Uneducated or less educated parents will not be able to understand the importance of molding their child’s career from the early school days. On the contrary, well-educated parents will understand that for achieving success and objectives, the foundation of their child should be strong.
The situation of the family can also be detrimental to parents’ involvement in their children’s education. Some children have single parents (either a mother or a father). In such circumstances, the single parent cannot takeout time from his/her daily schedule to get involved in his/her child’s education. The same applies to solo parents who live in big families. The daily chores don’t allow them to devote time to their children’s education.
Employment status of parents
The employment status of parents is also a prospective barrier to children’s education. Unemployed parents are disgruntled and as such, the atmosphere at home is not conducive for a child to study. Children find it suffocating at home and as such can’t concentrate on their studies even at their schools. “It is hypothesized that the home environment and family background are very important for the cognitive abilities and their improvement…Previous research has shown that there exist developmental differences of children from different social classes” (Biedinger 2011). In families where both the parents are employed, it becomes all the more difficult for them to get involved in their children’s education (due to the time factor). If the job responsibility of the parents requires physical labor, then by the time they reach home, they would be exhausted and will not have the strength to be involved.
Moral support from parents
Even if parents are not able to contribute financially by providing the essential tools for education, they can at least act as morale boosters for their children. They can inculcate, in their child, the habit of studying hard in order to attain success in life. Such children can defy all odds and prove to fulfill their parents’ aspirations. “Parents can simply discuss issues of importance with their children, talk to them about what they are doing in school, or spend time doing activities that will develop their skills and abilities” (Rich, 2000).
Parents’ understanding of their child’s prospects
Simply by getting involved in their child’s school activities, parents cannot guarantee their child’s success. Parents should be well acquainted with the ongoing educational process and various courses available. Information on when to go for any particular course is very crucial. For example, parents must be aware of any courses that their child might require before going to college. There are various pre-college courses that improve the grasping power of students. Further, a child will not be able to tell as to what he/she wants to achieve in life. But parents, by knowing his/her interests, can assess their child’s inclination and can further encourage him/her to pursue those interests.
Parents’ psychological features
The psychological features of parents can also act as barriers to their children’s education. Their physical and/or mental health can decide the way in which they get involved in their children’s education. Children whose parents are physically or mentally handicapped might not have the privilege of their parent’s involvement in their studies. Having social support is also a must for gaining proper education. It is understood that children of families that have extensive and valuable support from society and their extended families, perform better and vice versa.
A report claims that the gifted children are, “the most neglected minority in American education” (Colangelo & Dettmann, 1983, p. 20). Obviously, parents of such children fear that their children might not get an appropriate education. Their concern is true because most of the schools have a curriculum that is based on the capabilities of average students. Such a situation will definitely create apprehensions in the minds of gifted children’s parents.
There are various “gifted programs” meant for special children. Parents of mentally retarded children have no option other than to take their children to such programs. But parents of gifted children hesitate to take their children to such programs. The parents have the discretion of taking their gifted children to such programs.
A diverse set of sources supplied information included in the literature review. Such sources include scholarly articles, journals, books, and authentic websites. The keywords used for searches were: gifted education, gifted children, parents of gifted children, gifted teachers, and history of gifted education. Public websites such as the NAGC provided both historical and current information on gifted education. Other public websites concerning connectivism also contained information. An evaluation of several books advanced the body of literature in the review. The literature review contains the most applicable resources for each subcategory.
This chapter contains a framework for the study based on reviewing theoretic and empirical literature related to gifted education, types of learning, and learning theories, including behaviorism, cognitivism, social cognitive theory, constructivism, communities of practice, collaborative learning, and connectivism.
The words gifted and talented have many definitions. Views of a person’s giftedness, intelligence level, or talent are different, depending on location and culture. For the study, the definition of a gifted child comes from the Javits Act (as cited in NAGC, 2008a).
NAGC defines giftedness as:
The term gifted and talented student means children and youths who give evidence of higher performance capability in such areas as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the schools to develop such capabilities fully. (NAGC, 2008a, para. 9).
Although gifted education traces back to Plato, who advocated specialized education for gifted students, gifted education started slowly in the United States. Initially, gifted students had to both be academically skilled and come from wealthy families who could afford to pay for special services. Flexible promotion plans began in 1868 in the St. Louis Public Schools, where students completed six years of education in four. Other plans soon started in Maryland in 1884 and 1886 and in New Jersey in 1886 (Karnes & Nugent, 2002).
Many strides occurred in gifted education in the 20th century with the establishment of the first private school for the gifted and the introduction of the use of intelligence quotients, and by 1920, two-thirds of large U.S. cities offered gifted education programs. In the 1930s, special schools opened just for students who were gifted. Parent and teacher groups started in the 1940s.
The American Association for the Gifted in 1947, the National Association for the Gifted in 1959, and the Association for the Gifted under the Council for Exceptional Children in 1959 were landmarks in progress for gifted education. Such organizations provided information about gifted education, offered support to gifted parents, and promoted the newest teaching strategies for instructors of the gifted.
A large jump in gifted education programs occurred after Sputnik in 1957. The United States government called for students to receive increased education in math and science. The mandate led to the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), which aimed to promote increased training in the areas of science and technology to enable the United States to compete with the Soviet Union.
The promotion of gifted and talented programs decreased in the 1960s. Both the civil rights and anti-poverty movements promoted the education of at-risk students. Gifted education stalled due to a movement to remove inequalities among students. In 1969, federal financial aid programs once again gave money to gifted education from Titles III and IV of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
The Marland Report, commissioned by Congress in 1972 and 1976, explained the decline in gifted education, increased understanding of gifted students and led to the first federal classification of gifted students through the formation of the U.S. Office of Gifted and Talented (NAGC, 2008a). The report was important because it highlighted the lack of trained professionals teaching gifted children. Gifted education received another increase in funding in 1978 from The Gifted and Talented Children Act; however, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act in 1981 removed the funding (NAGC, 2008a). The purpose of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act was to combine funding from 30 programs into one funding pool.
Gifted education has continued to change, depending on the whims of the United States government. In 1988, the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Student Education Act (Javits) remained the only federal program specifically for gifted education (NAGC, 2008c). Despite A Nation at Risk in 1983, National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent in 1993, and A Nation Deceived in 2004, gifted education continued to be underfunded and gifted students’ needs neglected (NAGC, 2008a).
The National Excellence report in 1993 stated that while gifted programs had increased significantly throughout the United States, regular classroom teachers failed to instruct gifted students properly. Another finding indicated as much as 50% of gifted students had already mastered the grade-level state standards before the school year began. The National Excellence report had several recommendations for instructors of gifted students, including more professional development for teachers, using materials appropriate for gifted learners, providing a productive learning environment, and integrating enhanced or accelerated curriculum. For gifted students to receive a quality education, they need quality instructors.
Plato had a vision of differentiating the best scholarly people from the whole lot. He is considered to be the originator of agenda for the gifted students. But, it was William Torrey Harris who took the initiative in providing specialized education to gifted children. In 1868, he laid the groundwork for efficient and well-organized endeavors towards providing education to such children. The foremost school for gifted children was opened in 1901. In 1905, Binet and Simon formulated specific assessment questions that could help in differentiating the underperforming students from the normal students. This was done to give special care and education to the underperforming students (NAGC, 2008a). The questions formulated by Binet and Simon were in the French language. In 1908, Henry Goddard learned about this measurement method and translated the questions to the English language to popularize the method among American educationalists. Lewis Terman is considered to be “the father of the gifted education movement” (NAGC, 2008a). In bringing out the Stanford-Binet, he transformed the outlook of education. The concept of being gifted started gaining popularity and it became so well-accepted that even during the First World War the US army had two wings namely, Alpha and Beta. Soldiers were recruited in these wings based on their caliber (NAGC, 2008a).
NAGC (2008a) reports that in 1925:
Lewis Terman publishes Genetic Studies of Genius, concluding that gifted students were: (a) qualitatively different in school, (b) slightly better physically and emotionally in comparison to normal students, (c) superior in academic subjects in comparison to the average students, (d) emotionally stable, (e) most successful when education and family values were held in high regard by the family, and (f) infinitely variable in combination with the number of traits exhibited by those in the study. This is the first volume in a five-volume study spanning nearly 40 years. (p. 1).
The National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) was established in the year 1954. Ann Isaacs was its mentor. The launching of the first man-made satellite by the Soviet Union forced the United States to reformulate its education policy. The country felt an immediate need for allocating funds for categorizing extraordinary students. Such students were to be given additional education in mathematics and science. In pursuance of its search for talented students, the United States federal government passed the National Defense Education Act (1958) and the Civil Rights Act (1964) according to which everyone had the right to have similarly favorable circumstances in education (NAGC, 2008a).
NAGC reports that in 1972, the Marland Report suggested the definition of giftedness according to which, “along with academic and intellectual talent the definition includes leadership ability, visual and performing arts, creative or productive thinking, and psychomotor ability” (NAGC, 2008a).
Our planet’s history can be expressed through incalculable accounts, and these memoirs would certainly speak about skilled people and their commitments at diverse times in distinctive societies of our planet. The Greeks and Romans distinguished the calibers among people. The same was done by Bible’s tribes, reacting to the stories narrated by Jesus (Tassel & Baska, 2010). In China, Confucius advocated education (based on talent) among all sections of society. Chinese societies adopted the notion of giftedness for distinguishing extraordinary talents in various fields such as leaders, members of various guilds, and religious clergymen (priests).
It is understood that gifted education found its roots within the urban communities:
From Hollingworth’s Speyer School experiment in New York City on the East Coast to Terman’s efforts on the West coast in large cities like San Diego, to the work of others in large Midwestern cities like St. Louis, Cleveland, Quincy (IL), and Chicago (Tassel & Baska, 2010).
Throughout the 1930s, distinctive education was provided to gifted children. Special schools meant for gifted students alone were established throughout the nation in many major cities. Such schools had huge enrollments out of which the best were shortlisted for further specialized education and training. But despite this, the belief that urban settings are conducive for and have a deep perception of gifted education seems to be contrary to the actualities. We are aware of the hurdles that gifted education has dealt with, during the past couple of years. There have been reports that have continuously condemned the prevailing school environments where the underprivileged and culturally diverse students are not treated properly. Certain factors are responsible for such a situation; factors such as government policies, teacher unions, and other variety of problems. Nonetheless, gifted education has been in the limelight throughout these years.
NAGC’s leadership and role
Let us first understand the vision and mission of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). The vision of NAGC is, “To nurture potential giftedness and develop diverse talents” (NAGC, 2008b) and its mission are, “Giftedness and high potential in youth are recognized, universally valued, actively supported and developed” (NAGC, 2008b). The vision of NAGC clearly states that the organization is committed to the giftedness trait of people. It encourages and endorses gifted talents in students. The mission of the organization implies that youth with extraordinary caliber should be provided with a platform where they can exhibit their potentiality and attain global support. NAGC is also committed to extending all possible help to gifted children in further developing their in-built qualities.
The values that are of prime concern for the NAGC are, “Individual differences and multiple perspectives, creativity and innovation, excellence and equity, integrity and credibility, and research-based decisions and practices” (NAGC, 2008b, p. 1).
In the following paragraphs, we shall discuss the persuasive goals of NAGC in various aspects such as leadership, building influence and structuring transformation, and expertise and excellence.
There are various organizations and individual entities that advocate equal opportunities for gifted children, irrespective of their cultural background. NAGC is the leader of all such organizations and/or individual entities. NAGC advocates the responsibility of educational institutions in providing ample resources and a medley of courses to the gifted students to enable them to excel in their respective fields. The organization wants to spread the awareness of acknowledging the specialties of the gifted children among the people so that the gifted children might get their deserved attention and moral support. NAGC wants to involve eminent scholars and political leaders in its endeavor to establish a link (interdependence) between gifted children and the nation’s interests. NAGC is the frontrunner in the formation of policies about the support being provided to gifted children. The organization is also involved in deciding the fund allocation to different areas, depending on the proportion of gifted students. It also makes the educationists understand the importance of providing ample support to gifted students (NAGC, 2008b). NAGC also plans to get associated with other organizations having similar aims and objectives. It plans to educate the members about the importance of bestowing leadership in NAGC. The organization plans to proceed with this intention through conferences, print media, and the internet.
The overall goal of NAGC about leadership is that:
By 2015, NAGC expects to have defined what children of great promise need to achieve at the highest levels. Innovation will be defined within the context of STEM and other content areas. Other education areas will incorporate this priority into their goals. NAGC will have brought new players into this public campaign connecting giftedness and high potential youth to the renewal of our country. America will understand that we are all considerably more in this country and our leadership in the world when we support children with great promise. (NAGC, 2008b).
Building influence and structuring transformation
NAGC is engaged in foreseeing important developments, identifying significant associates, and building affiliations to maximize the efforts of fostering youth with high caliber. Based on its anticipation of important developments and ensuing matters, the organization decides its future course of action about the area of its interest and the association.
The overall goal of NAGC about building influence and structuring transformation is:
By 2015, NAGC will be highly skilled in identifying and leading the response to key trends and issues in learning and education that are relevant to high potential students. NAGC will find itself in the enviable position of having many different groups that want to work with and support the association. (NAGC, 2008b).
Expertise and excellence
NAGC is engaged in having proficiency in education about gifted children. This is done to enable the parents and educationalists to understand the methods of dealing with gifted children so that the gifted children can excel in their respective fields. NAGC makes it mandatory for all its associates to follow its guidelines. NAGC distributes materials that have information on methods of dealing with gifted students. The organization also encourages the use of electronic media. The organization is considered to be an authentic source of high-quality print material.
The overall goal of NAGC about expertise and excellence is:
By 2015, NAGC will have differentiated expertise resources for a wide range of roles within education. NAGC will channel this expertise into the variety of ways that teachers are trained in high-quality programs. Expertise and excellence are generating significant and diversified resources for the association. (NAGC, 2008b).
Sample(s) of State Board of Education role(s)
In America, the State Boards of Education play an essential role in the administration of education. Such boards have governance over the state’s educational practices and are expected to be impartial while making decisions. The boards have entrusted the job of formulating policies for the betterment of the American youth (NASBE, 2013).
The State boards of education have varied roles to play which include the following:
Setting statewide curriculum standards, establishing high school graduation requirements, determining qualifications for professional education personnel, establishing state accountability and assessment programs, establishing standards for accreditation of local school districts and preparation programs for teachers and administrators, implementing the No Child Left Behind Act, and administering federal assistance programs, and developing rules and regulations for the administration of state programs. (NASBE, 2013).
In addition, State boards of education are accountable for policies that are formulated to improve the quality of education within their respective states. To fulfill this responsibility, the boards often make long-term goals. Such goals are not easy and the boards have to keep a constant vigil on the performances of various educational programs initiated by them. The boards also suggest a reasonable educational budget and garner necessary support. The boards assist in the implementation of the various educational programs and keep an eye on the performance of such programs. The State boards serve as a direct link for people who require gifted education for their gifted children. The boards advocate equal opportunities in education for all, irrespective of any social differences (NASBE, 2013).
The State boards maintain a liaison between various factions of the education community such as the education providers and the education seekers. It serves as a mediator between policymakers and the public. Public grievances are promptly conveyed to the policymakers so that any possible amendments are done. The Boards also spread the awareness of education and ensure social support for educational programs (NASBE, 2013).
Gifted Teacher Learning Needs
Because so few gifted degree programs are available in the United States, practical training often comes from professional development and non-formal or informal learning. A policy statement by NAGC (2008c) described the competencies needed for teachers of gifted and talented students. The NAGC noted that teachers of gifted and talented students often have a deficient or unsuitable education. The Association listed competencies such teachers should possess, including understanding the nature of giftedness and predicting gifted children’s needs on emotional, intellectual, and social levels. Teachers of gifted students must differentiate curriculum based on the needs and create a safe environment in which children that are gifted feel free to learn, explore, and grow using their unique gifts (NAGC, 2008c).
While recommendations for training of gifted and talented teachers and even standards for gifted teacher preparation exist (NAGC, 2008c), very little information about gifted teachers’ learning needs is available. One case study in a large school district in Texas examined themes about professional development. The teachers participated in at least 30 hours of training and many held certifications in gifted education. Examined were teachers’ impressions of the strengths and weaknesses of the training and analyzed outcomes of knowledge and skills gained from the training and implemented in the classrooms.
The teachers completed the site, district, and state training (Wycoff et al., 2003). Some emergent themes indicated (a) gifted training needs to be specialized based on teacher needs, not a broad-based program designed to suit everyone; (b) teachers need a chance to practice new knowledge without evaluation; (c) trainers should have current experience in gifted education; and (d) training should fit the district plan and goals (Wycoff et al., 2003). The Wycoff et al. study provided insight into the best ways to implement professional development among gifted teachers. The finding that gifted training needs to be specialized based on individual needs promoted the case for using informal and non-formal learning to enhance gifted teacher knowledge.
The three types of learning are formal, informal, and non-formal. While the concept of formal education dates back over 2,500 years (Smith, 2009), non-formal education did not become a topic of discussion by educators until the late 1960s. In 1967, a national conference took place in Williamsburg, Virginia to examine the world crisis in education (Smith, 2009). Educators at the conference expressed concern that formal education was expensive and that jobs did not stem only from advanced education degrees.
The members of the conference concluded that formal education was not keeping pace with socio-economic changes. Members also decided that social trends occurred before education policymaking and societal trends need consideration when administering rules and regulations (Fordham, 1993).
Conclusions formed by the World Bank started the discussions of informal, non-formal, and formal learning (Fordham, 1993). The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) investigated learning in society and considered the possibility of lifelong learning in 1972. The initial definitions delineated non-formal learning as “an organized educational activity outside the established formal system” (Coombs & Ahmed, 1974, p. 8). The non-formal concept differed from informal education, which expressed lifetime learning that could take place in any setting, including on the street, between friends, or through the media (Coombs & Ahmed, 1974).
Davidson Institute’s viewpoint and role
Davidson Institute for Talent Development is an NGO and is engaged in providing better education to gifted children. The institute’s mission is to, “offer you advanced educational opportunities designed to specifically serve your needs, interests and goals” (Davidson Academy, 2013).
Davidson Institute for Talent Development is meant for gifted children who are not more than 18 years of age. The definition of gifted students, according to Davidson Institute for Talent Development is, “Profoundly gifted students are those who score in the 99.9th percentile on IQ and achievement tests” (Davidson Institute, 2013).
According to Davidson Institute for Talent Development, the following are the characteristics of gifted students:
An extreme need for constant mental stimulation, and ability to learn and process complex information rapidly, a need to explore subjects in surprising depth, an insatiable curiosity; endless questions and inquiries, a need for precision in thinking and expression – often answering questions with “that depends…”, an ability to focus intently on a subject of interest for long periods, and an inability to concentrate on a task that is not intellectually challenging, including repetitious ideas or material presented in small pieces. (Davidson Institute, 2013).
The role of Davidson Institute for Talent Development can be summarized as being to, “recognize, nurture and support profoundly gifted young people to provide opportunities for them to develop their talents in positive ways to create value for themselves and others” (Overview of services for profoundly gifted young people, parents, and teachers, 2013, para. 1).
Davidson Institute for Talent Development does not charge anything for the assistance it provides to gifted students. There are certain requirements and criteria to be eligible to avail of such assistance. Davidson Institute for Talent Development offers various scholarships as well. The present scholarships being offered are Davidson Young Scholars and Davidson Fellows. In addition to the scholarships, Davidson Institute for Talent Development also offers services such as Educators’ Guild, and PG-Cyber Source.
Davidson Young Scholars offers help and support to gifted children and their parents so that the gifted children might attain specialized education. The Davidson Fellow is given to students who have accomplished extraordinary achievements in the fields of “Science, technology, mathematics, literature, philosophy, and/or music. Davidson Fellows receive either a $50,000 or $10,000 scholarship to be used at an accredited institute of learning” (Overview of services for profoundly gifted young people, parents, and teachers, 2013, para. 6).
The Educators Guild is a group of scholars and administrators who want to be engaged in finding new resources for providing better education to gifted students. The PG-Cyber Source is an online source where gifted students can log in and refer to various scholarly journals and other publications and benefit from the information (Overview of services for profoundly gifted young people, parents, and teachers, 2013, para. 8).
Davidson Institute believes that the youth should be brought up lovingly and they should be appreciated for what they are. The youth should be able to attain an education that is at par with their capabilities. The youth should be allowed to develop their in-built qualities to benefit themselves and other people as well.
Proposals and advocacy
Gifted education has changed according to the political climate in the United States (NAGC, 2008c). Today, the requirements and most of the funding for gifted education programs come from the state and local levels, which creates a large disparity in programs and the requirements for teachers of gifted and talented students. Teachers of students who are gifted possess certain characteristics: they are highly intelligent, well educated, and lifelong learners. Because of the lack of teacher preparation programs for instructors of the gifted and talented, many teachers learn best practices for teaching gifted students on the job (NAGC, 2008c), indicating that professional development for gifted teachers is critical. Such instructors need to understand pedagogy, curriculum, theory, and current research for promoting learning with gifted students (NAGC, 2008c). Along with formal learning, teachers need informal and non-formal learning in professional development. Through the creation of communities of practice, teachers can employ collaborative learning techniques to increase their independent learning (Wenger et al., 2009).
Opinions and debates
Gifted and talented education varies widely by state. Laws for gifted and talented education are unregulated by the federal government. Although the national government provides limited funding for gifted and talented education through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Student Education Act, most laws regarding gifted education originate at the state level (Zirkel, 2005). State gifted laws fluctuate from no mention of gifted education in New Hampshire, for example, to laws similar in strength to the federal special education laws for disabled children in eight states: “Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and West Virginia,” (Zirkel, 2005, p. 230).
The remaining 50 states have moderate laws, with state and local level laws that mention group-based gifted education (Zirkel, 2005). Even with moderate laws, only 26 states mandate specific programs for gifted students. The Davidson Institute reported that of these 26 states, only 18 require teachers to receive training to work with the gifted population.
Lack of training and professional development is a problem nationwide. According to the National Association of Gifted Children, many teachers of the gifted are not adequately trained, which affects student learning (NAGC, 2008c). The NAGC suggested that educators of the gifted must understand the social, emotional, and cognitive needs of gifted students and must have access to advanced ideas and content for facilitating gifted student learning.
The lack of gifted training at the university level means that individual school districts with extensive gifted and talented programs must provide professional development and training for their teachers of gifted and talented students. The school district studied, while a medium-sized school district had a rapidly growing gifted program. The school district had teachers with self-contained gifted classes, specialists in gifted education using a pull-out gifted program, and regular education teachers who had cluster groups of students who are gifted. The majority of teachers in the district who worked with students who are gifted were cluster teachers.
They had regular classrooms with a group of students, (generally 4-6 students) who are gifted. The self-contained and gifted specialist teachers had monthly meetings, but the cluster teachers did not get together monthly. Cluster teachers received some professional development regarding best practices for teaching students that are gifted, but they were not required to hold a gifted endorsement. The professional development helped some of the new teachers but did not provide the daily support or community needed. Teachers held positions across the entire district and could not regularly meet to form communities of practice or grade-level teams at their sites. The distance separating the teachers hindered the ability to collaborate, to learn about the needs of students who are gifted, and to obtain ideas and materials.
Social issues concerning the gifted children
Issues due to indifferent development
Gifted children have the ability to understand the basic concepts of life but are unable to relate themselves emotionally to such concepts. Though gifted children might be intellectually capable of doing certain complicated tasks, their asynchronous body development can prove to be a hindrance. Their intellectual level might allow them to discuss complex global issues with elders but during the conversation, due to unexpected mood swings, they might start behaving like a child.
Issues due to their superior oral and reasoning aptitude
One of the less appreciated traits of gifted children is that they can be very confrontational and/or scheming. Even though it is a good thing to provide logical explanations, children should behave like children. This particular trait is considered to be undisciplined/misbehavior by society. Such children have the habit of outwitting their elders. Elders include parents and teachers. Due to their higher level of intelligence, gifted children prefer to make friends with children elder to them.
Issues due to their diligence and emotional compassions
When children are diligent, they have apprehensions of disappointments due to failure. Owing to such apprehensions, they might not want to attempt anything. Gifted children are usually shy because they are afraid of new surroundings and situations. Such children might need comprehensive details of functions to be performed and this might not be liked by some people within the society. As a result, the children become shy. They tend to take comments personally and this might affect their approach.
The theoretical framework of the study includes traditional learning theories in addition to a new theory suggesting technology as the primary tool for knowledge acquisition. The three most popular learning theories for educational environments are behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism (Siemens, 2008). Behaviorism focuses on observable behaviors and proposes that learning occurs through behavior conditioning (Schunk, 2008). Learning stems from environmental stimuli. The theory discounts a person’s internal mental state (Schunk, 2008).
Cognitivism has a different approach from behaviorism. Cognitivism considers the inner mental activities rather than simply conditional learning (Siemens, 2008). Scholars sometimes compare cognitivism to an information processing model. Learners actively seek and process information, practice with existing information, use prior knowledge and arrange the information to have meaning (Schunk, 2008). Constructivism suggests that learners acquire information through real-life experiences (Driscoll, 2000). While behaviorism and cognitivism view cognition as separate from individuals, constructivists contend that learners actively seek knowledge, and interaction takes place between people and situations. People are active learners who must construct their own knowledge based on such interactions (Vygotsky, 1978). Constructivism appears at odds with behaviorism and cognitive information processing theory but has a correlation with cognitive social theory. Bandura’s (2006) theory suggests an interaction between people, behaviors, and environments when learning takes place.
All three of the theories have relevance to training for teachers of the gifted. A fourth theory related to the technology aspect of the study is connections. Rather than considering learning processes, connectivism seeks to examine information acquisition that occurs outside of people (Siemens, 2008).
Through networks, knowledge has grown exponentially. Meanwhile, knowledge life has decreased. Many fields such as technology have seen knowledge disappear in years or even months (Siemens, 2008). To maintain current knowledge, learning practices and theories must adapt. Siemens (2005) suggested several learning trends that influence the need for connected learning:
Learners will have a variety of jobs in different fields during their working life. Learners will gain as much or more knowledge through informal learning as through formalized learning programs. Lifelong learning occurs for everyone. Learning often occurs on the job. The thinking continues to adapt and change through technology. Organizations evolve constantly and knowledge management within the organization becomes increasingly more important. Learners need to be information literate. The need for learners to understand how to access information is more important than to attempt to learn enough information to complete a job without attaining more information. (Siemens, 2005).
Connectivism supports the notion that learning is fluid and individuals must be able to discern relevant information. Two tenets of connectivism related directly to the study are “Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions…Nurturing and maintaining connections are needed to facilitate continual learning” (Siemens, 2005, p. 4).
Another important framework of the study was the notion of creating a community of practice. Theorists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger first used the terminology in 1991 and expanded on it in 1998. The current definition of a ‘community of practice’ is people who come together through a common interest and gain knowledge as they share ideas (Wenger, 2006). Individuals involved in a community of practice engage in collective learning.
According to Wenger (2006), for a group to be a true community of practice, members need three traits: a shared domain, community, and practice. First, members must be part of a shared domain of interest. This does not have to be a formal group, but a shared competence that defines the members must be present (Wenger, 2006). As members pursue the domain of shared interest, they create a community of learners through their interactions, activities, and discussions. For the community to become a practice, the members “develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems – in short, a shared practice” (Wenger, 2006, para. 6).
The purpose of this study is to explore the perceptions of parents of gifted children regarding the problems being faced by them in providing quality education to their children. Teachers also have an important role to play in the performance of gifted children. Parents of gifted children have to be in touch with the teachers of their children. So it is deemed fit to include the teachers as well as the parents in this research. School districts often have only one teacher of gifted students per grade level at a school; some teachers even travel between schools. Such teachers experience isolation and frustration at the lack of collaboration within the school setting. The opportunity to collaborate with other teachers of the gifted located in schools throughout the district suffers from the limits of time and distance (Hur & Brush, 2009). Although teachers and parents do not have direct access to each other daily, they probably have access to a computer and internet connection that can enable them to be in touch via emails.
Research design and set-up
The research method for the study is a qualitative multi-person case study. Qualitative research allows an in-depth study of participants in their everyday settings. Researchers attempt to discern meaning based on the importance individuals place on their own experiences (Merriam, 2009). Qualitative research has a foundation based on empirical inquiry through the collection of lived experiences in a natural setting: the results rely on the process as much as on the data. Researchers determine themes and patterns from multiple sources of data, including primary source documents, interviews, and observations. The data generated from words and transferred understandably are vital (Neuman, 2003). From the delineated results, qualitative research provides a complex understanding of a problem (Creswell, 2007).
Quantitative research is not appropriate for the study. The research questions are of a broad nature and the data collected is non-numerical. Quantitative research is a method designed to study larger groups than in the present study and has limits as to the number of factors studied (Neuman, 2003). Quantitative researchers ask narrow questions and obtain measurable information on variables (Creswell, 2008). In contrast, the present research study has broad questions intended to understand participants’ experiences.
Mixed-method studies combine qualitative and quantitative data analysis in a single study (Creswell, 2007). Such studies emphasize statistical data and descriptions. A deep understanding of both qualitative and quantitative methods is necessary to perform this type of study (Creswell, 2007). A mixed-method study is unnecessary for the present study because statistical measures and variables are a requirement. While Creswell acknowledged the existence of other forms of qualitative research as well as mixed methodologies, he identified “five approaches to qualitative research: narrative, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study” (Clark, 2012). For the current study, only the five true approaches are under consideration. None of the first four methods is suitable for the study.
Phenomenology requires a first-hand experience with the phenomena of the study. Often phenomenological studies intimately examine human encounters, which may involve love, hate, anger, grief, or any other intense emotion (Merriam, 2009).
Data Collection and analysis
Data in case study research are in the form of interviews, observations, video or audio recordings, reflections, and other primary source documents. Yin (2008) contended that the use of multiple sources of data strengthens case studies. The multi-case study includes interviews and reflections of teachers and parents.
The researcher believes that parents of gifted children have to face certain problems as far as their education is concerned. There are other challenges as well but since the research is about the education of gifted children, the discussion will be limited to that area only. The researcher’s opinion is not a subjective consideration because the literature in this field also suggests a similar opinion. The issue is genuine and that’s the reason that organizations like Davidson Institute and National Association for Gifted Children are engaged in incessant endeavors to help the gifted children acquire appropriate education.
But being subjective can result in a biased result. While researching gifted children, the average children are completely sidelined. It is quite possible that there are several problems being faced by the average students and their parents. But since the gifted children are a minority group, their case is highlighted. But as far as this research is concerned, neglecting the average children will not affect its outcome.
Analyzing the data together and using common themes and patterns, ensure that the emerging construct has support from a variety of evidence (Yin, 2008).
Interviews are important sources of data for case study research (Neuman, 2003; Yin, 2008). Both structured and semi-structured questions are part of the interview protocol. Participants received the interview questions in advance and interview responses are either typed or recorded. A digital tape recorder documented face-to-face audio interviews and notes taken during the interview provided additional details and documentation. Each participant to be interviewed was granted oral permission for recording before the interview begins.
To increase validity, a pilot study took place prior to the first interview. Two participants from the study preview each of the interview questions. The pilot study participants make recommendations for clarity and purpose. Results of the pilot study will shape the final interview questions and add to the triangulation of data.
Participants received and completed an initial demographic questionnaire when they signed up for the study. The questionnaire includes questions such as participant’s number of years teaching, the number of years he or she taught in the gifted program, the area he or she taught within the gifted program, the grade level he or she currently taught, the status of the participant in the process of obtaining a gifted endorsement, and general level of technology comfort. The semi-structured interviews will occur at the end of the study.
The semi-structured interview contains a series of open-ended and critical incident questions. The purpose of the questions is to elicit responses providing a deep understanding of possible collaboration between parents and teachers. The purpose of using face-to-face interviews rather than using e-mail or telephone is to enable additional observations, such as facial expressions and body language. Arranging times for face-to-face interviews will take place through e-mail correspondence. The interviews will be held over a two-week period.
The interview transcription took place directly following the interviews. Each participant will receive a transcript of his or her interview via e-mail. Participants will respond to the transcript with notations. While the goal of the semi-structured interview is to be more like a conversation than a survey, steps are taken to protect participants against bias. The tone of voice, body language, and personality of the interviewer may influence the informant’s responses. Encouraging free responses, by using neutral comments, relaxed body language, positive demeanor, and statements that do not share an opinion, help to reduce bias during the interviews (Creswell, 2008).
Instruments to be used in qualitative research include interviews and observations (Creswell, 2008). These tools provide researchers with a method for collecting data for later analysis for themes. The multi-person case study relies on interviews, teacher and parent reflections, and teacher and parent participation. The instrumentation piece of the study stems from the interviews with participating teachers and parents of gifted students. The interview will begin with demographic questions and conclude with a series of open-ended questions designed to extract detailed descriptions of the experiences of teachers and parents. Open-ended interview questions will prompt participants to share their experiences freely and promote a deeper understanding of individual perspectives (Creswell, 2007).
The goal of the multi-person qualitative case study is to obtain a thorough understanding of the perceptions of parents and teachers about collaboration and learning. The study is a current, lived experience study, and the use of historical or archival data is not appropriate. Surveys and questionnaires collect common forms of quantitative data used to generalize results of smaller groups to larger populations (Creswell, 2007) and are not appropriate for the study. The goal of the study is to gain a deep understanding, not to generalize results.
A pilot study will help to test instrument reliability and to modify data collection and procedures. For the study, two participants will review the interview questions and make suggestions. Yin (2008) noted that a pilot test is not a summative, but rather a formative process. The purpose of piloting the interview questions in the study is to identify potential clarity problems and weaknesses within the instrument.
Phase 1: Identification
The gifted children are identified based on their behavior, appearance, and testing. Gifted children have peculiar behavior that can be easily identified. They are very sensitive and are always keen to learn whatever they can. Another distinguishing feature of gifted children is their appearance. The non-gifted children grow and their bodies also develop according to normal humans. But in the case of gifted children, the development of their physical and emotional characteristics is asynchronous.
However, it is not always easy to distinguish gifted children from non-gifted. Some people believe that the term ‘gifted children do not exist. Others believe that all the children are gifted and they need proper molding and guidance to excel in their respective fields. So, in such circumstances, making the supposed gifted children appear in aptitude tests is the best option.
Phase 2: Steps and reasons for concern
The main intention of schools is to provide quality education to their students. Within the intentions, there is the need for considering the gifted population of students. Schools have the moral obligation of providing befitting education standards to gifted students. National Association for Gifted Children’s report suggests that “about 5 to 7 percent of children are gifted. In the Rochester Community Schools, this would be up to 1,000 students” (Raymond, 2011).
The world is progressing at a fast pace and so is the standard of education. Schools ought to provide the latest information and resources so that the students can have up-to-date knowledge of events. All children don’t have the same caliber to grasp things. So there has to be a system where students are differentiated on the basis of their caliber and appropriate education should be provided.
It is not an easy task to identify gifted children but the critical nature of the problem overshadows the involved difficulties. It is better to consider children to be gifted and prove that they are not gifted rather than to consider them to be not gifted (Why should we identify gifted children? 1999, para. 1). The prime concern for identifying gifted children is to provide the appropriate education. Children who are highly capable should be given appropriate education. It is believed that gifted children perform based on their caliber.
It has been observed that generally, educational institutions have a normal curriculum which results in boredom for gifted children. Such gifted children need higher standards in education that match their skills and abilities. Moreover, gifted children expect appreciation so that they are encouraged to perform better in the field of their interest. But unfortunately, the reality is somewhat different from all such things. Queries of gifted children are usually unanswered and since such children are very sensitive, they start feeling isolated.
It is important that the gifted children should have the company of children who are at par with their caliber. Does it mean that gifted children cannot have friends (because normal children cannot match their intelligence)? The truth is that children with high intelligence are a minority group. On average, in a class, “68% of children will fall into the average ability range (IQ between 85 and 115), 14% into the below-average (IQ 70 to 85) and 14% in the above-average range (IQ 115 to 130)” (Why should we identify gifted children? 1999, para. 6). Children with very high IQ constitute only 2% of the total strength. The following figure depicts the intelligence level of children:
Phase 3: Possible steps
Some suggestions for gifted education are mentioned below:
The educational institutions should formulate their policies keeping into consideration the developments around the globe. A feeling of teamwork should be inculcated among the students. Parents should pay heed to their children’s teachers’ comments. Expectations of both the teachers and the parents should be mutually understood. It should not be assumed that the teachers know everything and parents should not leave everything up to the teachers. The parents are also responsible for their children’s education and as such, they should also be involved in their studies.
Phase 4: Targeted/actual audiences
The study will take place in a medium-sized school district in Arizona. The district services over 9,800 students, with approximately 650 gifted students. The population for the study consists of 55 teachers and 200 parents of gifted students. Because the study is a qualitative study to examine participant information in an in-depth manner, a smaller number of the available teachers comprise the sample.
Of the 55 teachers, 20 teachers have agreed to participate in the study and only 180 parents have given their consent. The 20 teachers represent different grades. The teachers include (a) self-contained grade 4-6 teachers of gifted students, (b) district gifted specialist teachers of grades 4-6, and (c) cluster teachers of grades K-6.
Determination of the sampling for a qualitative study is by “which participants can purposely inform an understanding of the research problem and central phenomena in the study” (Creswell, 2007, p. 125). The purpose of a multi-person case study design is to evaluate a small number of participants to obtain an in-depth understanding of participants’ beliefs. The original sample contains 20 teachers and 180 parents of gifted students. However, only 15 teachers and 170 parents will actively participate in the questionnaire, so the results of the study will represent only the 15 teachers and 170 parents who are active participants.
Criterion sampling is optimal for the study. Participants are teachers and parents of gifted students in one school district. The gifted services coordinator will hold a meeting at the district office involving all the participating teachers and parents of gifted students.
Interested participants (teachers) will complete a form containing his or her name, grade level, and number of years teaching gifted students, and check one qualification category of self-contained teacher, gifted specialist, or gifted cluster teacher. The parents are required to fill in separate information pertaining to the upbringing of their children. The completed forms will enable choosing participants who are representatives of grades K-3 and 4-6. Narrowing the field of volunteer participants will produce a representative group of teachers from each subset: self-contained, specialist, and cluster teachers.
Disclosure, ethics, and limitations
Informed consent is one way to ensure that participants do not feel coerced into contributing to a study (Neuman, 2003). Informed consent is an active process and the purpose is to inform potential candidates fully. The informed consent form includes the purpose of the study, researcher and participant responsibilities, and general information about the study. The consent form also explains that participation is deliberate and that participants could revoke permission at any point without repercussion. Signing the form ensures participant confidentiality.
The study is voluntary; participants are over the age of 18, and all published information involving participants uses pseudonyms rather than participant names. All participant information including names signed consent forms, and data collected remains confidential. The information will be locked in a file cabinet in the home office during the study and will remain locked in the file cabinet for three years. Storage of all interview notes and teacher and parent reflections will be in the same secure location.
Transfer to a flash drive, deletion from the original computer, and placing the flash drive in the same locked file cabinet where the other participant information is, will provide security for all computerized data for three years.
To ensure participant anonymity, participants will have a unique number assigned. The unique number for teachers begins with the letters GT for gifted teachers and contains a number in corresponding order from 1 to 20: for example, participant number 18 is GT18. The list of teacher names with their numbers remains on the flash drive and will remain locked in the same file cabinet as the other information for three years. Similarly, the unique number of parents starts with the letters GP and contains a number in corresponding order from 1 to 180: for example, participant number 65 is GP65 and so on.
Published results of the study will use unique numbers. Participant identities will remain confidential. Participants have guaranteed anonymity and confidentiality in the letter of informed consent. After three years, destruction of all data will take place, with the shredding of documents and deletion of information on the flash drive. The flash drive will undergo reformatting procedures to ensure erasure of all information from the study. The study complies with the International Human Subjects Research Requirements and upholds ethical principles of research (Creswell, 2008; Merriam, 2009).
Since the study is concentrated on a particular area, the results depict only a small population of gifted children.
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Questions for parents of gifted
- Does your gifted child have access to various gifted programs?
- What are the incidents, pertaining to gifted programs that have been helpful in the growth of your gifted child?
- What are your suggestions for improving the experiences of gifted children with the various beneficial programs designed for them?
- Have you ever taken advantage of any of the programs designed for gifted children?
- How would you rate the interaction with the organizers of programs for gifted children?
- When did you realize that your child was gifted?
- How often do you get involved in the education of your gifted child?
- What are the resources that you provide for the education of your gifted child?
- What other resources would you like to provide for the education of your gifted child?
- What, according to you, is the definition of a gifted child?
- Are you informed every year about the various educational programs designed for gifted children?
- Are you involved in the yearly assessment of programs for the gifted children?
- Do you have access to the policies pertaining to the education of the gifted children?
- Do you think that the programs for gifted children are culturally congruent?
- How many criteria are taken into consideration while assessing the gifted children?
- Are you aware of the academic streams in which gifted education is provided to gifted students?
- Does your gifted child receive gifted education throughout the academic year?
- Before this study, what was your perception of your ability to share information with parents of other gifted children?
- Prior to this study, what were some ways you shared information with parents of other gifted children?
- What perception did you have regarding the existing support being provided to gifted children?
Sample follow-up interview questions for parents
Following are the interview questions for parents of gifted children:
- What, according to you, are the developments that have taken place in gifted education?
- How is it possible to distinguish the gifted children from the normal ones?
- What are the methods that you adopt to motivate the gifted children?
- Are you aware of the formalities required to be completed for discontinuing gifted program, for the gifted children?
- Do you think that unnecessary hype is being created for distinguishing the gifted children in order to fill the special programs?
- Why do you think that gifted children are given special attention in all the fields of education?
- Do you normally ask questions about the different programs being carried out for the gifted children?
- Do you have to face any hurdles while interacting with the organizers of the gifted programs?
- As parents of gifted children, how do you plan to go about formulating strategies?
- What are the changes that you propose for the various gifted programs being carried out?
- Do you think that the school of your gifted child has sufficient expertise to deal with gifted children?
- Does the school of your gifted child have any fixed curriculum?
- Do you think that the curriculum of your gifted child’s school is appropriate and up to the required standards?
- Do you have any problems with any of the teachers of your gifted child? Please elaborate.
- Do you experience more stress while dealing with your gifted child in comparison to your normal children?
- Do you think that you are able to spend ample time (as required) with your gifted child?
- Do you face any financial problems while arranging for educating your gifted child?
- How often does your gifted child have the urge to skip school?
- What kind of response does your gifted child get from your extended family and the society?
- Do you feel that the response from your extended family and the society is appropriate or inappropriate?
- What are the various problems that you face in bringing up your gifted child?
- What, according to you, are the positive and/or negative features of your gifted child?
- How old is your gifted child?
- Do you feel that the present opportunities for the gifted children are enough/not enough to enable them to gain expertise in the field of their interest? Please elaborate.
- What are the advantages or disadvantages of being parents of a gifted child?
- Have you interacted with gifted children, other than your own child? If yes, what variance did you find in gifted girls and gifted boys?
- Do you get involved in your gifted child’s education?
- What, according to you, are the advantages/disadvantages of getting involved in gifted children’s education?
Questions for teachers
- How many years have you been in the teaching profession?
- How many years have you been teaching in the gifted program?
- What is the area that you taught within the gifted program?
- What is your current area of teaching?
- How did you manage to attain the gifted endorsement?
- How comfortable are you with the technology related to gifted education?
- Are you in constant touch with the parents of the gifted students?
- Are you aware of the latest developments in gifted education?