The purpose of this research is to find the best way for selecting and teaching gifted children for Gifted and Talented Education Programs in the United States. It explores who exactly are defined as “gifted students” and what their characteristics are like compared to regular students. Then it explains main ways of selecting and teaching them and listing pros and cons of each method. Finally it concludes that in order for Gifted and Talented Education in America to give full scope to gifted students’ ability, it is best to select children by using a set of Measures of Academic Progress Test, Otis Lennon School Ability Test, and Structure of Intellect and teach them in the method called cluster grouping.
Although school districts in the United States recognize that gifted and talented students are children with unique advantage and excellence, state laws, local policies, and available funding vary widely in each state. Therefore each school has their own services and curriculum for gifted students and also there is uneven protection for gifted and talented students under the law. This holds back the progress of gifted students which means that the disparity of school districts is taking away the children’s capability, potential, and their future. Therefore, it is important to unify the selection method and the broad idea of how to teach gifted students.
There are many ways of selecting and teaching them, but the best way to select children is to use a set of Measures of Academic Progress Test, Otis Lennon School Ability Test, and Structure of Intellect and teach them in the cluster grouping method because these are the most effective way to select and teach gifted students in order to cultivate unique their skills and expand the possibilities for their future. In this paper, it will define what Gifted and Talented Education Program and who gifted students are, and explain what kind of entrance exam for gifted education is the best. After that, according to the characteristics of gifted students, it will explore the best way of teaching them.
Gifted and Talented Education Program
Gifted and Talented Education is a broad term for “special practices, procedures and theories used to educate children who have been identified as gifted or talented”. National Association for Gifted Children, NAGC, estimates that approximately 6% of the student population is gifted and talented” (“National Association for Gifted Children”). The detailed aim of this education program differs from district to district, but the common aims that all school have are to develop students’ merits by following the lead of the gifted students since they have different speed of learning, most of the time faster, than regular students. Most of the decisions on gifted education are made at the state and local level.
The Definition of Gifted Students
There is no standard global definition for gifted students to this day. US Department of Education defines them as “children and youth with outstanding talent who perform or show the potential for performing at remarkably high levels of accomplishment when compared with others of their age, experience, or environment” (“US Department of Education”). However, there are many controversies among researchers over the definition of gifted students.
In most school districts all over the United States, “students who generally score high scores on aptitude tests or on periodic examinations were offered a test to receive Gifted and Talented Education Program” (Maker and Nielson 5). However in this measurement, the students are selected based only on their general intelligence, which is a scholastic performance on coursework such as mathematical calculation capabilities and reading abilities in English. Therefore, in the past several years, the researchers have been challenging the theories and the definition of the gifted students.
Some researchers say gifted students are children who are highly proficient based on triarchic theory of intelligence formulated by Sternberg. He discussed in his theory that intelligence consisted of three aspects. First is the analytic skill, such as ability to comprehend abstractly and evaluate information. Second is the synthetic skill or creativity, the ability to invent novel solutions or ideas. Third is practical skill, which enables people to cope with determinate situations.
Also he proposed that intelligence involves distinct mental cognitive processes of three kinds: “(a) metacomponents, or executive processes needed for planning, monitoring, and evaluating problem solving; (b) knowledge-acquisition components, used to gather information necessary to solve problems; and (c) performance components, or processes needed to implement the commands issued by the metacomponents”(Sternberg 7). According to Sternberg, gifted students are not necessarily those who are good at processing general information but also students who are good communicating with people or who have more unique inspirations than others.
Gardner defined intelligence as “the ability to solve problems of fashion products that are valued in at least one culture” (Gardner 4). In his research, it showed that there were at least seven different intelligences in people – linguistic, logical mathematical, spatial, musical, bodily kinesthetic, and intrapersonal. In this view, although it is true that students who score highly on standardized intelligence are somewhat gifted and talented, they are only adept in one aspect out of the many fields human being could be masterful. Gifted children are those who are adept in unique aspects.
The Criteria for Determination of Gifted Students
There are mainly three ways to test out students so that they can be identified as gifted and talented students: “a set of Otis Lennon School Ability Test and Stanford Achievement Test, WISC-IV, and a set of Measures of Academic Progress Test, Otis Lennon School Ability Test, and Structure of Intellect” (Porter, section 2). The set of Otis Lennon School Ability Test and Stanford Achievement Test, usually expects students to score 96 percent in at least one subject and score more than 86 percent in Otis–Lennon School Ability Test, OLSAT. The Stanford Achievement Test mainly measures basic academic skills. OLSAT is a test of abstract thinking and reasoning ability. “It is organized into five areas, and it includes an equal number of verbal and non-verbal items each area which are verbal comprehension, verbal reasoning, pictorial reasoning, figural reasoning, and quantitative reasoning” (“Otis-Lennon School Ability Test®”).
This means that this measures students mostly students’ standard scholarship like standardized intelligence. WISC-IV shows IQ scores which shows essential information and critical clinical insights into a child’s cognitive functioning. However, theories and the results of experiments by Gardner and Sternberg imply that schools in the United States should not define giftedness only by general intelligence or on IQ test scores of students. In this view, although it is true that students who score highly on standardized intelligence are somewhat gifted and talented, they are only adept in one aspect out of the many fields human being could be masterful. Therefore, the two tests that were above-mentioned are not suitable to determine students as gifted and talented students since these focus mainly on basic academic achievements and not on other factors that students could be talented in.
The set of Measures of Academic Progress Test, Otis Lennon School Ability Test, and Structure of Intellect, this focuses many aspects that children could be talented in, like regular scholastic abilities, artistic creativity, and interpersonal relationships unlike two of the tests mentioned above. Therefore if this method is used as the entrance examination system to receive gifted and talented education, students who are in gifted education program would be able to get opportunities to blossom further by getting motivated and inspired by other talented children who are gifted in other aspects because this method allows to accept many different kinds of talented students in the education program. Hence it is best to unify the Criteria for Determination of Gifted Students to the set of Measures of Academic Progress Test, Otis Lennon School Ability Test, and Structure of Intellect.
Characteristics of Gifted Students and the Adequate Way to Teach Accordingly
There are many characteristics that gifted students have which regular students do not. Gifted learners usually have “excellent memories and ability to understand concepts and principles quickly” (Maker 104). Some of the gifted students have extraordinary capacity to input information and strategies with incredible fast time and naturally without so much effort put into it. This means that they only need little practice in order to acquire knowledge. However, they still do need to learn how to use the knowledge they acquired by analyzing, synthesizing, and by evaluating. It goes without saying that they already have this type of strategy, but it is important to develop their merits even more to their full extent.
Dewy explains that most gifted learners fit into at least one of the following aspects: “(a) extraordinary ability to communicate ideas and feelings through words, actions, symbols, sounds, or other media of expression; (b) outstanding ability to think things through and consider implications or alternatives; (c) goal-oriented thought; (d) abilities to use ideas, processes, or materials ingeniously; and (e) an unusual capacity for information acquisition and retrieval” (344). He also explains that these kind of students need “opportunities to express in some form that leads them to show their ideas, problem solutions, or conclusion and to make connections to previous knowledge or experience” (351).
Opportunity for students to express what they have in their mind is important since learners can benefit from hearing, seeing, or reading how others analyzed their opinions because the method of expressing could be different from their own. Second reason is because others have a chance to analyze and evaluate their process and also their finished product of their thinking. Also, it is important because “students need to be aware of their own mental processes in order to learn to control them” (Clarke 118). Expressing is one of the best ways for gifted students to educate themselves and also get education from other peers in class.
Group activities build leadership and characteristics of each student. Maker and Nielson states that “because of the high degree of participation and the rapid pace of most games, gifted students usually maintain their interest in group-process” (129). In most cases in an active group interaction, some kind of structure forms. For example, one is perceptive, responsive, and assertive to their opinions and feelings, one is seasoned listener and knits up discussion when needed, and one has sense of humor unifying the group with a warm atmosphere.
One could even not be participating in a group interaction at all. In structured performance like this, students can extend their uniqueness and skills they have and also influence each other positively by interacting with each other. One who is not participating at all seems like student is giving a negative influence, but in a group of gifted students, others who are participating have possibility to improve communication competency by trying to cope with him. Group process activities can be just a simple group discussion, or simulated social situations, or even games that need trust, willingness to open them up, and develop ability to support the group process activities.
Considering all the characteristics of the gifted student learners, the best way to teach is to use the method called the cluster grouping. Cluster grouping is “an educational process in which four to six gifted and talented (GT) and/or high achieving students are assigned to an otherwise heterogeneous classroom within their grade to be instructed by a teacher that has had specialized training in differentiating for gifted learners” (Winebrenner 177). Clustering is not simply putting all the academiclly accelerated students into one classroom to study like other methods such as pull-outs, compacting, and enrichment which U.S. Government reported that these methods are generally unsuccessful in 1993.
In cluster grouping, talented students are able to receive the place to express themselves to others in their individual way, develop their ability to use the knowledge they have acquired by analyzing, synthesizing, and by evaluating, and group activities. Schuler emphasizes that “through cluster grouping the intellectual, social, and emotional needs of the gifted students can be addressed” (section 4).
There are many cleasr evidence that shows the advantages in cluster grouping. According to one survey, advantages include: “cost effectiveness, high challenge and expectations of students, faster progression through curricula, administrative ease in observation of services, increased understanding of GT students, and an improved opportunity to address the psychological needs of the GT students” (Rogers 249). Other research has shown “a 99% positive approval rating among parents of clustered children and a 90% positive approval rating among the children themselves.” (Rogers 226). Therefore, it is clear that cluster grouping is a successful method to teach gifted students.
There is clear evidence and reasonings that cluster grouping method and the set of Measures of Academic Progress Test, Otis Lennon School Ability Test, and Structure of Intellect for selective examination are the most effective and efficient way to use gifted education in America. However, there are still many questions and problems unsolved even though the gifted and talented education in the United States started more than 100 years ago. One of the reasons is because that there are only few researchers who collect numerical data of gifted children. Many researchers most of the time only come up with new method of teaching or selecting gifted students but they do not publish clear evidence why they are successful. United States is in need of furthur research and experiments on gifted education and gifted students for the success of the future children and for the future of the United States.
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