Subject-Based Acceleration in High Schools: Perceptions of Gifted and Average-Ability Students and Their Teachers Paper
Ana Altaras Dimitrijevic
Author(s): Ana Altaras Dimitrijevic, (University of Belgrade, Department of Psychology, Serbia), Danilo Drobnjak, (The Fifth Belgrade Grammar School, Serbia)
The acceleration of gifted students is still surrounded with controversies: experts find it to be highly effective, but not readily utilized in schools; educators themselves tend to report rather positive opinions on acceleration. Seeking to clarify how educators perceive acceleration in an inclusion-oriented system, and to bring students’ views into the picture, we investigated perceptions of subject-based acceleration in teachers, intellectually gifted, and average-ability students.
Participants in the study were 109 high-school teachers and 304 students (aged 16-18). The latter group was divided into subsamples of intellectually gifted (Ng=46) and average-ability students (Na=258), with assignment to the gifted group based on scoring above the 85th percentile on two intelligence tests. Participants were administered a questionnaire on subject-based acceleration (teacher/student form) employing a Likert-type scale with several subscales (perceived general usefulness, academic gains, socioemotional effects, need for acceleration, feasibility, and readiness to personally utilize acceleration), also yielding a global score.
According to descriptive analyses, teachers hold rather positive views on acceleration, with perceived general usefulness and readiness to utilize acceleration rated highest (M=4.14/3.86, Sd=.73/.68, respectively), and its feasibility and socioemotional effects eliciting the lowest ratings (M=2.75/3.30, Sd=.64/.62). A similar pattern was observed in the student sample. An ANOVA yielded significant results (F=28.30, p<.001), with post-hoc tests revealing more positive perceptions of acceleration in the teacher and gifted samples than in average-ability students; the teachers and gifted students were equally positive in their global ratings of acceleration, yet the students reported significantly lower readiness to personally utilize it.
The results support the contention that accelerated learning is a special educational need of gifted students. Contrary to common concerns, teachers seem to be highly willing to provide for this need; nevertheless, they require support in implementing the intervention, whereas gifted students themselves require encouragement in taking up the challenge of accelerated learning.