Vol. LXXV (2017) - No. 268 Enriqueciendo el currículo para todo el alumnado [Enriching the curriculum for all students].



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Renzulli, J. S. and Reis, S. M. (2016).


What importance does the develop- ment of talent have? Can it, in fact, be handled? What is the biggest challenge for a teacher? Can the current teaching model be improved? These questions and many others will occur to anyone interested in the educational world or immersed in it. Enriching the curriculum for all students, by Joseph S. Renzulli and Sally Reis, allows the reader not only to answer each of these questions in depth, but also to discover a whole model for enriching students that opens up horizons for a world of educational possibilities that make it possible to achieve the aim of education and of educational activity: giving each student what he or she needs for optimal learning. Through in-depth knowledge of the strengths of the students, the SEM model (Schoolwide Enrichment Model) offers them the chance to acquire new knowledge and abilities that complete their education and enable them to rediscover the excitement of learning. ,

Joseph S. Renzulli, a professor at the University of Connecticut and the director of the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, has spent several decades working on studying and developing talent. His numerous publications include books such as Light up your child’s mind: Finding a unique pathway to happiness and success and articles like «What makes giftedness?», published in 1978. His most noteworthy honours include being named Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor at the University of Connecticut and being awarded an honorary doctorate in Law by McGill University, Montreal. One of his major achievements is the creation of the Confratute programme for teaching development and talent, of which Sally Reis is the co-director. Sally M. Reis, who is Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and a professor at the University of Connecticut also works as a researcher at the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented. She has written over 140 articles, 11 books, and 50 book chapters. Her research focusses on special groups of gifted and talented students. She is also on the editorial board of Gifted child quarterly, and has been the president of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). She has also been awarded the title Distinguished Scholar of the National Association for Gifted Children, and, like Renzulli, she has been named a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor by the University of Connecticut. ,

This book is a work that is highly recommended for any educator. In its eight chapters, the theoretical character of the work can be appreciated as it examines the SEM model in depth with order, clarity, and simplicity, providing a solid theoretical base. In addition, and making it even more valuable, it has an obvious practical purpose, so that reading it gives clear ideas that can be applied in the classroom or the school, recommendations, and real experiences that mean that reading it will have an immediate impact on educators and their ways of carrying out their educational practice. ,

The first chapter briefly sets out the reasons behind talent development and enrichment and explains what they are. The authors also establish from the start a series of key concepts and ideas such as working with problems from real life, the change of role of the teaching staff or the importance of learning that goes beyond the merely deductive (didactic), providing a well-defined idea of enriched learning and teaching. With this type of learning «the role of the student changes from being someone who learns a lesson to being a first-person inves- tigator, and the role of the teacher changes from being an instructor and disseminator of knowledge to being a combination of advisor, provider of resources, mentor, and personal guide» (p. 31). Furthermore, the presentation of the objectives pursued through implementation of the SEM model is established as the horizon and basis of all of the actions carried out in the implementation of the model. «Schools should be enriching places where the mind, spirit, and values of each student are expanded and developed in a pleasant and interesting atmosphere that presents challenges» (p. 33). ,

With this we come to the second part of the book, which provides an overview of the model. The introduction to the threering conception, which defines gifted behaviour as «an interaction of three basic clusters of human traits – above average ability, high levels of task commitment, and high levels of creativity» (p. 45), and under the main objective of the model, «to promote both challenging and enjoyable high-end learning across a wide range of school types, levels, and demographic differences» (p. 39) it presents the schoolwide enrichment model. In this model, talented students are identified through «test scores, nominations by teachers, parents, and peers, and examples of creative potential or productivity» (p. 49) under the Revolving Door Identification Model (RDIM), currently known as the Renzulli Identification System (or RIS model). In this, the selected students become part of a talent pool through which they access a variety of services adapted to their interests and learning styles. In this chapter, the three components of the SEM model on the basis of which students with talent are offered enriched forms of learning are briefly covered. These include modifications to the ordinary curriculum, enrichment clusters, and the continuum of special services. Through these, various services are offered that make up the portfolio of services: evaluation of individual strengths, techniques for modifying the curriculum, and enriched teaching and learning. This process «provides a detailed plan to develop talents and gifts and encourage creative productivity in students» (p. 66). ,

Following the overview offered in the first two sections of the book, chapter three focusses the reader’s attention on the continuum of special services and tries to show how these educational options should be implemented depending on each student and their needs. This is why the authors underline the importance of being clear about the students’ continuum of potentials (input) through which their aptitudes, interests, and learning styles are grouped. Next, a series of organisational methods are introduced that allow the development of these potentials (process). Finally, a continuum of performances (output) is provided, showing the learning achieved by the students. In this setting, it is useful to group students and this is frequently used in the SEM model owing to its flexibility and to the cooperative practice established among the students who form part of a single group. Throughout this chapter, elements are established that are as important as the criteria when forming the groups and their handling and the essential role of the teacher for adequate performance by the students. ,

«Equity is not the product of identical learning experiences for all students; rather, it is the product of a broad range of differentiated experiences that take into account each student’s unique strengths» (p. 69). This statement defines the purpose of the portfolio of talent, which is the subject of chapter four of this book and the first component of the portfolio of services. The SEM model is based, among other things, on the conviction that it is necessary to know students’ strengths to be able to build the most appropriate learning for the student based on them. This is why, using this portfolio, it is a matter of knowing their strong points in three areas: aptitudes, interests and learning styles. Information about these is collected through different methods such as SRBCSS scales or the interest-al-yzer. ,

Continuing with the presentation of the services offered through the SEM model, we come to chapter 5, «Curriculum compacting and differentiation», where the authors try to offer the reader a detailed view of curriculum compacting and differentiation, explaining how to modify the curriculum step by step; «curriculum compacting is a differentiation strategy that includes content, processes, products, classroom management, and a personal commitment by the teachers to recognize the differences both of individuals and of small groups» (p. 126). Among other reasons, this chapter is interesting for the guidelines it provides about how to carry out a process of curriculum compacting, including examples, frequently asked questions and various recommendations. ,

In chapter six we come to the third component of the portfolio of services offered by the SEM model, enriched learning and teaching. «The ultimate goal of learning that is guided by these principles is to replace dependent and passive learning with independence and engaged learning» (p. 165). This objective is met by using the triad enrichment model, «designed to encourage creative productivity on the part of young people by exposing them to various topics, areas of interest, and fields of study, and to further train them to apply advanced content, processing abilities and methodology» (p. 166) that are typical of the area of interest they have chosen. The triad enrichment model comprises three types of activity: Type I (general exploratory activities), Type II (group skills and abilities development training activities), and Type III (individual or small-group research into real problems), which are explained in detail in this chapter. The triad enrichment model can be implemented using enrichment clusters, «nongraded groups of students who share common interests and who come together during specially designated time blocks to pursue these interests» (pp. 189-190). ,

Of course, the triad enrichment model has many more forms of use and can act as a foundation for developing different content areas. One example of this is chapter 7, which explains the Schoolwide Enrichment Model in Reading (SEM-R). «The SEMR focuses on enrichment for all students through engagement in challenging, self-selected reading, accompanied by instruction in higher-order thinking and strategy skills» (p. 205). It is worth taking some time to read this chapter and the model proposed since, as research shows, it has very positive effects on students. ,

Finally, we come to the last chapter of the book, «Implementing SEM by Using a New On-Line Resource for Enrichment and Differentiation». In this chapter, the authors refer to Renzulli Learning, which is the electronic version of the SEM model. In line with the steady growth in the use of the internet and online courses, Renzulli Learning is presented as an opportunity to encourage enriched teaching and learning in a closer way and adapted to the latest advances, «combining computer based strength assessment with search engine technology» (p. 214). ,

This work is an interesting read, and it introduces the reader to a new vision of the educational possibilities that can be provided in the classroom, and the importance of talent development in schools. It is not a case of serving the average student; nor of only meeting the needs of students of the highest or lowest levels. Talent development involves finding and squeezing out the potential of each student. This is the true aim of education, the true role of education, and the clearest definition of talent development. ,

Patricia Olmedo Ariza

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