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Pedagogical structuring of the curriculum for gifted students

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Arrigoni, Jasna. (2017). Pedagogical structuring of the curriculum for gifted students. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Pedagogy.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij pedagogije) [mentor Sekulić-Majurec, Ana].

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Abstract

For a long time in the Republic of Croatia the interest in the education of gifted individuals has been at a standstill, and from a scientific point of view it has not represented a particularly interesting area of research, to which very few scientific papers testify. This has been changing in the last ten years, however, at an insufficient speed that does not allow catching up with the quantity and quality of international scientific and professional research. Interest in this area in western countries indicates a previously developed social awareness of the importance of the most capable individuals for the development of a society. In many works of influential theorists and practitioners, who deal with the phenomenon of giftedness, the question of the curriculum for gifted students obtains a key position given that after the first question, “How do we identify gifted individuals?” we are faced with the question “What and how do we continue working with such individuals so as to make potential talent tangible and for them to become a productive talent both to the satisfaction of the gifted individual and the society in which he lives and works?” The aim of this doctoral thesis was to determine the foudations of pedagogical guidelines of the curriculum for the gifted, which would be appropriate in our school system, based on the analysis of different definitions of curriculum and especially different curriculums for the gifted. Curriculum as a concept was also interesting to our linguistic experts, and in the literature we find several different designations (Arduino, 2004 Rosandić, 2003, 2005). Smajić and Vodopija (2008). Controversies surrounding the use of the term curriculum, kurikulum, and kurikul ended with the proposed use of the term uputnik, as the Croatian word that marks the location of instructions about something. In case of the acceptance of a foreign language term, authors suggest the word kurikul and then kurikulum. However, the pedagogical theory and practice of our area has generally accepted the word kurikulum (Previšić, 2007) as well as the official policy that discusses the National Curriculum Framework. Despite the linguists’ disagreement over the terminology, there is more consent about determining its meaning. As a general determinant they usually emphasize the entire path that needs to be taken in order to get to the finish line. But from the attempts at defining the term, it becomes obvious that there is a diversity of theoretical interpretations of the concept of curriculum among authors. “Curriculum is a methodological system of accurately selected, structured, and methodically created content and pedagogical training activities that is determined by its purpose, type, form, and level of schooling” (Milat, 2005: 201). Kelly (2011) notes that the definition of curriculum should include the fact that the curriculum represents the totality of all children’s experiences, considering the concept further with various aspects and forms. Authors Wiles and Bondi (2011, according Baranović, 2015), starting from the Latin word currere, consider the concept of curriculum as a course of action on the path toward the set goal. Marsh (2009) opened the discussion on a number of possible understandings or definitions of curriculum: - curriculum is represented by permanent school subjects as a set of essential knowledge, - curriculum are those subjects that are most useful for modern life, - curriculum is all planned knowledge for which the school is responsible, - curriculum is the totality of all learning experiences based on which students can achieve general skills and knowledge - curriculum is everything what the student constructs while working on the computer and various social networks, - curriculum is questioning the authority and seeking understanding of complex human situations. After analyzing a large number of definitions of curriculum and its different interpretations, in this work we opted for the following definition: “curriculum is a set of planned and implicit guidelines that guide the educational process according to the tasks and amenities that are consistently derived from the target and indicate the organizational forms and ways of working, procedures to verify the effectiveness depending on many process factors and circumstances” (Previšić, 2007:20). This definition fully meets the needs of this work because it understands and explains the curriculum in sufficiently broad terms and openly in order to be able to include all guidelines which will be reached through theoretical and empirical mans, i.e. that will be determined. Upon insight into a greater number of different approaches to the curriculum, this work emphasizes the value of the open curriculum, which with its characteristics responds to the author's pedagogical approach to this phenomenon. In the very core of every practical organizing incentive for the gifted lies a particular theoretical approach, a certain conception of giftedness. Their number (J. Renzulli, H. Gardner, R. Sternberg, J. Stanley, F. Gagné, K. Heller, F. Mönks, A. Ziegler, Borland, and others.), first of all, points to different views of the phenomenon of giftedness, therefore to the interpretation of the same phenomena. Unsurprisingly, the scientific and technical literature recognizes more than 140 different definitions of giftedness, which poses certain difficulty in selecting and practically implementing a particular theoretical approach. The work presents selected theoretical approaches and concepts which are considered to have the best scientific-research foundation and which have been well accepted by teachers in practical terms in their host countries but also worldwide. The best-known concepts are those by Julian Stanley (2005) and J. Renzulli (1998, 2003), because of the scientific research on which they based their concepts, which confirmed their basic tenets. What is more important, their determinants are particularly suitable for a practical implementation in educational institutions. In this dissertation special attention is paid to specific programs/models of fostering giftedness, which have arisen from those concepts that the primary purpose of implementation in the immediate educational practice. Therefore, one chapter is dedicated to the most popular models in educational systems of different countries, such as the Stanley Model of Talent Identification and Development (Stanley and Brody, 2005), the Renzulli Schoolwide Enrichment Triad model - SEM (Renzulli, 1998, 2003), Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory (Gardner, 2004, 2006), Differentiated model of giftedness and talent by F. Gagné (Gagné, 2005), the Parallel Curriculum model - PCM (Purcell, Burns & Leppien, 2002), Sternberg’s Triarchic Componential model (Sternberg, 1995, 1999, 2005), and the J. VanTassel-Baska’s Integrated Curriculum model - ICM (Vantassel-Baska & Wood, 2010). World experience points to some other examples, but for the purpose of this research we have chosen the ones that stand out in their scientific foundation, inclusion of relevant sources, and serve as guidelines and instructions for use. For a better understanding of the problem of education for the gifted and ideas for the proposal of their own model of encouraging the gifted and organizing their education, special attention is given to current experiences in education systems of certain countries with different experiences in this area. For this purpose we analyzed curricula for the gifted in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia so as to conclude, from the normative discourse, the underlying structure of their curricula intended for gifted children. In the United States there is a varied and rich system of education for the gifted, which is organized at the federal level, but diversely adopted, financed, and enforceable in some states (State of the State, 2013). In short, we can say that in the United States there is a long tradition of research on the phenomenon and especially of promotion of the development of the gifted and talented, that there are many globally well-accepted concepts and programs, which have developed from these concepts, have developed on the United States’ soil, and that there are numerous non-profit organizations, foundations, and associations with very influential programs that have extended beyond the border of the United States. The American educational system is characterized by a frequent use of various forms of acceleration, especially earlier enrollment in higher levels of education, and forms of teacher education to work with gifted children at university level. Ireland and the United Kingdom have specific instructions for the implementation of programs for the education of the gifted and talented, but implementation is largely left to the autonomy of schools. In Ireland, as in Scotland, the education of the gifted is based on the principle of inclusion, i.e. on the development of gifted children without encouraging their separation in special departments. Australia is one of the countries in which the acceptance of the education of the gifted has from the earliest beginnings been based on the political level, therefore, the recommendations in this regard come from the political top. The consequence of this is that in Australia there is a well-designed comprehensive system of care for the gifted and their education. Each federal component has its own non-profit organization that supports official education authorities in implementing the program. They are characterized by a designed curriculum with certain adjustments in the teaching and learning environment and a number of curricular adaptations. In the empirical part of research, a questionnaire was prepared for class teachers and subject teachers of elementary schools in order to examine their opinions about the phenomenon of giftedness and the system of care for the gifted, to and determine their degree of readiness for the implementation of a pedagogically structured curriculum for the gifted. Before interviewing teachers, we conducted discussions in focus groups with teachers for the purpose of constructing the questionnaire for work purposes. The questionnaire for teachers consists of several groups of questions. The first part of the questionnaire determined the basic demographic characteristics of the respondents: gender, age, years of experience, and advancement in the profession. With the second group of questions it was aimed to determine the experience of teachers in their work with gifted students, to find out based on whose assessment the child was identified as gifted, to obtain their assessment of the quality of this experience, and information about other experiences in working with gifted students in which the teacher participated during his working experience. The second part of the questionnaire consisted of several groups of statements related to the attitudes of teachers on specific issues, which refer to the development of a systematic care for the gifted. This part of the questionnaire included a total of 115 statements, i.e. particles that are distributed over five independent tables, and the particles are organized in a five-point Likert-type scale (1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neither agree nor disagree 4 = disagree 5 = strongly agree). The first table consists of 20 items, and the statements refer to the evaluation of basic structural elements of a possible system of care for the gifted; the second group of statements (17) relates to a method of recognizing and identifying gifted children; the third group of statements ( 34) refers to the provision of educational support for gifted children; the fourth group of claims (14) refers to the training and professional development of teachers to work with gifted students; and the last group of statements (30) has the task to evaluate to which extent the teachers are personally willing to accept the proposed measures and activities of care for the gifted. The third group of questions relates to open-ended questions in which participants had the option propose certain suggestions or comments regarding a specific problem area below each group of statements. The last open question offered the participants an opportunity to express their opinion regarding the education of gifted children, which they could not have done in previous questions of the questionnaire. The respondents are elementary school teachers from four major cities in Croatia. Elementary schools were selected based on the method of successive samples, and thus three primary schools from Rijeka, Zagreb, Osijek, and Split were included in this research. The research included a total of 412 teachers, both class teachers and subject teachers. Data were analyzed with the statistical program SPSS, and the exploratory factor analysis identified the construct validity of the questionnaire and scale structure. Parametric and non-parametric tests were used to determine the relation between variables of the obtained factors, depending on the features of some variables: analysis of variance, the Kruskal-Wallis Test, the Mann-Whitney test, the Bonferroni multiple comparison test, and the Spearman and Pearson correlation. These tests provided answers to eight hypotheses. The results and discussion suggest a positive attitude of teachers towards the existence of a national system of care for the gifted; they also point to problems that teachers and educational institutions face, the willingness of young teachers for the implementation of a pedagogical constructed curriculum for the gifted, and the significant need for education and training in work with gifted students. The critical attitude is also observable towards teaching insufficient measures towards the gifted and talented in our education system. On the basis of conducted analyses of the curriculum, and especially of the curriculum for the gifted, as well as the results of the conducted research, a possible framework curriculum for the education of gifted students in our schools has been developed in detail, for which it is primarily necessary to obtain a political consensus at the highest political circles of the country with the intention to express a need for quality education of every child, including a gifted one, to indicate the orientation of the society towards the development of the best potential of each child for the purpose of social progress in all its activities - science, technology, culture, and others. This research is one of the few comprehensive studies of our educational system regarding the problems of gifted students, the quality of their education, as well as the opinions of teachers on this issue and their role in the process. This could be a quality incentive to other researchers to focus their interest on this area and to initiate new research because they are extremely important, especially interdisciplinary research, whereby all earlier experiences collected in numerous studies conducted in Croatia and former Yugoslavia should be taken into account (Strugar, 1997). It has been noted that consistent research is desirable in the area of student acceleration, various enriched programs, attitudes of teachers, identifying gifted children, extracurricular programs (associations, etc.), and others. The research results should direct higher education institutions, which are intended to educate elementary school teachers, subject teachers, experts (pedagogists, psychologists), to change study programs and create courses and/or study programs with content from the field of education for gifted children. The fundamental purpose would be the development of appropriate competencies of the educational staff for working with potentially gifted children and students. Simultaneously with the changes in the program at the undergraduate level, it is important to develop training programs while working in the educational practice, i.e. to provide continuing professional education of workers and improvement in their skills throughout life. Leaders of the development of systematic care for the gifted can only be well prepared and trained members of the educational staff, which is widely discussed in relevant scientific sources (Lassig, 2009, Plunkett & Kronborg, 2011, Seet-Fraser, Howard & Woodcock, 2013) and confirmed by practical examples in some countries where programs are offered and developed in universities such as the United States, Australia, and others. Teachers and other professionals should be enabled the acquisition of doctoral positions in this area, which is currently not available at our universities. Noticing, tracking, and encouraging potentially gifted children should begin at an early age (Sutherland, 2012), i.e. material, personnel, and software conditions should be created in educational institutions as well as pedagogical approaches to encourage the potential of every preschool aged child. Research has shown that when it comes to gifted children, very often, although unreasonably, it is primarily thought of preschool and school-aged children and students in elementary and high schools. There is less research that is focused on examining the education of the gifted at our institutions of higher education, i.e. at the tertiary level of education, therefore they should be intensified. The question is then raised whether and how the principles of discovering and encouraging young gifted people and students on the threshold of their professional activity are applied? It is important to intensify research on the socio-emotional characteristics of gifted individuals and their reflections on the educational system. In this connection it is appropriate to propose a program for the development of socio-emotional characteristics of the gifted as an integral part of the framework of the school curriculum designed for the education of the gifted and talented. Teachers’ opinions can be generalized with high probability, no matter in which city they are active, and thus send a message to educational authorities in which direction the teachers want to go what the education of potentially gifted children in the Croatian school system is concerned.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: curriculum, giftedness, gifted students, talented students, conceptions of giftedness, curriculum for gifted students, curriculum structure, gifted education, encouraging gifted students, the readiness of the teacher to work with the gifted
Subjects: Pedagogija
Departments: Department of Pedagogy
Supervisor: Sekulić-Majurec, Ana
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij pedagogije
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2017 12:18
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2017 12:18
URI: http://darhiv.ffzg.unizg.hr/id/eprint/8958

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