Academic journal article Rural Educator

Leaders, Rural Environments, and Giftedness: Providing Services through Leadership Programs

Academic journal article Rural Educator

Leaders, Rural Environments, and Giftedness: Providing Services through Leadership Programs

Article excerpt

Abstract

Rural communities and schools may encounter barriers to identifying and delivering services for the gifted in rural environments, '!'he barriers include small numbers, limited resources, and low socioeconomic status. However, small schools and class size make individuation, grouping, and projects such as Team Lead (i.e., the leadership program of this study) possible. This study was designed to examine the leadership skills of students, who had been identified as gifted, talented and/or creative, in one rural setting. Leadership skills were measured by the Leadership Skills Inventory (Karnes & Chauvin, 2000) before the leadership training program began. The program was implemented as a means of providing services for the gifted education program. At the conclusion of the program, the LSI was administered as a post-assessment. The gifted students improved scores from the beginning to the end of the study.

Leadership ability is an admirable trait when used in a positive manner. We look to leaders (a) for guidance and strength in times of tragedy such as 9-11, (b) for spiritual advice as provided by clergy, and (c) for problem solving ability in times of distress. Rural communities are no exception to the need for effective leadership (Bosworth, 2002; Haas, 1992). Hspecially, in a time when rural schools are no longer exempt from negative issues such as school violence (e.g., incidences in Arkansas and Kentucky), leadership development is necessary.

Leadership has been important to programs for the gifted since the inception of the nationally recognized definition of giftedness (i.e., Marland. 1972), which includes intelligence, academic excellence, creative ability, leadership skills, and excellence in visual or-performing arts. Based upon the assumption that giftedness and leadership are parallel at some level, experts in the field of gifted education (e.g., Davis & Rimm, 1994; Karnes & Chauvin, 1986; Roach, Wyman, Brookcs, & Chavez, 1999; Sisks & Roselli,1987) have all agreed that leadership development is an important component of programming for gifted students.

Some researches (Hull, Bull, Montgomery, May, & Overton, 2000; Lewis, 2000; Milligan, 2001; Swanson, 1995) have been concerned with limited representation of gifted in rural schools. One study (Milligan, 2001) used ethnography to research teachers' perceptions of giftedness and address barriers to locating gifted children in one rural school. The study recorded five classroom teachers' descriptions of giftedness. The teachers used advanced problem solving, creativity, academic excellence, and leadership skills to help them decide which students might qualify for program services for the gifted. Further, the teachers implemented enrichment activities within their classrooms following a series of inservice sessions, which trained teachers to use strategies intended to develop students' potential in these categories. In the rural environment where limited numbers of gifted students had ever been identified, the numbers increased.

At approximately the same time, Project Leadership Excellence Achievement and Performance (LEAP) was implemented in four rural Oklahoma high schools where overall achievement was low and limited numbers of gifted students had ever been identified (Barber, Bledsoe, Pequin, & Montgomery, 1999). The program was geared toward low-income families with limited English proficiency. The project goals included increased identification of giftedness, curriculum development, and community and parental involvement. Project students demonstrated an overall increase in performance on the ACT and SAT by the conclusion of the program.

While no studies of leadership development for the gifted in rural settings could be found, studies have been conducted to report findings relative to leadership programs for the gifted. Due to China's adaptation of the 1972 US federal definition of giftedness by Marland, which used leadership as a characteristic of giftedness, Chan (2000) studied leadership skills of the gifted. …

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