A comparison of acceleration, curriculum integration, and critical thinking skills in self-contained gifted public and private schools/classes

Joan Harmon Witham, Purdue University


The purpose of this research study was to identify key issues in programming and curriculum in educational programs for gifted children and to apply these criteria in describing and analyzing public and private programs for the gifted. Particular attention was focused on the key issues of acceleration, curriculum integration, and use of critical thinking skills. A secondary purpose was to compare the strengths and weaknesses of private and public schools in using these criteria. Following a pilot study of observations of two full-time schools and classes for the gifted, 24 school programs and curricula were studied using data collection that included director questionnaires, teacher surveys, and document analysis as the primary sources. Private and public schools were compared to each other and to preset criteria on curriculum that consultants recommended for gifted programs. Multivariate and univariate analysis were used to compare the general criteria with the results of the interviews, survey, and observations, plus substantiating evidence from document analysis of school brochures and curriculum materials. Self-contained gifted classes did use significant amounts of acceleration, curriculum integration, or critical thinking skills in their program. All programs examined, with very few exceptions, reported using the above three criteria to an extent above 50% in their programs. This study addressed the issue of whether public and private schools were different in their frequency of meeting the needs of the gifted for acceleration, curriculum integration, and critical thinking skills. Results indicated that the teachers differed on their use of acceleration and critical thinking skills but neither the teachers or directors differed on curriculum integration. Private school teachers reported using more acceleration in their schools while public school teachers reported using more aspects of critical thinking skills.




Feldhusen, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational psychology|Curricula|Teaching|Elementary education

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server