A Comparison of Teacher and Teacher Educator Attitudes Toward Provision for the Education of Gifted and Talented Children in Schools
In 1990s Australia, decreased mobility of teaching staff had generated an Australia-wide teaching profile with an average age of 42 years (the average length of a teaching career was only nine years!). The aging teaching force seriously concerned educators promoting policy implementation and classroom change towards the next millennium. By 2012, however, the average teaching age had risen to 43 and 25 per cent of the teaching force were expected to be retiring within five years (Templeton, 2012).
Amalgamation of teacher education institutions with universities under the tertiary unification program of the late 1980s has resulted in Education Faculties displaying a similar age profile to the teaching cohort they seek to replenish and sustain at levels appropriate to the needs and demands of the various State education systems. As this trend continues, it is expected that the numbers retiring from the teaching force will exceed those entering before 2020.
This atmosphere driving positive policy change provides a unique opportunity to observe the impact of established attitudes on provision for gifted and talented students across primary and secondary schools.
This paper describes a small scale comparison of the attitudinal response to gifted and talented students held by a group of teachers working in a medium sized K-12 school and a group of teacher educators working in a large Australian university. The paper concludes that: attitudes developed during training are modified then confirmed in practice; and that, length of service in a defined educational field has significant impact on attitudes to change.
Decreased mobility of teaching staff generated by economic uncertainty and possibly compounded by changes in approach to career structure among women in the teaching service (Porter, 1994) has generated an Australia-wide teaching profile from which it is established that while the average age of a teacher is 42 years, the average length of a teaching career is only nine years (ABS, 1996). In consequence of the shortened career span of a relatively small percentage of graduating teachers, the teaching force is now aging by almost one year every year. The aging of the teaching force must seriously concern educators promoting the implementation of policy and classroom change across Australia into the next millennium (Porter, 1988).
The enforced amalgamation of teacher education institutions with universities under the tertiary unification program of the late 1980s has resulted in Education Faculties currently displaying a similar age profile to the teaching cohort they endeavour to replenish and sustain at appropriate professional levels to meet the changing needs and demands of the various State education systems. In conditions where an aging group of teacher trainers are ministering to the needs of an aging teaching force, it becomes problematic that the interests of either is being well met (Cusworth & Whiting, 1995). More importantly, it is observable that the research findings transmitted to pre-service teachers as Teacher Education are increasingly affected by the combined influences of entrenched opinion and endangered tenure (Goodlad, 1984; Fullan, 1991).
Under these circumstances, it becomes difficult to determine whether the often reported increases in stress generated in the face of rapid curriculum and pedagogical implementation (eg Hatty, 1992, Fullan; 1994) are caused by the impact of change or the energy involved in resisting it. Regardless of the reasons for their stress, the training of each of these groups began in the late 1970s. The sixties assertions that gifted and talented students were adequately catered for in the mixed ability classroom had been assimilated into the educational folklore of their period and formed the basis for their training. The Schools Commission (1980) report of ambivalence towards gifted provision confirmed that their attitudes had been firmly established.
Almost twenty years on, however, an unprecedented receptiveness to special provision for gifted and talented students had become reflected in the policy releases of every major State Education Authority. The release of the national policy (1996) provided either a possible reason for the changing State response (Wilson, 1996, p13) or a confirmation of the totality of the change. In this atmosphere of positive policy change, a unique opportunity existed to observe the impact of established attitudes on the implementation of provision for gifted and talented students across primary and secondary schools.
This paper describes a very small scale comparison of the attitudinal response to gifted and talented students held by a group of teachers working in a medium sized independent school and a group of teacher educators working in a large Australian university. The paper concludes with a set of implications for further research arising from the study.
Changing Responses to Giftedness
The assumption that children are equitably treated as a mass is too seldom disputed. As early as 1926, Zorbaugh and Boardman were arguing for consideration of under-performing gifted students. The pragmatics of political power, however, are supported by a generally ill-informed media who seek sensational deviation from the accepted norms. It has always been thus. While Galton published his "Studies of Genius" in 1869, Bohannon's (1896) study was titled "A Study of Peculiar and Exceptional Children".
This popular determination to separate and segment the population according to physical, intellectual and emotional ability ultimately reinforces a deep-seated perception that socially acceptable education of the majority to an arbitrary standard constitutes effective education. In fact, the nesting of arbitrary and unchallenged assertions embedded in this perception is too complex a conundrum for most to dispute (eg. Borland, 1989).
In the current educational climate, the notion of special provision for students tends to have been restricted to those whose measurably physical and intellectual disabilities restrict their learning opportunities - and even this notion is disputed by those who favour mainstreaming to achieve social role valorisation.
Furthermore, the move towards mainstreaming, enshrined in the American Public Law 94-142 ensuring "an appropriate and free public education for the handicapped" (Davis, 1980:17) and clearly articulated in the Collins Report (1984) on educational/socialisation grounds, gained considerable currency on pragmatic economic grounds in Australia in the early 1990s.
The intention of professional educators to provide equality of educational opportunity at a systemic level has repeatedly and increasingly been overcome by the cynically economic exercise of increasing participation and retention during a recessionary spiral. The Marland Report (1972) and the much later Javits Act (1988) provide useful watershed definitions with which to monitor the stability of attitudes towards giftedness in the U.S.A. Similar stability has, until recently been reflected in Australian governmental policy.
Despite this move towards mainstreaming, towards national curriculum implementation and towards the reduction of curricula diversity noted by Boomer (1988) and more recently affirmed in New South Wales by Aquilina (1996), there has been a growing awareness, a re-enlightenment in some cases (Theobald, 1987), of the diversity of interests and cognitive abilities represented in schools. Nowhere does this remain more evident than in independent non-catholic girls schools (eg Yates, 1988; Jones, 1990; Schwartz, 1991; Milligan,Thomson and Ashenden, 1992)
From the relatively simple conceptions of giftedness as recognised genius underpinning identification by Galton and Bohannon through the more complex longitudinal studies of Terman (1925) and Hollingworth (1927) to the multiple intelligence proposals of DeHaan and Havighurst (1957), Witty (1958), Taylor (1967) and, more recently, Gardner (1983), researchers and theorists have sought stable criteria for the identification of giftedness.
Renzulli's (1977) three ring conception of giftedness has been heavily critiqued (eg Jarrell & Borland, 1990; Tannenbaum, 1983; Bégin & Gagné, 1994). In turn, Tannenbaum has been critiqued by Gagné (1995), Gagné and Colangelo promote variously pragmatic definitions and recent work (eg Feuerstein) proposes criteria implying a definition which subsumes the work of Feldhusen, Van Tassel-Baska and Seeley (1989).
The debate over definition is, no doubt, crucial to the establishment of a moral high ground in the theorisation of gifted education. Similarly, the criteria for identification of gifted and talented students is implicit in developing policies for school provision. Nevertheless, unless a position - such as that proposed by Gagné (1995), for instance - is taken at national and international levels, the power of ill-informed and mis-informed lobby groups will remain paramount. Isolated cries (eg Isaacs, 1966) for the preparation of teachers to work with gifted students - in specialist or mainstream classes - will remain unheeded. The publication of policies for gifted provision will remain subject to the pressures and accusations identified by such commentators as Braggett (1994) and, from an American perspective, Assouline (1996).
The New South Wales Government Implementation Strategies for the Education of Gifted and Talented Students (1991,4) specifies that "each school community should recognise its responsibilities to provide appropriate educational opportunities for its highly able students." [Other States have similar motherhood statements to assuage the gifted education lobbyists with whom they are forced to contend for political harmony.] The effect of this policy is largely determined by what McGaw (1996) has termed "contextual validity".
If we identify a child as "highly able", "gifted", "talented" then we have an immediate responsibility to do something about what we have discovered. The identification establishes a context which demands action for its validation. Whether we define the gifted child as a unique individual with special abilities or as an individual who can meet the selection criteria of a special education program suddenly makes all the difference.
Mass education requires mass assessment. Mass assessment comes at high cost and cost is a key element in the politicisation of education at every level. In summary statements of their perceived achievement for the year 1995, only one Education Minister in the country mentions Gifted Education. The Federal minister and every State minister targets literacy but only Rob Lucas, the Minister for Education and Children's Services in South Australia boasts the launch of a new Policy for Gifted Students. For the first time, Lucas says, "there will be a range of comprehensive measures introduced to cater for academically gifted students to give them every chance to reach their full potential (Lucas, 1995:3). Following on from this announcement of the brave new world, Lucas signals the Government's intention to introduce the State's first special interest high school for academically gifted and talented students. It is to be modelled on Melbourne's University High School program developed with Professor Brian Start. Of course, South Australia is not alone among States coming to recognise the need to cater for "Gifted and Talented" students but these are the reports of 1995.
Increasingly the rhetoric of the sixties is returning, Bassett's (1966) demand that every child must be catered for as an individual has, once more, a familiar ring about it. And if we accept a definition from which we select individuals who can meet the selection criteria then we feel ourselves on familiar ground. This definition we understand. This definition is capable of being used to underpin assessment and categorisation and division into "equitable" groups where "comprehensive measures [can be] introduced to cater for academically gifted students to give them every chance to reach their full potential" (Lucas, 1996).
More importantly, acceptance of this apparently criterion-based definition makes both the program and the intended product more publicly visible, even apparently transparent. Pen and paper testing may limit the likelihood of successful fine identification of gifted students but it does provide a broad sword for cutting away those who do not meet a basic set of identifiable criteria. Despite Tannenbaum's oft-repeated warnings against the use of IQ testing, it appears "equitable" to the uninitiated.
Recent studies have established that while attitudes can be reliably measured with a range of measurement instruments, Likert scales are sensitive to such factors as willingness to participate, social expectancy, feelings of personal adequacy and interpretation of verbal stimuli (Burns, 1995). Furthermore, attitudes are remarkably stable through adulthood (eg Boyd, 1990; Larsson, 1990) and - demanding further research in multicultural Australia - that they are stable within but not between cultural groups (eg Rudowicz, 1996). In these circumstances, the relation between teachers trained in the sixties and seventies and the attitudes and definitions prevalent during that period become crucial to any study of attitudes among an aging teaching force in the late nineties. As Laws and Scholfield (1995) have established, policy implementation depends more on attitudinal change than on economic incentive, work place change or coercion.
In recognition of the likely attitudinal stability of the sample chosen for this study, it seems likely that the debate identified in the previous section will remain largely irrelevant to the current teaching cohort. The implications of this for policy implementation are, of course, horrendous. Government cut-backs in professional development funding and perceived increases in teacher work-load can be expected to compound resistance to attitudinal change.
Attitudes of Teacher Educators
As has previously been discussed, the training of the majority of teacher educators active in Australia at the close of the nineties is close to identical with that of the school teaching cohort. In consequence, it can be assumed that, despite the observable difference in their professional roles, they might be expected to hold similar attitudes towards giftedness provision for school aged students. As yet, and probably not surprisingly in view of the power of self-interest in research task identification (Goffman, 1974), this field seems to be significantly under-researched.
Applying the observation that well-matched populations are essential if acceptable reliability and validity are to be achieved (Slavin, 1992), teacher and teacher educator populations were chosen for likely comparability by selection of a long established independent school with a staff size of 102 and the Education Faculty of an equally long established university (staff size 108).
Representative Nature of Sample
The study sample represented approximately ten per cent of the population in each case. While this would be seen to be an appropriate sample size in a large population, the composition of both a school staff and an Education Faculty staff are necessarily fragmented and compartmentalised by the structure of programs offered and the levels at which teachers specialise. In consequence, the sample size for this study is seen to be too small to draw meaningful conclusions from.
Notwithstanding this reservation about the likely validity of conclusions drawn from such a small sample (Manion & Cohen, 1995) in the present nano-study, the range of experience represented suggests that its incorporation into the larger Gagné, et al study will be useful.
Negotiation of Entry to Sites
Entry to the sites was gained by personal approach to the School Principal and the Dean of the Faculty as both were known to the researcher through prior professional contact. In each case, assurances of confidentiality of response were sought from and guaranteed by the researcher.
Randomised Sample Selection
The samples at each site were selected following procedures for random small sample selection described by Gross (1996) and confirmed by Burns (1995). Initial application of a random number table (Burns, 1995:66) to identify sample subjects was repeated following approaches to individuals until the arbitrarily chosen sample sizes of 10 from each population were satisfied.
Potential subjects were initially provided with an oral description of the broad intention of the project and its source as a University assignment. If they expressed interest in participation as subjects in the study, they were then assured of the confidentiality of their responses and offered the option of using a code in place of their name on the questionnaire. In addition, they were assured that any future publication of the findings from the study would be made in such a way that the identity of the school would remain anonymous.
Participants seeking a copy of the final study were assured that this would be forwarded to them upon its completion.
All data collected was entered onto a data base using the questionnaire numbers only so that identification of individuals with specific responses was rendered impossible.
Questionnaires were then stored separately under locked conditions in an area discrete from the computer data.
The composition of the School sample [n=10] reflects the gender composition of the School staff sample [8 female] while the university sample [n=10] is more evenly gender balanced [m=f=5] than the male dominated Education Faculty composition would suggest. Again, as Cochran (1977) indicated, the small size of the sample may confound the proposal of truly random sample.
While a larger sample might yield more significant data by reduction in standard sampling error (Horowitz (1974), the data derived from this study has been treated as if significance, reliability and validity are non-problematic on the understanding that it will be added to the larger Gagné et al study (in progress).
The small volume of data has led to its being processed with simple statistical tools to derive ranges, means and standard deviations for the criteria grouped according to individual subject response (see table 4) and for each criterion separately according to the sample source (see tables 2,3).
Table 2: Teacher Sample Response to Gagné-Nadeau Attitude Scale
CRITERION RANGE MEAN STANDARD DEVIATION
A 1.63 3.76 0.58
B 1.50 3.10 0.49
C 2.75 3.30 0.82
D 3.00 3.03 0.91
E 1.50 3.10 0.48
F 2.00 2.82 0.68
GROUPED 0.65 3.16 0.27
General attitude toward giftedness provision
The teachers involved in this study present a relatively consistent and apparently positive attitudinal approach to the provision for gifted students in the school context (grouped mean = 3.16, s = 0.27). While the small standard deviation suggests considerable consistency among the responses, nevertheless, the narrow range (range = 0.65) indicates a considerable level of agreement within the sample.
Attitude toward accelerative enrichment
Davis and Rimm (1994) provide a truncated form of the debate between adherents to the evidently related concepts of enrichment and acceleration which supports the Gagné-Nadeau approach of grouping the terms to generate a summative operational definition.
Consistently with the findings of Benbow and Stanley (1983) and, more recently, of Southern, Jones and Fiscus (1989), the teacher group appear to be substantially opposed to the acceleration of students beyond their year level (mean = 2.82, s = 0.68, range = 2.00). The value of acceleration has been a significant trigger for accelerated programs in schools across Australia and even in some University programs (eg Bachelor of Science at The University of Sydney). While the exhortation of theorists such as Feldhusen, Proctor and Black (1986), supports by the work of researchers including Assouline and Stanley (1990) in America and Gross (1994) in Australia has clearly demonstrated the value of acceleration, resistance among this teacher sample remains consistently strong.
Attitude toward ability grouping of gifted students and ideological opposition to special provision
Perhaps predictably in view of their opposition to acceleration, this teacher group are in favour of mixed ability classrooms (Mean = 3.10, s = 0.48, range = 1.50) and display a marked tendency to ideological opposition to special provision for gifted students (R = 1.50, X = 3.10, s = 0.49. The demonstrably high correlation between these two criteria supports the view that long exposure to a specific pedagogical approach might support shared belief systems. Stability in school staffing might well lead to consistency in the educational offering but it might equally support a professional inertia resulting in resistance to new understandings of the needs of school aged children.
Bettelheim's (1958) proposition that special provision might present 'a new segregation' may well underpin the observable support for Elkind's (1981) view that gifted children are already too busy to be provided with enrichment programs. Changing school populations with successive waves of migration since the post-war period have resulted in increased resistance toward identifiable migrant groups. The increased facility with which these migrant groups are seen to successfully access the education system has resulted in measurable rejection of gifted provisions on the basis that they cater for the migrants while missing the really gifted [at least second phase English-speaking] students (Bechervaise, 1996)
Attitude toward social adjustment
A far more disparate response is demonstrable when these same subjects consider the socialisation of gifted students. The frequently cited 'tall poppy syndrome' observable among Australian students may be supported and even nurtured by teacher adherence (mean = 3.03, s = 0.91, range = 3.00) to the view that gifted children are unable to 'fit in' with 'normal society'. In accord with the reports of researchers such as Van Tassel-Baska, et al (1988), however, the least experienced teachers appear to be much more likely to reject the view that gifted students are alienated from their less able peers.
The wide range in responses to this crierion (Range = 3.00) suggest that the opinion is not shared uniformly. Rather, in- experienced teachers in this sample appear likely to agree with Davis and Rimm (1994), that social adjustment or self esteem is better related to personal recognition of giftedness enhanced by public recognition.
Social value of gifted persons in society
Notwithstanding the call of a previous Prime Minister to educate towards a 'clever country', the teachers in this sample see only moderate value in having gifted members in their society. Indeed, they would appear to be in conflict with state and national gifted education policy provisions and with the vision of John Feldhusen as he envisioned "... an openness to fly, to be challenged, to grow" (Feldhusen, 1992, p.49).
Special provision for gifted children in the school setting
Notwithstanding a general lack of enthusiasm for special provision and an apparent lack of concern for the value of gifted students in school or societal settings, the response of the teacher group to special provision was stronger than for any other single criterion used to measure their attitudes (mean = 3.76, s = 0.58, range = 1.63).
The attitudes of the teacher sub-sample in this study range from a relatively strong rejection of special provision for gifted students in the classroom among the more experienced, and more highly qualified teachers to a far more sensitive approach among the younger, less experienced teachers but the range is not great and it may only indicate the need for a more sensitive measuring instrument with a larger sample.
It is tempting to suggest that experience hardens teachers against gifted students but this would appear to be a contradiction of the stated intention of teachers to develop students to their full potential. This apparent contradiction will be discussed more fully in the context of the complete sample.
The Teacher Educators
Table 3: Teacher Educator Sample Response to Gagné-Nadeau Attitude Scale
CRITERION RANGE MEAN STANDARD DEVIATION
A 1.86 3.81 0.73
B 2.30 3.68 0.75
C 2.25 3.84 0.65
D 2.33 3.4 0.74
E 2.25 2.98 0.95
F 2.6 3. 56 1.43
GROUPED 1.77 3.63 0.60
General attitude toward giftedness provision
The teacher educators involved in this study apparently present a more positive attitude to the provision for gifted students than their teacher colleagues (grouped mean = 3.63, s = 0.60). While the small standard deviation suggests less consistency among the responses than the teacher group, the wide discrepancy in range indicates considerable disagreement across the sample (range = 1.77). This will be discussed in more detail in the following section where whole group responses are examined within the context of individual grouped mean responses.
Attitude toward accelerative enrichment
Unlike the teacher group, the teacher educator group appear to be substantially in favour of the acceleration of students beyond their year level (mean = 3.56, s = 1.43, range = 2.60). Nevertheless, the high standard deviation and wide range of responses indicates need for more detailed discussion of this observation.
Attitude toward ability grouping of gifted students and ideological opposition to special provision
It is observable that the teacher educator group are apparently less strongly in favour of acceleration than the teachers (Meante = 2.98, meant = 3.10). However, the large range (range = 2.25) and relatively high standard deviation (s=0.95) again suggest that the teacher educator group is highly disparate in its response to ability grouping. In contrast to the teachers, however, the teacher educators appear to be less ideologically opposed to giftedness provisions than the teachers. Again, this finding needs closer examination.
Attitude toward social adjustment
As in the case of the teacher group, the teacher educators support the view that gifted students are likely to be socially isolated by their ability but, as with the teacher group, this criterion generates the widest range of opinion.
Social value of gifted persons in society
While the teacher group tended to reject the value of gifted students in the school and social setting, the teacher educators are far more positive towards their presence. While the breadth of response remains wide (range = 2.25), the criterion is more positively valued than any other (mean = 3.84) and the margin of dispute is least (s = 0.65)
Special provision for gifted children in the school setting
Predictably in the light of their valuing of gifted students in society, the teacher educators support special provision for gifted students more strongly than the teacher group (mean = 3.81, s = 0.73) and the range of their difference in opinion is least on this criterion.
The attitudes of the teacher educator sub-sample in this study range from a relatively strong rejection of ability grouping for gifted students in the classroom among the more experienced teacher educators to a far more accepting approach among the less experienced teacher educators but, as with the teacher group, the range is not great.
The Complete Sample
Table 4: Total Sample Response to Gagné-Nadeau Attitude Scale
CRITERION RANGE MEAN STANDARD DEVIATION
A 2.00 3.88 0.60
B 2.10 3.74 0.68
C 3.75 3.72 1.13
D 3.00 3.26 0.82
E 2.25 3.00 0.73
F 2.60 3.19 0.82
GROUPED 1.91 3.40 0.51
Consideration of the teachers and teacher educators as a single group suggests that, as previously discussed, the group demonstrate a remarkable stability in response. Nevertheless, the range of response is wide and the disparity in response (eg Criterion C, s = 1.13) suggests that consideration of the sample by use of mean range and standard deviation alone is insufficient to explain the differences in response of the two groups or, indeed, the differences within a given group.
Data analysed strongly suggests that difference between the teacher group and the teacher educator group is based on teaching experience as measured by quality rather than quantity; that factors such as age and formal qualifications have little effect on attitudes between. These findings will be discussed in the following section.
• The parallel in responses to the Gagné-Nadeau Attitude Questionnaire between teacher and teacher educator groups suggests the likelihood of a high correlation between the two groups but sample sizes are too small to make this a significant exercise.
• In writing the conclusions to this small study, it is presumed that all statistical terms used in discussion are tempered with recognition of the limitations imposed by the size of the sample. This point is discussed further in the section on 'Implications".
Accelerative enrichment and ability grouping
While the majority of teacher educators actually indicate support for both ability grouping and accelerative enrichment, their teacher colleagues most definitely do not. The range of difference in opinion on these issues between more and less experienced teachers is small and the standard deviation across the group indicates considerable agreement on the issues. In consequence, it might be argued that any professional development targeted at the implementation of special provision within this school would need to address these apparently entrenched attitudes as a priority.
Social isolation of gifted students
The teachers are less polarised in their attitude toward social acceptance of gifted students than teacher educators. However, they tend to conform with the findings of Southern, et al (1989) that acceleration is somehow 'bad' for student development and self esteem.
Experience in the classroom
Results obtained from examination of Table 5 in which subjects are listed according to their mean grouped response to the questionnaire suggests a strong link between length of school classroom teaching experience and positive attitudes towards provision for gifted students. Conversely, extended experience in the classroom appears to result in a conversion of opinion against special provision.
From this sample, less experienced classroom teachers can be argued to have more recent training than more experienced teachers but to have higher formal qualifications.
Of considerable interest is the evident bimodality of response from the teacher educators. Length of experience in the classroom appears to correlate highly with positive attitudes toward special provision for gifted students. However, this principle is not supported when a comparison of classroom experience is made with the teachers.
The tendency for the teachers to maintain a middle ground in most attitudinal areas appears to produce an ambivalence between their desire to help their students to achieve their potential and a desire to provide for all students equally. To suggest that this ambivalence is misguided does not alter the fact. Experienced teachers in this sample appear to perceive special provision for gifted students as over-provision (Southern, W.T., Jones, E.D. and Fiscus, E.D., 1989).
Inexperienced teachers and more recent teacher educators, in contrast to their more experienced colleagues, tend to express strongly positive attitudes towards special provision. While it might be argued that recency of tenure in a position adds to positive response, a halo effect, the potential for recently trained teachers to have been provided with more positive and constructive approaches to provision appears more likely.
Less experienced teacher educators in this group are, nevertheless, experienced classroom teachers so the substantial difference in attitude between these and the also-experienced teachers needs further exploration. At this stage, it is suggested that teachers leaving the classroom to become teacher educators are likely to have been successful teachers with positive approaches to students. In addition, they are likely to have maintained professional development, improved their qualifications and to feel that they have a significant role to play as change agents in the educational process (Fullan, 1994). Similarly, inexperienced teachers are likely to have been recently involved in their professional training and, as with the less experienced teacher educators, to feel that they have a significant role to play as change agents in the educational process.
Ideological resistance to special provision
Ideological resistance is most evident in well experienced teachers and in teacher educators who have only limited classroom experience. While the socialising impact of teachers on each other has previously been commented upon, the effect of leaving the classroom while relatively inexperienced as a teacher appears to leave teacher educators with unquestioned attitudes towards their practice and beliefs. (Kelly, 1994). In this respect, they are effectively 'frozen in time' and their attitudes remain consistent with those of the teaching profession at the time they have left.
The observably close correlation between attitudinal responses of less experienced teacher educators and less experienced teachers suggests that these might profitably be seen as a single group for further study. On the other hand, it is considered even more likely that a larger group of experienced teacher educators with brief classroom experience would provide a useful parallel group with classroom teachers of similar age.
It appears likely that resistance to special provision and hence against current national and state policy for the education of gifted and talented students would be significant, though possibly passive, among the teacher group. In this case it is suggested that any attempt to introduce special provision should be presaged by professional development in the use of small group and collaborative work in classrooms; by the introduction of enrichment rather than acceleration programs and; by the pre-testing of year level student cohorts with end of year (off-level) tests.
The resistance of classroom inexperienced teacher educators is likely to be an entrenched attitudinal problem observable on a system-wide, nation-wide basis and unlikely to be resolved without resort to unacceptable industrial practice. As such, it is seen as essentially intractable. The natural attrition rate among teacher educators, as among teachers, is accelerating so a decade of further practice will almost certainly result in a sea change in this area.
As has been previously noted, the small sample size renders the conclusions to this study almost purely speculative. There does seem to be, however, significant scope for expansion of the study. It is suggested that a collaborative, cross-institutional study of the attitudes of teacher educators, in Australia at least, might yield significant insights into the resistance of educational institutions to research-based policy development and implementation.
Original paper delivered to joint conference of Singapore Educational Research Association and Australian Association of Research in Education, Singapore, 1996. Initial data on average teaching ages updated to 2012.
Electronic publication: AARE/ERA Conference papers BECHN96:335
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