EVALUATION OF A RURAL GIFTED PROGRAM: ASSESSMENT OF ATTITUDES, SELF-CONCEPTS, AND CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS OF HIGH-ABILITY STUDENTS IN GRADES 3 THROUGH 12 (ENRICHMENT, SUMMATIVE EVALUATION)
The purpose of this study was to evaluate a gifted program in a small, rural, Midwestern school district enrolling approximately 900 kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The gifted program included a daily class in Global Futures for high school students and a weekly enrichment program for students in grades 3 through 8. The framework for both the Global Futures course and the enrichment component was a modified Purdue Three-Stage Model. Identification criteria for the program included intelligence test scores, achievement test scores, and recommendations of teachers, parents, or the student. Program goals emphasized the development of critical thinking skills, independent research skills, and self-concept. The selected evaluation model was Renzulli's Key Features Model. The specific key features identified and evaluated were: student growth in critical thinking skills, independent study skills, and self-concept; and general attitudes toward the gifted program, the organizational framework of the program, and the quality of program communication. A quasi-experimental research design was used to examine the effects of program participation upon critical thinking ability using the Ross Test of Higher Cognitive Processes and the Cornell Test of Critical Thinking. Self-concept effects were investigated using the Piers-Harris Children's Self-Concept Scale and the ME: A Self-Concept Scale for Gifted Students. The control group for the quasi-experimental design was comprised of students initially identified as potential program candidates, but who did not participate in the gifted program. An ex post facto research design was used to examine attitudinal information. Questionnaires and interviews were used to collect data from students, parents, teachers, and administrators. The following conclusions were drawn from the results: (1) For students in grades 3 through 6, participation in an enrichment program significantly improved critical thinking skills and self-concepts related to giftedness. (2) For students in grades 7 and 8, participation in an enrichment program significantly improved self-concepts related to giftedness, but decreased the general self-concept of the junior high school females. (3) For high school students, participation in a Global Futures course did not measurably affect critical thinking skills or self-concepts. (4) Attitudinal information indicated support for the elementary and high school gifted programs, but dissatisfaction with the pullout program format at the junior high school level.
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