Issues related to the education of gifted children in the United States: a Delphi study

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Virginia Tech


The purpose of this study was to investigate the areas of disagreement among experts on important issues in the education of the gifted in the United States, and to answer the following questions: (1) Which key issues are perceived by the panel of experts as being the most important? (2) Which of the issues deserves top priority? (3) On issues deemed most important, what action should be taken at the national, state, and local levels? (4) What are the experts' definitions of the term "gifted"?

Two pilot studies were conducted in which 12 issues important to gifted education emerged. Data for the main study were collected by means of a modified Policy Delphi method in which a selected panel of people knowledgeable about the issues was surveyed. The study, consisting of three rounds of questions, was conducted by mail over several months with a panel of 29 acknowledged experts in the field. The six critical issues in gifted education, in order of panelists' priorities, were: (a) curriculum for the gifted; (b) procedures for identifying children for gifted programs; (c) selection and training of teachers for the gifted; (d) special populations of gifted (handicapped, females, minorities, underachievers, pre-school, and the highly gifted); (e) goals of gifted programs; and (f) definition of the term "gifted."

Panelists agreed on 53 actions that should be taken at the federal, state and local levels. At the federal level, actions should be in the form of catalytic support, research on the issues, and dissemination of research results. At the state level, guidelines, standards, and procedures regarding the various issues were suggested. At the local level, the majority of panelists' suggestions concerned policies and procedures regarding curriculum for the gifted and teacher training.

The definition of the term "gifted" was divided into three components: giftedness, the gifted child, and the gifted adult. The definition statements agreed upon by panelists for the gifted child emphasized potential; for the gifted adult, performance; and for giftedness, both potential and performance.