Over the years many people have asked me questions about the most important ways we can develop giftedness and talent in young people. The Schoolwide Enrichment Model (http://gifted. uconn.edu/wp-admin/) that I developed is designed to apply the pedagogy of gifted Education to total school improvement. A process called curricular infusion is used to blend highly challenging and engaging activities into any and all of the standard curricular material. We examine materials and teaching strategies that can make most prescribed curriculum more interesting and enjoyable and we provide the teacher training and technology based resources that allows teachers to promote the three goals of our model: Enjoyment, Engagement, and Enthusiasm for Learning (The 3 Es) on the parts of both students and teachers. Happy and engaged teachers always produce the best results. They know what will work best in their classrooms, and they also know that no amount of standardization, regulation, or reams of supervisory paperwork have made sustainable differences in their schools’ achievement scores and the culture of their school.
Our research with schools using the SEM has shown that anything that saves teachers time, promotes the 3 Es, and avoids needless paperwork is more likely to be adopted and sustained. Most importantly, our research has shown that an enrichment-based rather than a drill and practice approach actually improves student achievement, improves attendance, minimizes suspensions, increases student and teacher engagement, and promotes greater job satisfaction on the parts of teachers. This is the main reason that accounts for the widespread use of the SEM in diverse schools throughout the U. S. and abroad.
Ownership and involvement.
A second reason is that our model promotes ownership and teacher/administrative involvement by providing opportunities and suggestions for each school to design its unique approach to implementing their own SEM program. Ownership and creative involvement are what produce sustainability and pride. We believe in Common Goals (i.e., the 3Es) but unique means for achieving these goals. All roads lead to Rome, but there are many ways to get to Rome. Most overly prescribed “flavor-or-the-month” school improvement models lack sustainability because they are overly-prescriptive and they factor out the kinds of creative program development and joyful learning opportunities that make teaching the innovative and enjoyable processes that attracts people to our profession. Teachers and administrators are less likely to turn their backs on something that they themselves have built and in which they take great pride.
Our broadened conception of total talent development advocates general enrichment opportunities for all students and opportunities for follow up on the parts of students that show an interest and motivation to pursue self-selected topics and projects at advanced levels. This is a radically different approach from other models which require that a student must first be certified as “gifted” before any advanced opportunities, resources, and encouragement are provided.
An emphasis in our work is on infusing highly engaging and enjoyable activities into any and all required curricula topics. It is amazing to see how quickly students acquire analytic skills and a creative and investigative mindsets rather than simply memorizing material for the next round of tests. And our evaluation studies have shown that when teachers enjoy and are themselves engaged in enrichment topic or activities the entire atmosphere and the culture of the school changes.
Time is a teacher’s most valuable asset and today’s technology has made the kind if enrichment infusion recommended in the SEM easily available to most schools and classrooms. Information about student strengths can be quickly obtained by using an electronically produced profile that documents each student’s interests, learning styles, preferred modes of expression, and academic strength areas. A powerful search engine scans through thousands of highly engaging enrichment activities and matches activities to each student’s profile. This technology is a one-of-a-kind tool developed at the University of Connecticut specifically for the SEM that makes personalized learning easy [see https://compasslearning.com/goquest]. And teachers can use the same search engine to differentiate their curriculum by entering topics, events, or other key words to quickly locate enrichment activities categorized by age/grade levels, standards, and interest areas.
Information about our summer institute, now in its 39th year, and numerous no cost print and video resources about the SEM (including achievement test results) can be found at the following University of Connecticut web sites:
Wrote by Joseph Renzulli Director of the Neag Center For Creativity at the University of Connecticu.