Academic journal article Journal of Secondary Gifted Education

School Functioning and Psychological Well-Being of International Baccalaureate and General Education Students: A Preliminary Examination

Academic journal article Journal of Secondary Gifted Education

School Functioning and Psychological Well-Being of International Baccalaureate and General Education Students: A Preliminary Examination

Article excerpt

The current study compared the school and psychological functioning of 122 gifted and high-achieving students to that of 176 general education students educated in the same school. Relative to their peers in general education, gifted and high-achieving students served in the school's International Baccalaureate (IB) program reported more positive perceptions of school climate, had higher grade point averages and academic self-efficacy, and reported less externalizing psychopathology and affiliation with negative peers. IB and general education students reported comparable levels of global life satisfaction and internalizing symptoms of psychopathology. The psychosocial adjustment of intellectually gifted students within the IB program was similar to that of their high-achieving IB peers on all indicators except satisfaction with friends. Recommendations for future research and implications for educational policy are presented.


The International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme is designed to address the cognitive and affective needs of academically and intellectually advanced students. The effect of this educational experience, replete with the pressures of achievement and performance, has not been investigated. Additionally, information is needed about the functioning of specific groups of learners within this setting, including gifted and high-achieving students, which can assist educators, researchers, and school leaders in understanding and addressing the needs of these students.

International Baccalaureate Organization

Overview of the International Baccalaureate Organization

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) is an internationally recognized, not-for-profit educational curriculum designed to provide Pre-K-12 learners a rigorous international education (IBO, 2005a). Three programs of study are offered through the IBO, including the IB Primary Years Programme (for students ages 3-12), the IB Middle Years Programme (ages 11-16), and the IB Diploma Programme (ages 16-19). All of the programs emphasize learning experiences that foster achievement; curriculum that is thematic, transdisciplinary, and complex; opportunities for affective development; and consideration of multiple perspectives and understandings. Recognized as "representing the highest levels of academic attainment possible for secondary students ... and thought to provide important stepping stones to successful college work" (Van Tassel-Baska, 2003, p. 13), the IBO has garnered praise for its goals, which are also appropriate for educating intellectually gifted learners (Nugent & Karnes, 2002; Poelzer & Feldhusen, 1997; Tookey, 2000).

Currently, more than 1,300 schools in 117 countries have IBO programs, most of which are in public schools in the U.S. (Walker, 2004). The rigorous IB Diploma Programme is designed to serve "highly motivated" secondary students (IBO, 2005b, [paragraph] 1). End-of-course exams are required for students to earn the IB Diploma. Many students also take Advanced Placement (AP) Exams because institutions of higher learning generally accept only exam results for the Higher Level (intensive, 2-year) courses for college credit; Standard Level (1-year) courses may not be recognized for college credit by institutions of higher learning (Matthews, 2004). Because the administration of these exams occurs near the end of the academic year--and many students take multiple exams in order to get college credit--test anxiety may be a common occurrence for students in grades 11 and 12.

The IB Diploma Programme addresses cognitive needs of gifted and high-achieving learners through acceleration, in this case allowing students to learn advanced content and skills at an age or grade earlier than expected (Rogers, 2002). Instructional processes the IBO recommends are also often recognized as best practices for teaching the gifted. According to the mission of the IB program, students are engaged in regular discussions about abstract, complex ideas, including reflective thinking about life experiences, critical examination of assumptions about knowledge, appreciation of multiple perspectives, and consideration of bias (IBO, 2005c, [paragraph] 2-3). …

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