As a means of addressing observed inadequacies in school curricula, the catholic Special Education and Guidance Service, Brisbane catholic Education Office in 1980 established a partial withdrawal centre for counsellor-selected gifted children. The Learning Enrichment Centre (L.E.C.) aimed to - 1) meet the needs of enrolled gifted students by - a) providing appropriate learning experiences; and b) providing an administrative arrangement (partial withdrawal) which afforded them the opportunity to interact with like minds; 2) meet the needs of the system by - a) developing and evaluating units of work for gifted students; b) conducting workshops, seminars and in-service days for teachers. In 1984 the L.E.C. curriculum was designed and implemented in accordance with Maker’ s model of curriculum modification for gifted students (Maker, 1982). This model outlines a set of principles which Maker claims, recognize the characteristics and needs of gifted students and guide the development of a qualitatively different curriculum. In making decisions about design and implementation of Maker’s curriculum modifications, factors related to the setting, the teachers and the students were considered. The overall purpose of the Study was to assist teachers in making rational decisions about future L.E.C. provision. In particular the Study was to collect information on the worth of the program - its relative strengths and weaknesses - and the influence on the curriculum of the administrative arrangement. The program was evaluated by ascertaining levels of satisfaction typically expressed by the students. Of secondary concern was whether the organisational arrangement of partial withdrawal had inhibited or enhanced the program’s intentions. It was acknowledged that unfavourable attitudes of parents, classroom teachers or peers could conceivably alter students’ receptivity of the program. In Term 4, two parallel questionnaires, one addressing the L.E.C., the other the regular classroom, were administered to the students. By comparing responses on matching items, levels of satisfaction with the L.E.C. curriculum were determined. Selected items on the L.E.C. instrument were further to reveal how students felt about the administrative provision and whether classroom teachers and peers were perceived to be supportive. Subsequent to program completion, a questionnaire was mailed to parents to ascertain their support for the program by asking them how their child’s emotional behaviour had changed as a result of LEC attendance. Also they were to indicate whether they preferred that enrichment occur in the regular classroom or partial withdrawal setting. To confirm the students’ impressions of classroom teacher support and interest, parents were requested to comment on their understanding of it. Student responses indicated that they found their IEC experiences to be particularly interesting and enjoyable, and the LEC teachers to be kind, helpful, friendly and fair. These perceptions differed significantly from their perceptions of school. Elements of the Maker model which were consistently most valued by the group were the Process modifications, ‘Freedom of Choice’ and ‘Higher levels of Thinking’. Parents proved to be supportive of the LEC program. Although some would have preferred classroom enrichment to partial withdrawal, they felt that schools could not currently provide it. It was the students’ viewpoint that interactions with peers and classroom teachers were not adversely affected by their LEC participation. Classroom teachers were seen to be generally supportive and interested a perception incidentally not shared by parents and LEC teachers. Perceived positive attitudes towards their LEC involvement most likely enhanced student satisfaction with the program. The evaluation unequivocally indicated that the LEC program based on Maker’s model appealed to the students. Though withdrawal from class possibly contributed to program satisfaction, the level of satisfaction was very high and could not be attributed solely to hidden curriculum effects (the organisational arrangement). The Study concluded that use of the Maker model as a guide for developing LEC curricula should continue but that parent and classroom teacher attitudes towards the administrative arrangement should be regularly monitored as they appeared to have the potential to enhance or reduce students’ receptivity of the program. As a result of Study, various procedures for the conduct of future evaluations were recommended.
|Date of Award||1987|