Gifted Students In Secondary Schools In Hong Kong

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The interest in educating gifted individuals has a long history. Greeks, Chinese, Egyptians and Romans provided education for the nurture of outstanding talents and abilities for the country. Plato and Confucius have already stated the idea of gifted children thousands years ago. During the Renaissance period, Europe governments encouraged talented individuals such as Leonardo Da Vinci. In ancient China, since Tang Dynasty, Chinese governments had developed a talent pool system to nurture super natural or super intelligent (gifted) children. Promoting gifted education and nurturing the gifted and talented has been a long history in the ancient countries such as China and Greece. In twentieth century, gifted education is promoted in different nations. The theory of intelligence and the definition of giftedness have been discussed. The missions of the field of gifted education are providing education for gifted children and finding ways to develop the talent in all children.

All students with different levels of ability have the right to receive high quality and appropriate education. Many gifted students never made effectively use of their ability (Terman and Oden, 1959). Many of them find what they learn at school unchallenging and boredom. Research shows that when a child does not experience the learning contents appropriate to his ability and unchallenging, he does not have the motivation to learn (Tomlinson & Layne-Kalbfleisch, 1998). Gifted students should have the opportunity to learn at a pace and extent suitable for them. It is important that these students are identified in order to obtain appropriate education to meet their needs (Hanson, 1992). Providing suitable education such as gifted programs to gifted students can help to develop their talents and boost them to excellence. There is research showing that gifted students learn better with their similar ability peers (Kolloff and Moore, 1989). The identified cohort can learn together and perform according to their potential. As the gifted students receive appropriate education that meets their needs, society gains from their advancement of abilities.

To promote gifted education and provide gifted programs for students, a definition of giftedness is the foundation. There are a number of definitions of giftedness proposing by different psychologists and educators from time to time.  Definitions of giftedness are influenced by a variety of factors such as economic, social, political, and cultural. The identification of gifted students is important to ensure that the need of all students in a school is recognized. The selection of identification procedures is based on an adopted definition. Teachers' perception on identification of gifted students is important and it reflects their awareness and knowledge of gifted education. Research has discredited that a student's ability will always translate into academic achievement no matter under what circumstances. Appropriate curriculum should be delivered to students in order to meet the needs of all students. Gifted programs can make students to experience challenges and motivate them to learn according to their ability. Research evidence has reversed the assumption that teachers would automatically identify the gifted students (Denton and Postlethwaite, 1985). Thus, teachers should have the knowledge to identify who are the gifted students and give appropriate services to them. Teacher training in the domain of gifted education is necessary.

People have different perceptions of gifted children. In Hong Kong, like many other people in the world, people connect giftedness to IQ scores. They think that gifted children are those with high IQ scores. Promoting gifted education is not common in Hong Kong schools. School heads and teachers may not consider gifted education an important issue because the common belief is that gifted students are only in a small portion of the school population. On the other hand, many teachers presume that gifted students are only found in elite schools. In Hong Kong, all primary 6 students are divided into three bands according to their academic abilities. Band 1 is the highest band. The intake students of elite secondary schools are mainly "band 1" students. Thus, these schools are labeled "band 1" schools. In 1990, Hong Kong Government has drawn up the policy (The Education Commission Report No.4) on gifted education for schools. The Hong Kong Education Bureau recommended schools to develop school-based enrichment programs to cater for the needs of the gifted students in their own schools. However, not many schools offer school-based gifted programs. Gifted education is not a priority of many schools in Hong Kong. Most of the schools offering school-based gifted programs are "band 1" schools. Only a few schools are pilot schools with support from the Education Bureau. In addition, there are gifted programs delivering by the Hong Kong Education Bureau regularly. These gifted programs are designed for those students who have been identified as gifted. Participants are those who are identified as gifted by IQ tests and those who are nominated by their own schools. Both school-based gifted programs and off-campus gifted programs need teachers' nomination. At present, teachers nominate students mainly according to academic results.

Research demonstrates the importance of teacher beliefs towards teaching and learning, and their expectation on students. When teachers have different (high or low) expectation on students, they act or teach differently. It would affect students' learning and performance directly. Teachers believe students with different abilities perform differently, and how teachers' belief on particular students' abilities would affect students' actual achievement (Rosenthal and Jacobsen, 1968). Teacher beliefs can affect their expectation on students and consequently affect students' achievement. There are also researches about teachers' perception of gifted students. Teachers with different backgrounds such as training received in the domain of gifted education, different schools and teaching levels have different perception of gifted students (Copenhaver, McIntyre 1992). Many teachers may not aware that their students are gifted if the students don't have high achievement in the school performance. Actually, gifted students are not only existed in elite school and they may not good academic achievers. There are gifted students who exhibit learning disabilities are usually academic underachievers since their school performance does not match their potential. Their giftedness may be hidden by their disabilities. They need more help and most of the time their giftedness is neglected. On the other hand, some gifted underachievers may have affective needs and teacher's recognition and support is very important to them. Thus, it is essential that teachers can identify the gifted students in order to provide appropriate education for them. Teachers have a role to facilitate students in improving their academic performance and fulfilling their potentials.

B Statement of the Problem

Although there was a long history of nurturing gifted children in China and other ancient countries like Greece, and the increased interest in the development of gifted education globally in the recent century, the development of gifted education in Hong Kong is rather late and slow due to political and economical reasons. There are many researches about identification of gifted students internationally. These researches have demonstrated the importance of identification of the gifted and promoting gifted education in schools. However, studies of how teachers identify the gifted students in Hong Kong are limited. In Hong Kong, gifted education is still not a priority of many secondary schools. Most school heads do not aware the importance of promoting gifted education in their own school. The majority of Hong Kong teachers do not have proper training in the domain of gifted education and lack of knowledge of how to identify the gifted students, design school-based gifted programs and delivering gifted programs to students.

The aim of this study is to find out teacher's perception on identification of gifted students in secondary schools in Hong Kong.

The research questions are:

What are the characteristics of students that teachers will highlight to identify the gifted?

In what criteria do teachers nominate their students for gifted programs?

What are the factors that affect teacher's perception on identifying the gifted?

In this study, survey instruments are used to gather data on teacher's perception on identification of gifted students both quantitatively and qualitatively. Surveys and interviews of teachers will be carried out at randomly selected secondary schools which are in different backgrounds. The purpose of the proposed research is to find out the factors that affect teachers' perception on identification of gifted students. The potential significance is that teacher's perception on identification of gifted students is based on their knowledge in the domain of gifted education, the school policy on gifted education and the current nomination systems of selecting students for gifted programs. It is essential that teachers have clear conceptions of the nature and meaning of giftedness and talent before they can identify the gifted students. This study will demonstrate the real situation of how Hong Kong secondary school teachers learn about giftedness and their perception on gifted students. Base on the result of the study, suggestions can be made to educators for further development of teacher training programs and promoting gifted education in school, and to school heads to raise their awareness towards gifted education and .

C Definition of Specialized Terms

The Gifted

The Marland Report (Marland, 1972):

"The talented and gifted are those children identified by professionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society." (p.2)

"Children capable of high performance include those with demonstrated achievement and/or potential ability in any of the following areas:

General intellectual ability

Specific academic aptitude

Creative or productive thinking

Leadership ability

Visual or performing arts

Psychomotor abilities. " (p.2)

Joseph Renzulli's definition of giftedness (Renzulli, 1978):

"Giftedness consists of an interaction among three basic clusters of human traits - these clusters being above-average general abilities, high levels of task commitment, and high levels of creativity. Gifted and talented children are those possessing or capable of developing this composite set of traits and applying them to any potentially valuable area of human performance. Children who manifest or are capable of developing an interaction among the three clusters require a wide variety of educational opportunities and services that are not ordinarily provided through regular instructional programs." (p.261)

Identification of the gifted

Identification of the gifted refers to the determination of distinguishing gifted students from non-gifted students.

Nomination system

Nomination system refers to a system of selecting gifted students under some conditions or criteria.

Chapter II Literature Review

In this literature review, I will first state the background of the development of gifted education in the recent century. Then I will discuss the theory of intelligence and the definitions of giftedness proposing by many psychologists and educators. In addition, I will explain the importance of teacher belief towards students' learning. After that, I will discuss the needs of promoting gifted education. At last, I will explain why the perception of teachers on identifying the gifted is essential to promoting gifted education in Hong Kong.

A Background

Development of Gifted Education in the western world

In 1921, Lewis Terman began the longitudinal study "the Genetic Studies of Genius" which is the oldest and longest study to examine the development and the characteristics of gifted children into adulthood. Then, American interest increased in developing gifted education in specific subject areas perceiving the need for technological and military superiority. The American Association for the Study of the Gifted was established in U.S. in 1946. The National Association for Gifted Children was established in 1954. In 1957, the launch of the Soviet rocket brought demands for better provisions for highly able students, especially in the fields of science and mathematics. In U.S., schools began offering courses for gifted students and emphasize creativity and independent thinking. The missions of the field of gifted education are providing education for gifted students and finding ways to develop the talent in all children. When the needs of the gifted students are considered and gifted programs are delivered to them, they will gain significant achievements and enhance the sense of competence. As the gifted and talented individuals receive appropriate cultivation and education, society gains from their advancement of abilities. Society will benefit from the support for gifted education. However, barriers are still there. Many people think it is unfair to put more resources for a group of people who are already cleverer and have more ability. Another barrier is that the tradition school class system is age-grouped. Students in a class are mix-ability. A lot of resources needed if classes are organized by ability instead of age groups. Teacher preparation is also an important issue to promote gifted education. (Clark, 2002)

Development of Gifted Education in Hong Kong

In 1990, Hong Kong Government has drawn up the policy (The Education Commission Report No.4) on gifted education for schools. The mission of gifted education is to explore and develop the potential of gifted students. The theory of multiple intelligences has been adopted as a requirement of basic education for all students at different levels of abilities and with different talents. It is suggested that the breadth of multiple intelligences should be considered when identify gifted and talented students. In 1994, a 3-year pilot school-based program was launched. In 1995, a gifted education centre, named Fung Hon Chu Gifted Education Centre, was established. The current gifted education policy in Hong Kong was formulated in 2000. In 2008, the Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education was established and substituted Fung Hon Chu Gifted Education Centre. Resources and trainings have been provided for teachers in order to promote gifted education in schools. However, due to the political and economic factors, not much has been done. At present, gifted education is not a priority of most secondary schools in Hong Kong.

B Theory of Intelligence

Howard Gardner (1983) contributed his idea of multiple intelligences theory. According to the multiple intelligences theory, everyone may have talents in specific fields, and is not restricted to academic intelligence. He has questioned about giftedness should not only defined by IQ tests. He suggests that intelligences should include linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, spatial and bodily-kinesthetic. His theory of multiple intelligences has had a profound impact in gifted education.

Sternberg's Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence (1985) includes three facets: analytical, creative and practical. Analytical intelligence is used to discover method. Creative intelligence is used to tackle the problem. Practical intelligence is used to solve the problem.

Gardner's theory focuses on the content and the performance of intelligence. Sternberg's theory focuses on the thinking process of intelligence. Both of them emphasize multiple intelligences which must be linked with the real world and professions. Intelligence can be groom and develop through appropriate school curriculum designs.

C Definitions of Giftedness

There are a number of definitions of giftedness.  Early in the century, definitions of giftedness mainly focused on academic abilities. Henry (1920) and Whipple (1924) suggested gifted students having high academic achievement and with advanced learning abilities. Lewis Terman (1925) was the first one who use the term "gifted" and he defined the top 1% in general intelligence ability as gifted by using the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale or a comparable instrument. One of Terman's co-workers Cox (1926) intensively explored the relationship between high I.Q. and later achievement in life. 301 persons with high I.Q. had been studied.

Witty stated in the 1940s:

"If by gifted we mean those youngsters who give promise of creativity of a high order, it is doubtful if the typical intelligence test is suitable for use in identifying them. For creativity points to originality, and originality implies successful management, control, and organization of new materials and experiences. Intelligence tests contain overlearned materials." (Pritchard, 1951, p.81)

Witty (1958) recommended a broadened definition of giftedness. Giftedness is not only narrow to intellectual abilities, but also including creativity and leadership. In 1959, the definition of giftedness in Portland (Oregon) Public Schools included "approximately the upper 10% of the most intellectually talented pupils and also the same proportion of the most talented in each of seven aptitudes … art, music, creative writing, creative dramatics, creative dance, mechanical talent, and social leadership" (p.13). Getzels and Jackson (1958, 1962) demonstrated the relationship between intelligence and creativity in their studies. The need to include creativity in definitions of giftedness is shown in the findings of their studies. (Beranek, 1993)

The 1972 Marland Definition (Ross, 1993) includes several areas: general intellectual ability, specific academic aptitude, creative or productive thinking, leadership ability and ability in the visual or performing arts. Gifted and talented children or youth are identified by professionals and they are capable of high performance in the above areas. Many nations have adopted Marland's definition to promote gifted education in their countries.

Tannenbaum's (1983) definition includes five factors: a sliding scale of general intelligence, special ability, non-intellective factors, environmental factors and chance factors. He described gifted children are those who have potential to perform critically acclaimed and produce ideas that enhance the moral, physical, emotional, social, intellectual, or aesthetic life of humanity.

Gagne (1990) specified five domains in which gifted children have the aptitude to achieve including academic, technical, artistic, interpersonal and athletic. He defines giftedness as the gifted individual has the natural abilities in at least one ability domain to a degree that he is at the top 15% of his/her peers.

The Javits (1994) definition reflects current knowledge and thinking of gifted children and youth. In addition to academic intellectual capability, all other fields such as leadership, performing arts are considered. In the definition, these children exhibit high performance capability in intellectual, creative, artistic areas, good leadership capacity, excel in specific academic fields. Gifted and talented individuals can be found from all cultural groups and economic levels.

Renzulli (1978; Renzulli, Reis, & Smith, 1981) reinterpreted the categories of giftedness that was suggested by Marland. Rezulli suggested that the six categories of giftedness are relied upon one's general intellectual abilities, creativity, leadership, and psychomotor abilities. Rezulli (1978) suggested task commitment to one of the characteristics of giftedness. Renzulli's three-ring conception of giftedness considers three factors important for the development of gifted behavior. The three factors are above average ability, creativity, and task commitment.

Above Average Ability


Task Commitment

There are two levels of abilities: general abilities and specific abilities. General abilities include processing information, abstract thinking, and integrating experiences. Specific abilities include the capacity to acquire knowledge, perform in an activity. Creativity demonstrates the originality of thought, fluency, flexibility, an openness to experience, sensitivity to stimulations, and a willingness to take risks. Task commitment refers to motivation turned into action like perseverance, endurance, hard work, but also self-confidence, perceptiveness and a special fascination with a special subject. Task commitment is essential to high achievement. Renzulli's three-ring conception of giftedness is adopted by many gifted education promoters in the world. In Hong Kong, the Education Bureau also base on Renzulli's theory to promote gifted education.

Barbara Clark's definition theorizes that gifted children process information differently than non-gifted peers. Her theories involve current brain research.

"Giftedness is a biologically rooted concept; a label for a high level of intelligence that results from the advanced and accelerated integration of functions within the brain, including physical sensing, emotions, cognition, and intuition. Such advanced and accelerated function may be expressed through abilities such as those involved in cognition, creativity, academic aptitude, leadership, or the visual and performing arts. Therefore, with this definition of intelligence, gifted individuals are those who are performing, or who show promise of performing, at high levels of intelligence." (Clark 1983, p.6)

Clark supported that genetic and later nurturing are both factors of gifted characteristics formed. She suggested that gifted individuals need extra services or activities providing by schools in order to develop their potentials.