An effective instructional plan that can match the needs of gifted children in Saudi Arabia should be challenging, enlightening, intriguing and based on learners’ characteristics and behaviour in order account for diverse abilities and enhance a sense of belonging within the classroom (Ibrahim and Aljughaiman, 2009). This is the major concern for curriculum developers who strive to improve and deliver instruction to gifted learners in a normal classroom setting.
In Saudi Arabia, gifted students have spent most of their time in normal classrooms. Moreover, development in this area has been gradual until recently when MAWHIBA introduced enrichment programmes for “nurturing giftedness along various stages of schooling, beginning with the elementary stage” (Ibrahim and Aljughaiman, 2009). The challenge is that instruction in regular classrooms does not meet the unique needs of gifted learners. As a result, gifted learners are at risk of not achieving their full potential from schools.
The challenge for educators in Saudi Arabia has been developing a full service or multidimensional approach that can allow gifted learners to excel in learning within a regular classroom environment.
The aim of educators should be develop appropriate programmes that can meet instructional requirements of gifted learners, right from the elementary level. Therefore, regular classrooms must create a learning environment where such learners can fully realise their full potential, abilities, and interests while they still feel comfortable as members of the classroom. The simple approach is to segregate gifted learners from the rest of the classroom members.
However, this approach cannot effectively address the needs of such students because segregation may promote elitism and reduce interaction with normal students (Parke, 2009). Thus, we have to develop learning programmes that go beyond the conventional approach of segregation. The approach must consider the classroom dynamics and create an environment in which all learners can realise their potential within a single classroom (Parke, 2009).
Teachers must identify characteristics of gifted learners in early ages of schooling. In most circumstances, teachers have noted that gifted students do their work fast, seek guidance, ask probing questions, and demonstrate interest in unusual areas. Such characteristics often present challenges to normal classroom teachers as they strive to ensure that gifted learners receive effective teaching that matches their abilities while still teaching regular students at the same time. Gifted learners differ from other students at the rate at which they learn, their understanding abilities and their high-levels of interests. Therefore, it is appropriate for educators to develop a suitable instructional programme that can accommodate the unique characteristics of such gifted learners (Parke, 2009).
Many teachers have gifted students in their classrooms. Teachers who have acted as facilitators can provide effective learning for gifted learners. Thus, the curriculum developers must create programmes that allow the teacher to continue to present such favourable conditions for learning. The role of the teacher is to assist the learner to develop his or her skills in order to learn the various content of the curriculum. Such roles need teachers to have necessary “skills in their subject areas and learning management” (Aljughaiman and Ayoub, 2012).
One major mistake is the use of “one-dimensional strategy in teaching gifted learners” (Ibrahim and Aljughaiman, 2009). Therefore, the only remedy to overcome a single dimensional approach is to use multidimensional concept. Aljughaiman and Ayoub note that enrichment programmes in Saudi Arabia have traditionally focused on “developing the academic and mental aspects of students but have paid little regard to the practical aspects necessary for achieving success in confronting problems of daily living” (Aljughaiman and Ayoub, 2012).
The multidimensional concept provides several programmes, which can address various practical needs, abilities, and interests of learners. Such programmes must specifically be for highly gifted students. Successful intelligence theory has advanced the concept of multidimensional in learning (Sternberg, 2005). The theory asserts that intelligent behaviour arises from “a balance among analytical, creative, and practical abilities and that these abilities function collectively to allow individuals to achieve success within their particular sociocultural contexts” (Sternberg, 2003).
An effective development of programmes to match needs, interests, and abilities of the learner should be student-centred. Therefore, teachers must identify characteristics of gifted learners in order to develop appropriate instructional programmes. On the other hand, students must utilise available resources effectively to the best of their abilities. In-depth learning, independent studies, mentorship, curricular compacting, skill categorisation, and classroom management are necessary for gifted learners, which may influence the relationship between the teacher and gifted learners (Kesner, 2005).
The research questions aim to answer issues that relate to quality development of programmes to match the needs of pre-school gifted children in Saudi Arabia.
- How can educators develop effective multidimensional concepts for pre-school gifted children in Saudi Arabia?
- What instructional strategies must educators develop in order to accommodate both gifted and other students in a single classroom?
This research uses a qualitative research approach in order to explore an effective way of developing a suitable programme for pre-school gifted children in Saudi Arabia. Qualitative research provides an effective method of understanding research aspects when not much is known about the research problem (Johnson and Christensen, 2010; Creswell, 2008). A qualitative approach shall ensure that the researcher collects data for in-depth understanding of the needs of gifted students and effective ways of developing appropriate programmes. In other words, the researcher shall be able to gain a detailed view of the sample population (Steinberg, Bringle and Williams, 2010).
The qualitative research design is an iterative approach to research. Therefore, the researcher shall rely on a discovery in order to determine effective instruments that can gather the required data. In this context, the researcher shall review the existing literature in order to identify a common theme or pattern, and he may change the study as appropriate in order to get a new perspective of the emerging patterns. This is a repetitive process, which the researcher may perform several times before data analysis and interpretation of the results. Therefore, the appropriate design for this type of research is an open-ended approach (Patton, 2002). However, the researcher will specify what aspects of research to pursue before the study begins, but these aspects may change as the study progresses and new ways of enquiry emerge.
The research design shall be an exploratory study. This method is suitable for the study because past studies have provided partial results concerning the state of gifted learners and programmes in Saudi Arabia. Thus, the researcher needs to conduct a thorough pilot study in order to gain familiarity with the state of programmes for pre-school gift learners. This is necessary for developing appropriate model with a rigorous model for an inclusive study.
Since few studies exist about the effectiveness of such programmes and “no studies have been conducted to examine the effects of such programmes on developing different aspects of giftedness” (Aljughaiman and Ayoub, 2012), an exploratory approach shall allow the researcher to identify the current state in the area. The researcher shall also conduct an extensive survey with a large sample in order to understand the situation effectively. This approach is also necessary for the study because the research has limited facts about programmes for gifted pre-school learners in Saudi Arabia.
In a study, it is rarely possible for researchers to include the entire population in a social science study. Instead, researchers use a sample of participants from the targeted population. Consequently, there are aspects of sampling and participants that the researcher shall observe in this study. The researcher shall define the population of the study as gifted learners in pre-school, and pre-school teachers in Saudi Arabia.
This is necessary for understanding how teachers provide full learning services to their gifted learners in pre-school. The researcher shall use the knowledge available on the populations of the study with regard to homogeneous or heterogeneous characteristics of gifted learners and teachers. The researcher shall ensure that she can reach all groups within the study period. The researcher shall take into consideration that teachers’ views regarding their gifted students may differ.
For instance, Gross observed that some kindergarten teachers who did not “receive any training in gifted education tended to exaggerate the abilities of children” (Gross, 1999). This led to inaccurate or low rate of accurate responses. Moreover, Ibrahim and Aljughaiman noted that there was “no scale of behavioural characteristics to identify gifted children in this age group in the Saudi Arabian environment” (Ibrahim and Aljughaiman, 2009).
This is a qualitative study. Thus, the researcher shall not obtain random samples or representatives of teachers and gifted learners in Saudi Arabia. Rather, the researcher shall use purposeful sampling to select research participants. The researcher shall focus on samples that can provide rich information necessary for in-depth understanding of the problem. Steinberg and colleagues note that qualitative researchers “purposefully sample the specific documents, artefacts, people, and programmes that are illuminative and that they believe will provide a great deal of information related to the purpose of the research” (Steinberg et al., 2010).
Consequently, the sample size of the study may be small, which may limit chances of generalisation of the inferences. Such results may not be used in other institutions due to difficulties in generalisation. While the result may be useful to others who need to explore the development of programmes for gifted learners in Saudi Arabia, such result may not contribute much to the available knowledge in the field.
In order to overcome challenges associated with small sample size, the researcher shall use an adequate sample based on the total number of gifted learners and teachers from the target population. Still, Steinberg and colleagues recommend “triangulation through the use of multiple measures and the use cross-case (multi-case) analysis to increase understanding and generalisability” (Steinberg et al., 2010). Cross-case analysis shall involve “making comparisons between cases and analysis of relationships” (Patton, 2002).
The researcher shall observe all ethical standards when dealing with research participants (Pimple, 2006).
The researcher shall list down all characteristics, which gifted learners should have. She will then identify all pre-school learners who meet the required characteristics of gifted learners from selected schools. In this stage, she will also ask teachers to assist in identification of learners who meet characteristics of gifted learners. Finally, the researcher shall refine the selected learners by eliminating those who may not meet the desired characteristic of gifted learners.
Methods of data collection
The researcher shall use an interview to gather data from participants because it is an effective method for exploratory qualitative research. She shall conduct the interview in person. Interviews shall provide the researcher with the opportunity to gain in-depth information from the participants. This research shall have open-ended questions, and the researcher shall encourage the use of open-ended responses i.e., the respondent shall be “free to say anything” (Steinberg et al., 2010). The researcher will record responses from the participants by using a tape recorder. Later, the researcher will transcribe data for analysis.
The research will also utilise focus groups to collect data. This approach shall provide the advantage of an effective interaction among participants and improvements on comments by participants. This method eliminates the challenges of uneven participation. Another advantage from focus group discussion is in saving time. Discussions take place in groups rather than in a one-on-one approach. However, Steinberg and colleagues note that a focus group has shortcomings. For instance, some members of the group may suppress others from active participation, whereas in some case, the research design may be time-consuming because of discussions.
In some cases, teacher may not be free to provide honest opinions about their gifted students, whereas others may exaggerate behaviours or characteristics of such gifted learners (Ibrahim and Aljughaiman, 2009). In addition, teachers may not freely discuss their individual experiences with gifted students. The research shall counter such problems by defining research parameters before the study.
Content analysis is a benchmark method in “social science methodology that deals with the understanding of the content of the message” (Steinberg et al., 2010). Patton notes that content analysis refers “to any qualitative data reduction and sense-making effort that takes a volume of qualitative material and attempts to identify core consistencies and meaning, often called patterns or themes” (Patton, 2002, p. 453).
Every research should guard against potential bias and threats that may undermine the outcomes of the study. Therefore, a valid measurement tool must measure what the researcher aimed to measure. Various types of validity exist, but they all account for threats and bias in the research (Wolcott, 1994). The researcher based the design of the research on instruments, which measure “specific purpose with a specific group of respondents” (Steinberg et al., 2010).
The researcher measures construct i.e., intelligence and content knowledge among gifted learners in Saudi Arabia. Under this approach, the researcher shall ensure that the research instruments and their scores on the scale conform to the theoretical concepts of ‘Successful Intelligence’ because it advances the concept of a multidimensional approach to programme development for gifted learners. Thus, the researcher shall ensure that the research instruments account for “critical thinking, problem-solving, independent study skills, communication, and persistence in the face of challenges” (Aljughaiman and Ayoub, 2012).
The researcher shall ensure that research instruments are clear, use simple terms, and avoid generalization because the aim of the study is to achieve deep and specific information about research questions. Thus, content validity of the study shall assess the extent to which “the scale items are a representative sample of a clearly defined conceptual domain” (Steinberg et al., 2010).
The researcher shall also ensure concurrent validity during the study (Trochim, 2006). She will compare scores on behaviours and independent assessment of knowledge of gifted learners. The aim is to determine the relationship between the criteria and the scale theoretically. For instance, the research may measure speaking abilities and relate them to reading achievements of learners simultaneously because these two aspects relate to each other.
The researcher will systematically select research participants from teachers and gifted learners in order to avoid bias that may occur due to bias in sampling. For instance, previous studies show that teachers who were not trained in kindergarten often exaggerated abilities of their gifted students. This is an obvious threat to the research conclusion. Therefore, the researcher shall only use teachers who have received professional training and qualifications in pre-school management and teaching and gifted education training. Therefore, the researcher shall guard against such social desirability bias from teachers.
The repetitive and emergent qualities of “qualitative research may make it difficult to differentiate between data collection and analysis” (Steinberg et al., 2010). Patton notes that during fieldwork, ideas emerge, patterns assume their directions, and possible themes become evident (Patton, 2002). The researcher may use subsequent steps to confirm the earlier established patterns.
The researcher will show the credibility of the study by ensuring that results are consistent with responses from research participants. The researcher will also note her credibility by addressing any personal or professional interest that would affect the result of the study.
The researcher shall guarantee transferability of the study by proving clear assumptions and descriptions of the study. In addition, the researcher will ensure that readers can draw their own conclusions about the study in a given context (Patton, 2002).
The researcher will explain “the stable, consistent elements of research findings and the contextual changes that will take place during the study” (Steinberg et al., 2010) in order to show dependability of the research. In addition, the researcher shall provide a clear explanation of research methodology to allow others to use it in a different setting.
The researcher shall provide a clear description of the research processes in order to ensure that others can also confirm the study. The research shall apply five methods that Patton (2002) suggests for confirmability of the qualitative research, which include the following:
- Developing and reviewing different conclusions
- Finding and analysing unexpected outcomes that oppose earlier knowledge
- Triangulating by applying several approaches, sources, analysts, or concepts to draw consistency in results
- Ensuring that research approaches and collected information are in context by accounting for design constraints and their possible effects on data analysis and outcomes
- Reviewing emerging challenges and developing best practices for further studies
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