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December 1, 1994
Vol. 52
No. 4

Teachers As Talent Scouts

Originally developed for gifted education programs, the Schoolwide Enrichment Model can be used in an inclusive school that wants to be a laboratory for talent development.

Instructional Strategies
Elaine is a gifted 3rd grader.
When many people hear a statement like that, they raise issues of elitism that have long plagued special programs based on narrow definitions, IQ scores, or other measures of cognitive ability. By labeling some students “gifted,” they argue, you relegate all others to the category of “not gifted.”
  • Under the guidance of her classroom teacher, Elaine substitutes more challenging books in her interest area for the 3rd grade reader. The schoolwide enrichment teaching specialist helps the classroom teacher locate these books, which are purchased with funds from the enrichment program budget.
  • Elaine leaves school two afternoons a month (usually on early dismissal days) to meet with a mentor—a local journalist who specializes in gender issues. The schoolwide enrichment teaching specialist arranges transportation through the parent volunteer group.
  • By compacting the curriculum in Elaine's strength areas (reading, language arts, and spelling), the schoolwide enrichment teaching specialist frees time for her to meet with female scientists and faculty members at a nearby university.
Could even the staunchest anti-gifted proponent argue against the logic or the appropriateness of these services? Essentially, such services become opportunities for developing “gifted behaviors” rather than merely finding and certifying them. And when programs focus on developing the behavioral potential of individuals—or of small groups whose members share a common interest—it's no longer necessary to group certain students merely because they all happen to be “gifted 3rd graders.”

Tapping Everyone's Potential

Given the opportunity, students like Elaine can develop gifted behaviors in specific areas of learning and human expression, transcending the idea of giftedness as a state of being. This orientation, the basis of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, can allow many students—not just those labeled gifted—to achieve high levels of creative and productive accomplishments that otherwise would be denied them through traditional program models.
  1. Provide a broad range of advanced-level enrichment experiences for all students.
  2. Use the many and varied ways that students respond to these experiences as stepping stones for relevant follow-up.
This approach isn't a new way of identifying who is or isn't gifted. Rather, it identifies how to provide subsequent opportunities, resources, and encouragement that will support escalated student involvement in both required and self-selected activities.
True, the model has its roots in special programs for high-potential students. Such programs have proved an especially fertile place for experimentation, because they're usually not encumbered by prescribed curriculum guides or by traditional methods of instruction. Many school improvement concepts that originated in special programs have begun to surface in general education. These include, for example, a focus on concept rather than skill learning, an interdisciplinary curriculum and theme-based studies, student portfolios, cross-grade grouping, and alternative scheduling patterns.
A variety of research on human abilities supports the application of gifted program know-how to general education (Bloom 1985, Gardner 1983, Renzulli 1986, Sternberg 1984). Also, research clearly and unequivocally justifies the broader concept of “talent development” and points to the role that enrichment specialists can play in school improvement.
In addition, the enrichment approach reflects the democratic ideal that schools can accommodate the full range of individual differences. Traditional identification procedures restrict services to small numbers of high-scoring students. Enrichment activities, however, enable schools to help develop the talents of all students who manifest their potentials in many other ways.

Essential Elements

  1. <EMPH TYPE="3">The Total Talent Portfolio. The model focuses on specific learning characteristics that can serve as a basis for talent development. The approach uses both traditional and performance-based assessment to determine three dimensions of the learner—abilities, interests, and preferred learning styles. This information, which focuses on strengths rather than deficits, is compiled into a form called the Total Talent Portfolio (see fig. 1). Schools use the portfolios to decide which talent development opportunities to offer a particular student through regular classes, enrichment clusters, and special services.
  2. [[[[[ **** LIST ITEM IGNORED **** ]]]]]
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Figure 1. Dimensions of the Total Talent Portfolio

Teachers As Talent Scouts-table

Abilities

Interests

Style Preferences

Maximum Performance IndicatorsInterest AreasInstructional Styles PreferencesLearning Environment PreferencesThinking Styles PreferencesExpression Style Preferences
"Tests Standardized Teacher-made Course grades Teacher ratings Product Evaluation Written Oral Visual Musical Constructed (Note differences between assigned and self-selected products) Level of participation in learning activities Degree of interaction with others""Fine arts Crafts Literary Historical Mathematical/logical Physical sciences Life sciences Political/judicial Athletic/recreation Marketing/business Drama/dance Musical performance Musical composition Managerial/business Photography Film/video Computers Other (specify)""Recitation and drill Peer tutoring Lecture Lecture/discussion Discussion Guided independent study Learning/interest center Simulation, role playing, dramatization, guided fantasy Learning games Replicative reports or projects Investigative reports or projects Unguided independent study Internship Apprenticeship""Inter/Intra Personal Self-oriented Peer-oriented Adult-oriented Combined Physical Sound Heat Light Design Mobility Time of day Food intake Seating""Analytic (school smart) Synthetic/creative (creative, inventive) Practical/contextual (street smart) Legislative Executive Judicial""Written Oral Manipulative Discussion Display Dramatization Artistic Graphic Commercial Service"

Implementing the Model

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  2. [[[[[ **** LIST ITEM IGNORED **** ]]]]]
  3. Continuum of special services. Although enrichment clusters and the modifications of the regular curriculum help meet individual needs, a program for talent development still requires supplementary services. These services, which challenge the students capable of working at the highest levels of their special interest areas, typically include individual or small-group counseling; direct assistance in facilitating advanced-level work; mentor relationships; and other programs that connect students, families, and out-of-school resources or agencies. (Figure 2 illustrates the continuum of services by education level.)

Figure 2. The Continuum of Services for Total Talent Development

el199412_renzulli_fig2.jpg
The schoolwide enrichment teaching specialist—or a team of teachers and parents—has responsibility for providing options for advanced learning. One schoolwide enrichment teaching specialist in Barrington, Rhode Island, estimates she spends two days a week serving as a resource to the faculties of two schools; on the other three days she provides direct services to students.
The schoolwide enrichment coordinator in the LaPorte, Indiana, School Corporation developed a Parent-Teacher Enrichment Guide that describes opportunities in the city and surrounding area. Direct assistance often takes the form of encouraging students, faculty, and parents to participate in programs such as Future Problem Solving, Odyssey of the Mind, and Model United Nations, in addition to essay, mathematics, and history contests sponsored at the state and national levels. Typically, schoolwide enrichment teaching specialists also make arrangements for students interested in summer programs, on-campus courses, special schools, theatrical groups, scientific expeditions, and apprenticeships.

Elements of Reform

  • Act of learning. Organizational and administrative structures such as vouchers, site-based management, school choice, ungraded classes, parent involvement, and extended school days are important considerations. They don't, however, directly address how to improve the interaction among teachers, students, and the curriculum.The Schoolwide Enrichment Model places the act of learning at the center of any recommendations for school improvement. For example, the model looks at the learner's current achievement levels in each area of study, interest in particular topics, and preferred styles of learning (Renzulli 1992).
  • Use of time. Educators and laypeople alike are well acquainted with the typical pattern of school organization. Schools teach the major subjects (reading, mathematics, science, language arts, and social studies) five days per week, with special subjects (music, art, and physical education) offered once or twice a week. We've become so accustomed to the rigidity of this schedule that even the slightest hint of changing it meets with a storm of protest from administrators and teachers: “We don't have time now to cover the regular curriculum.” “How will we fit in the specials?” “They keep adding new things, such as drug education, for us to cover.”By unquestioningly accepting the elementary and secondary school schedule, we lose sight of what happens at the college level. There, where material is ordinarily more advanced and demanding, we routinely drop from meeting five times per week in class to three times (and sometimes even two times). Plus, adhering to the “more time is better” argument ignores research to the contrary. For example, international comparison studies report that 8 of the 11 nations that surpass U. S. achievement levels in mathematics spend less time on math instruction (Jaeger 1992).The Schoolwide Enrichment Model addresses the issue of time by selectively borrowing one or two class meetings per month from each major subject area. This approach guarantees that a designated time will be available each week for advanced-level enrichment clusters.
  • The change process. Schools are being bombarded with proposals for change, which range from total systemic reform to tinkering with bits and pieces of subjects and teaching methods. Often the proposals seem little more than lists of intended goals or outcomes, with limited direction provided.
Worse yet, policymakers and regulators continue to beam mixed messages to schools at an unprecedented rate. One state, for example, mandated a core curriculum for students—but then evaluated teachers on the basis of generic teaching skills that had nothing to do with the curriculum. Advocates of site-based management encourage teachers to become more active in curriculum development; yet these same schools are rated on the basis of test scores tied to outcome-based competencies specified by the state.
One recent study (Madaus 1992) showed that the most widely used tests measure low-level skills and knowledge. The same study reported that teachers and administrators believe the tests force them to compromise their ideals about good teaching—they feel pressured to emphasize the material covered on the tests. In another study (Olson 1992), researchers asked teachers to evaluate school-reform initiatives in their schools. They replied, “There's nothing but chaos. Our best strategy is to ignore them, close our doors, and go about our business.”
The Schoolwide Enrichment Model takes a gentle and evolutionary approach to change. In the early stages of implementation, minimal but specific changes are suggested for existing schedules, textbooks, and curricular activities. These strategies have already demonstrated favorable results in different types of schools and with groups from varying ethnic and economic backgrounds.

Starting Points

Effective and lasting change occurs only when it's initiated, nurtured, and monitored from within the school itself. External regulations and remedies seldom change the daily behaviors of students and teachers. Nor do they deal effectively with solutions to internal school problems (Barth 1990).
The change process recommended in the School Enrichment Model begins with an examination of the major factors affecting the quality of learning in a school. These factors, may be internal (within the school) or external, but all inter-relate. For example, an internal building principal may be externally influenced if central administration makes staffing assignments; state regulations or districtwide textbook policies may externally influence the internal curriculum. The Schoolwide Enrichment Model doesn't replace existing structures but rather seeks to improve them by concentrating on the factors that have a direct bearing on learning. Evaluations indicate that the model is inexpensive to implement and has a common-sense practicality that appeals to professionals as well as laypeople (Olenchak and Renzulli 1989).
Think of an automobile as a metaphor for the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. The school is the car's body—preferably a Porsche—and the principal is the driver—preferably as bold and daring as Mario Andretti. The faculty represents the engine, loaded with power and constantly being tuned-up to become as efficient and effective as possible. Members of the enrichment teams serve as the spark plugs, bringing energy to all activities. And the Schoolwide Enrichment Model specialist is the ignition and the distributor, initiating new developments and directing the flow of resources and energy to appropriate places.
That automobile performs well on the track known as “special programs”—but the model operates equally well in all schools that wish to be laboratories for talent development.
References

Barth, R. S. (1990). Improving Schools from Within. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Bloom, B. S., ed. (1985). Developing Talent in Young People. New York: Ballantine Books.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of Mind. New York: Basic Books.

Jaeger, R. M. (1992). “`World Class' Standards, Choice, and Privatization: Weak Measurement Serving Presumptive Policy.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, April 20–24 1992.

Madaus, G. F. (1992). The Influence of Testing on Teaching Math and Science in Grades 4–12. Boston College: Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Policy.

Olenchak, F. R., and J. S. Renzulli. (1989). “The Effectiveness of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model on Selected Aspects of Elementary School Change.” Gifted Child Quarterly 33, 1: 44–57.

Olson, L. (1992). “Fed up with Tinkering, Reformers Now Touting `Systemic' Approach.” Education Week 12, 1: 1, 30.

Phenix, P. (1964). Realms of Meaning. New York: McGraw Hill.

Reis, S. M., and J. S. Renzulli. (1992). “Using Curriculum Compacting to Challenge the Above-Average.” Educational Leadership 50, 2: 51–57.

Renzulli, J. S. (1977). The Enrichment Triad Model. Mansfield Center, Conn.: Creative Learning Press.

Renzulli, J. S. (1986). “The Three-Ring Conception of Giftedness: A Developmental Model for Creative Productivity.” In Conceptions of Giftedness, edited by R. J. Sternberg and J. E. Davidson, pp. 332–357. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Renzulli, J. S. (1992). “A General Theory for the Development of Creative Productivity Through the Pursuit of Ideal Acts of Learning.” Gifted Child Quarterly 36, 4: 170–182.

Renzulli, J.S., and S. M. Reis. (1994). “Research Related to the Schoolwide Enrichment Model.” Gifted Child Quarterly 38, 1: 7–19.

Sternberg, R. J. (1984). “Toward a Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 7, 2: 269–316.

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