Although there are many issues about which experts in the education of gifted and talented children disagree, most agree that the level of awareness of gifted education among educators is not at a desirable level. Clinkenbeard and Kolloff (2001) suggested that pre-service teacher preparation poorly prepares undergraduates for instructing the gifted. If this is true, it should not be surprising that the awareness of the needs of gifted children is inadequate among practicing teachers. To learn whether this is true, it is important to investigate the level of knowledge elementary-education college professors and instructors have regarding issues in gifted education.
Prior research consists of several surveys that identify the level of knowledge of gifted-education issues among various educator groups such as university department heads and heads of state, gifted-education associations (Cross & Dobbs, 1987; Davison, 1996). Studies of teacher attitudes toward gifted students also have been an emphasis of prior research.
Review of Literature
Awareness of gifted education
The first study related to investigating the level of awareness of gifted-education issues among educators of pre-service teachers was conducted by Cross and Dobbs (1987). A 20-question survey was administered to heads of state gifted associations with a response rate of 40 out of 51 (78%).
Respondents were asked to rate the level of importance of topics in gifted education. They rated the three most important issues as (a) educational and psychological needs of the gifted; (b) application of a variety of instructional models/educational strategies appropriate for use with gifted/talented; and (c) ability to modify, adapt, design appropriate curriculum units of study for use with gifted/talented (mean rating 3.88 out of 4.00). Respondents rated the second most important issue as the understanding of a variety of delivery models for gifted/talented students (mean rating 3.75). Respondents rated the third most important issue as characteristics of and identification procedures recommended for academically gifted, and characteristics of and identification procedures recommended for culturally disadvantaged gifted (mean rating 3.73). The least important issues were perceived as the historical development of gifted in the United States (2.28), and the eligibility for certification at a specific grade level (2.75).
The most significant criticism of the Cross and Dobbs research is that their survey was completed only by heads of state, gifted-education associations (e.g. Indiana Association for Gifted Children, Utah Association for Gifted Children). Surveying the heads of the associations provides an informed, but very limited perspective. In their study one individual represented the viewpoints of an entire state. The most significant contribution of this research was that it precipitated a discussion regarding what issues are most significant in the field of gifted education. While experts criticized measurement and methodological aspects of this study, this research did open a forum for a discussion of awareness of gifted issues.
More recently, Davison (1996) conducted a similar study of department heads at teacher preparation institutions in Iowa. Davison's survey assessed the extent to which Iowa teacher preparation institutions met state mandates for preparing pre-service teachers to teach gifted students. As in the Cross and Dobbs (1987) study the response rate was quite high (23 out of 28 or 82%). It is not clear whether the respondents represented elementary- or secondary-preparation programs.
Davison's investigation found that a separate course in gifted education was not offered in any teacher preparation program in Iowa. Gifted-education mandates were often met by courses entitled Exceptional Child, Exceptional Behavior, Exceptional Persons, Special Learner, or Mainstreaming. Nine institutions addressed gifted-education issues in content courses and 18 institutions offered 1 to 8 hours of instruction addressing gifted education. Assuming teacher preparation programs across the country are similar to those in Iowa, institutions are only minimally addressing gifted-education topics in their courses. As in the Cross and Dobbs (1987) study, a limited perspective was provided by department heads. What actually gets carried out in courses may be wholly different from what syllabi suggest. Davison suggested that separate gifted-education classes should be offered and that research similar to hers should be conducted in various regions of the country.
Studies regarding teacher attitudes towards gifted students and gifted education are plentiful (Battery, 1978; Begoray & Slovinsky, 1997; Cramond & Martin, 1985, 1987; Gagne & Nadeau, 1985; Gross, 2002; Moon, Callahan, & Tomlinson, 1999; Ribich, Agostino, & Barone, 1998; Tirri, Tallent-Runnels, Adams, Yuen, & Lau, 2002; Tomlinson et al., 1994). The …