2012. Vol.3, No.1, 61-66
Published Online February 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.31010
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 61
A Pastiche of Outcomes for a Teacher-Student Pair: Experiences
within a Reading Cluster Group
Angie L. Miller1, Amanda O. L at z2, Sarah C. W. Jenkins2, Cheryll M. Adams2
1Center for Postsecondary Research, Indiana University, Bloomington, USA
2Teachers College, Ball State University, Muncie, USA
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Received October 29th, 2011; revised November 28th, 2011; accepted December 8th, 2011
The purpose of this study was to understand the lived experiences of two individuals involved in Project
CLUE (Clustering Learners Unlocks Equity), a university-school collaboration. One former third grade
teacher (T) and one of her former students (S) participated in this study. A phenomenological case study
design was used. T and S were interviewed using a semi-structured interview protocol. The research
question that drove the present study was: What are the impacts of a gifted reading curriculum on students
within a gifted cluster inside a regular classroom? Three salient themes from an analysis of the interview
transcripts emerged. They were: 1) social and affective outcomes; 2) bidirectional motivation for deep
learning and exploration; and 3) obstacles to implementation.
Keywords: Cluster Grouping; Reading Motivation; Gifted Education; Classroom Management
The purpose of the present study was to understand the lived
experiences of two individuals involved in a Priority One Jacob
K. Javits grant, Project CLUE (Clustering Learners Unlocks
Equity), a university-school collaboratio n between a mid-western
university’s center for gifted studies and a large urban school
corporation. Project CLUE took place between the fall of 2002
and the fall of 2007. Project goals were five-fold: 1) increase
participation in gifted programs by underserved populations; 2)
create a model of gifted education for underserved gifted popu-
lations; 3) provide teachers with a knowledge base to build
challenging curricula for all students and gifted students in
particular; 4) create opportunities for heightened parental in-
volvement through programming; and 5) disseminate results of
the project to various publics vis-à-vis publications and presen-
tations. Part of the implementation included replacement math
and reading curriculum units and cluster grouping within regu-
lar classrooms as well as professional development for teachers.
Participating third, fourth, and fifth grade classes were ran-
domly assigned to four treatments: no cluster, no curriculum;
no cluster, curriculum; cluster, no curriculum; cluster, curricu-
lum (Pierce et al., 2007).
One former third grade teacher (T) and one of her former
students (S) participated in this study. T’s classroom used clus-
ter grouping and the language arts curriculum. The math cur-
riculum was taught by another teacher who co-taught the class
with T. S was a student in the gifted cluster. A phenomenol-
ogical case study design was used (Mendaglio, 2003; Moon,
1991; Patton, 2002). T and S were interviewed using a semi-
structured interview protocol (Spradley, 1979). S was in T’s
third grade class during the 2004 to 2005 school year. Inter-
views took place during the spring of 2009. The research ques-
tion that drove the present study was: What are the impacts of a
gifted reading curriculum on students within a gifted cluster
inside a regular classroom? Three salient themes emerged from
an analysis of the interview transcripts. They were: 1) social
and affective outcomes; 2) bidirectional motivation for deep
learning and exploration; and 3) obstacles to implementation.
These findings will be explicated in subsequent sections.
In an era of educational accountability and high stakes test-
ing at the K-12 level, meeting the needs of students who are
gifted and talented has been trumped by meeting the needs of
students struggling to meet certain academic standards. Main-
taining quality educational opportunities for gifted students has
also been challenged by the current dire economic situation and
resultant budget cuts (“Smart Kids,” 2009). As such, elemen-
tary level services for the gifted and talented have been largely
relegated to general education teachers. Elementary classrooms
are populated by incredibly diverse heterogeneous student
groups in terms of cognitive ability, cultural background, and
readiness. In these contexts, teachers often struggle to meet the
needs of all students (Tomlinson et al., 1997). As such, many
teachers attempt to cast their pedagogical and content nets wide
by teaching to the middle with the hope of catching as many
students as possible. However, in this scenario two groups of
students are not caught: those at both ends of the spectrum.
Cluster grouping and differentiated instruction are educational
approaches meant to account for the differences found in the
great majority of elementary school classrooms. By using these
two inextricably linked approaches, all students can be caught
in the net.
Feldhusen and Moon (1992) noted:
People who have worked in schools…would find it difficult
to envision heterogeneous varsity basketball, football, and base-
ball teams, or a heterogeneous band comprised of beginning,
intermediate, and advanced musicians. Or heterogeneous cal-
A. L. MILLER ET AL.
culus for all who wish to enroll. Grouping students with similar
achievement and talent levels seems to be essential if we wish
to help students achieve at levels commensurate with their
abilities and sustain to increase motivation to learn (p. 63).
Cluster grouping involves placing a group of gifted students
in the regular elementary classroom with a teacher who pos-
sesses the requisite desire and pedagogical skills to meet the
cluster students’ needs (McInerney, 1983; Rogers, 2001). A
critical component of cluster grouping is differentiated instruc-
tion. Kulik and Kulik (1992) stated: “It would be inefficient for
a teacher to divide a class into thirds on the basis of ability and
then to make the same presentation separately to each of the
three groups” (p. 73). Moreover, grouping procedures must be
flexible. Grouping ought to vary based on subject. For example,
a student might be placed in an advanced group for reading and
social studies and in an intermediate group for math. This way,
students are met with the appropriate challenge in all areas.
Opportunities for reassessing appropriate grouping for students
should take place periodically.
Cluster grouping has many benefits. Gifted students make
more academic gains through this strategy versus being a mem-
ber of a heterogeneous classroom with no grouping (Kulik &
Kulik, 1992; Rogers, 1993). Furthermore, Gentry and Owen
(1999) noted that total school cluster grouping “may have a
positive impact on all students in a school” (p. 238). In addition
to accounting for students’ varying academic needs, cluster
grouping may also meet schools’ financial needs. Dexter (1998)
said that cluster grouping was “cost effective. When funds are
not available to support a self-contained classroom, this [cluster
grouping] is a logical way to address these [gifted] students’
needs” (p. 14). Cluster grouping allows gifted students to spend
time with both their same age peers and intellectual equals
(Delcourt & Evans, 1994). In the absence of gifted students,
other students in the less advanced clusters begin to emerge as
achievers (Gentry & Owen, 1999; Winebrenner, 1992).
Some researchers have suggested that cluster grouping may
have negative impacts on students (e.g., Oakes, 1985). Because
of the potential negative social stigma that can accompany be-
ing categorized as gifted, labeling and grouping students as
such “could result in victimization” (Blanksby, 1999: p. 86).
Additionally, grouping gifted students together can result in a
decrease in academic self-concept (Marsh, Hau, & Craven,
2004). This is known as the big-fish-little-pond effect. Preckel
and Brüll (2008) found that girls in cluster groups suffer from
greater decreases in academic self-concept. However, Rogers
(1993) noted that “it is likely that there are many personal, en-
vironmental, family, and other extraneous variables which af-
fect self-esteem and socialization more directly then the prac-
tice of grouping itself” (p. 11). It is important to consider that
the benefits of cluster grouping may outweigh the negatives.
In addition to the impacts of high-stakes testing and budget-
ary restrictions on services for gifted students, pedagogical
approaches to and intended outcomes of reading instruction
have also been impacted. Williams, Herick, and Tuschinski
(2008) stated that “motivating children to read on their own has
been less of a priority than improving reading achievement in
recent years” (p. 135). Ironically, Anderson, Wilson, and Field-
ing’s (1988) research indicated “that time spent reading books
was the best predictor of a child’s growth as a reader from the
second to the fifth grade” (p. 297).
Teachers can have an influence on how much time students
spend reading books outside of school (Anderson et al., 1988).
Extrinsic rewards for reading (e.g., prizes based on number of
books read) can increase student reading. However, this ap-
proach “may not be sustainable” (Williams et al., 2008, p. 135),
and it may lessen intrinsic motivation (Jensen, 1998). Wigfield
and Guthrie (1997), in a study of fourth and fifth grade students,
found that while reading motivation is multifaceted, intrinsic
motivation is a “crucial predictor of long-term participation” (p.
429) in various activities such as reading. As such, teachers
ought to develop activities, environments, and pedagogical
strategies to foster intrinsic reading motivation within their
Several academicians have offered suggestions to assist
teachers in increasing students’ intrinsic motivation to read.
Williams et al. (2008) suggested the following: 1) choice and
control; 2) social interaction; and 3) interest. Gambrell (1996)
offered several suggestions for teachers interested in motivating
students to read: 1) the teacher as an explicit reading model; 2)
a book-rich classroom environment; 3) opportunities for choice,
4) opportunities to interact socially with others; 5) opportunities
to become familiar with books and; 6) appropriate reading-
related incentives. About her sixth suggestion, Gambrell wrote
cautiously. She conceded that “we need to know more about the
role of incentives in promoting literacy development, particu-
larly with respect to the development of intrinsic motivation” (p.
22). Hidi and Harackiewicz (2000) stated “that the early trig-
gering stages of situational interest may precede the develop-
ment of intrinsic motivation” (p. 158). It is possible that situ-
ational interest could be catalyzed through an appropriate in-
centive (Guthrie, Hoa, Wigfield, Tonks, & Perecevich, 2006).
This possibility reiterates the stance that reading motivation is
complex and multifarious.
Intrinsic reading motivation may decline throughout the
course of a child’s elementary school progress; therefore, “mo-
tivational interventions are important to establish as early as
possible” (Gottfried, 1990: p. 537). Teachers’ motivational
interventions may take the form of the suggestions offered in
the preceding paragraph. For those elementary students identi-
fied as being gifted in the area of reading, cluster grouping and
accompanied differentiated instruction may serve as one of
many attempts teachers can make to stabilize and increase these
students’ intrinsic motivation to read. Cluster grouping and
differentiation inherently address student choice, collaboration,
and interest. Combine these elements with a teacher who loves
and models reading, heightened student access to a wide variety
of reading materials, and appropriate reading incentives, and
the intrinsic motivation of students with gifts and talents in
reading should likely sustain or increase during the elementary
Project CLUE’s Reading Curriculum
A focus on critical thinking through meaningful content and
challenging activities was the theoretical underpinning of the
reading replacement units developed by Dr. Felicia Dixon and
used with the gifted clusters in Project CLUE. Clusters con-
tained anywhere from 3 to 8 students, with total class size in the
25 to 30 range. Students engaged in discussion, group processes,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
A. L. MILLER ET AL.
and writing tasks requiring consistent higher level thinking.
Content for the third grade units came from three novels: Char-
lotte’s Web (White, 1952), In the Year of the Boar and Jackie
Robinson (Lord, 1984), and The Sign of the Beaver (Speare,
1983). Students read the novels, discussed and composed pa-
pers on salient themes, wrote reflective journals, built vocabu-
lary, and used graphic organizers to express their critical think-
ing processes. Tasks were conducted individually and in small
and large groups.
Theoretical Framework and Design
A phenomenological case study design was implemented to
ascertain the lived experiences of T and S during the 2004-2005
academic year. Phenomenological inquiry attempts to under-
stand “how human beings make sense of experience and trans-
form experience into consciousness, both individually and as
shared meaning” (Patton, 2002: p. 104). The present study
sought to understand the various ways in which T and S ex-
perienced the third grade gifted cluster group and their use of
the Project CLUE language arts replacement curriculum. Through
the in-depth semi-structured interviews (Spradley, 1979) and
corresponding analysis of each, the invariant structures, or es-
sences, of the pair’s experiences were identified.
Case studies research has become a preeminent methodology
within the field of gifted education (e.g., Coleman, 2001;
Hebert & Beardsley, 2001). Moon (1991) noted: “Case study
methods have been a cornerstone of research on giftedness” (p.
157). Mendaglio (2003) added: “By enabling us [researchers] to
understand gifted persons’ experiences, qualitative case study
research serves to deepen our understanding of giftedness” (p.
During the spring of 2007, the Project CLUE manager
emailed all involved teachers to ask for names of students who
thrived as a result of the curriculum. Fourteen students were
nominated. During the spring of 2009, contact information for
seven students was obtained from the school corporation. The
remaining students could not be located. Letters and child/
guardian consent forms were mailed to invite participation in
the study. Two consent forms were returned, and interviews
were conducted. The researchers subsequently solicited corre-
sponding teacher participation via email. One teacher agreed to
participate, and an interview took place. This report includes
the findings from the student/teacher pair. The other student
interview (without corresponding teacher interview) was not
considered for this paper. T, a Caucasian female, is no longer
teaching in the school corporation but is now teaching at a local
community college. It is important to note here that T was in-
volved in the study as both a participating teacher and as a
mentor for other Project CLUE teachers. She was asked to
serve as a mentor because, prior to the study, she had obtained a
gifted and talented license. S, a Caucasian male, was a seventh
grade student in the school corporation during the time of the
Transcriptions of the interviews were created shortly after the
interviews took place. Two members of the research team were
present for each interview, which took place at the participants’
homes. When interviewing children, Parkinson (2001) recom-
mends doing so in a comfortable and familiar place for the
child to elicit trustworthy data. The interviewers felt this was a
helpful strategy for both participants. T and S were interviewed
separately. S was interviewed first. Each of the three first au-
thors created open (Miles & Huberman, 1994) and thematic
codes for both of the transcripts independently. No a priori
codes had been established. Relevant themes were identified by
each researcher. Then, after a process of negotiation and dia-
logue, three main findings were agreed upon based on the
presence of congruent themes identified by each researcher
separately. This reflexive debriefing process bolstered the
study’s trustworthiness (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).
Social and Affective Outcomes
Throughout the interviews, both T and S made several refer-
ences to what they believed to be positive outcomes of the
cluster format and the gifted curriculum. Some of the student
interview questions directly addressed self-perceived affective
outcomes. In response to the question, “How did your involve-
ment [in the cluster] make you feel about yourself?” S noted
that “it felt good to know that you could do things that other
people couldn’t” and then further elaborated that “when you’re
done with the course and the school year, you achieved some-
thing that you couldn’t do before or gained, uh, self-esteem or
confidence in yourself, to push yourself to do more things.” T
remarked that this sense of achievement was beneficial for not
only the student, but the teacher as well, citing that if “they’re
having fun and they feel special, you’re going to get more out
of them.” This particular gifted reading curriculum appeared to
challenge the student, and therefore provided him with a sense
of pride in his accomplishments once he successfully read the
higher-level books and completed the assignments.
In addition to the individual affective outcomes of the cluster
participation, there also appeared to be positive social outcomes
from the implementation of this curriculum. S indicated that he
enjoyed being grouped in the cluster with other students on his
“level of intelligence” and that he became good friends with
these students. T confirmed this statement when she recalled
that “that group was a close group” and that “they would be
excited just to be together.” This group served as a source of
social support for each other, as S reported that “you knew who
could help you when you needed help.” Furthermore, students
in the cluster had opportunities to provide social support to
other students in the classroom, as T remembered that S “would
be somebody to help another student to act as a… peer tutor or
just a buddy out on the playground to help cheer somebody
up.” Rather than feel alienated from the students not participat-
ing in the cluster, S acquired positive social experiences with
both cluster and non-cluster students.
The bonds between the students in the cluster are also ap-
parent in their self-directed interactions. The students in the
cluster not only read the assigned books that were part of the
curriculum, but S reported that they all chose to read the
Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis, 1954/1998) on their own time
and then discussed it with one another. S recalled this, noting
that “we all read it together. It wasn’t, we weren’t told to do it, I
remember we just read that book.” The students completed this
reading without the teacher’s direction, as T was surprised
when this was mentioned during her interview. “That just
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 63
A. L. MILLER ET AL.
touches my heart that they would want to take their group be-
yond because they did love [it],” was her response to this in-
formation. While it may not be unique for gifted students to
read books on their own, outside of school requirements, an
important impact of the clustering format in this instance was
the voluntary coordination and discussion that took place for
these particular students. The cluster setup was beneficial for
the students not only in learning the curriculum itself, but the
positive social outcomes seem to have had an impact on their
behaviors and interactions outside of the classroom setting as
Bidirectional Motivation for Deep Learning and
The extracurricular reading of the Chronicles of Narnia
(Lewis, 1954/1998) reflects not only the positive social out-
comes of the cluster format, but is also indicative of how the
students’ motivation was impacted through the curriculum. The
students’ positive responses to the books that were included in
the gifted curriculum units increased their motivation to read
more difficult literature, and they also took advantage of the
cluster grouping format to discuss the outside reading. The
students’ intrinsic motivation to engage in reading for the sake
of reading, rather than because it was a school assignment,
resulted in a greater interest in and appreciation for literature
overall. S said “I started reading more books” as an outcome of
his participation in the cluster, indicating that exposure to the
curriculum had a positive impact on his later behavior. T also
noted the importance of intrinsic motivation, recalling that the
cluster students “wanted to be there, they wanted to be involved,
they loved that engagement.” The motivation expressed by the
students facilitated their learning experience, while what they
learned from the curriculum in turn motivated them to further
devote themselves to their interests in reading.
It should be noted that T expressed a high level of intrinsic
motivation for teaching the cluster students as well. When re-
ferring to one particular book that was part of the gifted cluster
curriculum, T stated “I just loved that book, especially when the
teacher loves it, that makes it even better.” She elaborated by
emphasizing “I didn’t have any problem executing the literature.
I looked as forward to it… as the kids did.” Furthermore, T
discussed the educational value she saw in the curriculum, not-
ing that it “just had much more depth to it” and that there was
“more creativity able to come out of it.” S confirmed this idea
about motivation, indicating that one of the most important
things he learned was that “if you put your mind to it,” it’s pos-
sible to “read books at a higher level.” Both the students and
the teacher expressed motivation to fully engage in the curricu-
lum, and to go beyond it, which then allowed for higher levels
of learning to occur in the cluster setting.
Not only did T present positive social modeling for the stu-
dents through her motivation to teach the curriculum, but she
also reported that S experienced positive social modeling in his
home environment as well. She noted that “the parents really
stressed education and supported that, they were very visible in
the school setting.” S’s father assisted in T’s classroom as a
room parent, and T elaborated on her observations of the family
dynamics and values. T mentioned that she also had S’s older
sister as a student, and T stated that “both of the children in that
family just spent a lot of time with their parents and a lot of,
you know, modeling of good behavior and respect for other
people.” This statement suggests that positive social modeling
from multiple sources can have an important, even if seemingly
indirect, influence on student motivation.
Obstacles to Implementation
While there were positive affective and social outcomes
along with increased motivation as a result of the cluster cur-
riculum, there appeared to be some difficult aspects as well,
from the perspective of the teacher. During her interview, she
reported that stringent classroom management skills were nec-
essary for proper implementation of the gifted curriculum, es-
pecially in a classroom setting without a teacher’s aide or other
adult assistance. T reported:
You have to have a pretty good grip on your classroom if
you’re going to implement a program like this. Otherwise, this
sort of thing is just a thorn in your side because you’re trying
to... do it all and you’re trying to manage at the same time.
“The management piece is the most difficult”, she noted, in
trying to assure that the gifted students were getting direct in-
struction when it was necessary. Teaching effectively with a
cluster format depends on the teacher’s ability to keep students
engaged and on task to ensure that students are not being dis-
ruptive or disrespectful when he or she is working with indi-
Although classroom management was difficult, the subse-
quent benefits of executing an appropriate management system
were further discussed by T. She elaborated on some of her
techniques, explaining that she incorporated “tribes” and had a
“community circle.” This was a way to stress “inclusion,” as T
commented on the importance of:
Accepting other students for their differences and so forth.
And you know you have to do that when you have special
[education] children, you have to set the right tone and create
this climate in a classroom so that everybody feels like they’re
a part, they’re a contributing member… You have to set these
boundaries for what’s acceptable and you have to create a safe
place for your students.
T expressed a proactive approach to classroom management.
Rather than wait for problem behavior to arise before address-
ing disciplinary reactions, she cited the necessity of creating a
supportive learning environment for all of her students, not
only the students in the cluster. While this approach was ini-
tially somewhat labor- and time-intensive, it eventually allowed
for easier control of the classroom when teaching different sets
of curriculum to different groups of students throughout the
year. While S was not directly questioned about classroom
management issues, he did substantiate T’s proactive approach.
When asked how the students that were not a part of the gifted
cluster reacted to the different books and lessons, he replied “I
don’t think they minded much,” which suggests that the other
students accepted the differences in ability level for the various
The teacher also reported that a lack of time was an obstacle
to the proper implementation of the curriculum. She cited in-
creased administrative demands, such as aligning lesson plans
with state standards, which redirected effort away from teach-
ing. When asked about time and classroom management, in
comparing a cluster format to a self-contained classroom format,
T speculated that the amount of time necessary for the cluster
format might become problematic when using the curriculum
with multiple subject areas. “I think that if you took it beyond
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
A. L. MILLER ET AL.
two subjects, I don’t know how a teacher could do that espe-
cially at [school] when you’re also given special education
children,” she indicated. While there were many advantages of
the cluster format, there were some practical considerations
voiced by the teacher as well.
This study explored the experiences of a teacher-student pair
with a gifted curriculum using a case study approach. In-depth
interviews with both a student and a teacher offered a unique
perspective on the impact and efficacy of a gifted reading cur-
riculum in a cluster format. The findings of this study offer
support for the use of the cluster format in an upper-elementary
setting. This aligns with the results of previous research, which
suggest that there are both academic (Dexter, 1998; Rogers,
2001) and social (Reed & Westberg, 2003; Teno, 2000) bene-
fits of clustering with gifted students. Unlike previous research
(Blanksby, 1999), S did not report any negative aspects of be-
ing in the cluster, like labeling or the big-fish-little-pond effect.
In fact, grouping or clustering is one approach to aid in the
social and emotional development of those who are gifted
(Cross, 2005). While social and emotional development is nec-
essary for all children and adolescents, researchers postulate
that giftedness adds to the stress of development (Coleman &
Cross, 2001). Research suggests those who are gifted are more
likely to feel socially isolated and dissatisfied with social sup-
port (Vialle, Heaven, & Ciarrochi, 2007). As such, clustering
may be used to curb feelings of isolation and stress experienced
by those who are gifted (Cross, 2005). Moreover, as was found
in this study, clustering may lead to additional positive affective
Clustering is one way to facilitate social interaction between
students in the classroom. As noted earlier, several researchers
have proposed that social interaction helps to foster intrinsic
motivation (Gambrell, 1996; Williams et al., 2008); the results
of this study support that proposal. For example, S was able to
reflect on the benefit of working and bonding with like-minded
students who were at his “level of intelligence.” One might
argue that while students who are gifted may i nherently have a
greater level of motivation to learn, allowing them to interact
socially with other students who are gifted may increase intrin-
sic motivation, as well as aid in social and emotional develop-
The third theme found in the interviews, obstacles to imple-
mentation, has also been addressed in some of the previous
research on the use of clustering. The importance of providing
teachers with adequate preparation time is often stressed (Teno,
2000), and there is available literature concerning some practi-
cal suggestions for implementation of cluster grouping (Gentry
& Keilty, 2004; Gentry & Mann, 2008). It is central to recog-
nize that while the cluster format may have many benefits for
students, there are also costs in terms of teacher time and need
for increased classroom management skills. However, even at a
school where teacher time and resources are limited, such as the
one in this case study, the cluster format can still be an effective
means of providing an advanced curriculum to gifted students.
One limitation of this study is the time lag between the cur-
riculum and cluster implementation and the interviews. It
would have been ideal to have less time between the imple-
mentation of the curriculum in the cluster and the interviews,
but this was not feasible. The time lag may have also contrib-
uted to the low response rate. As noted in the methods section,
the researchers wanted this study to be a multiple case study,
but had difficulty locating and securing participants. Fur-
thermore, the ability to collect other evidence in addition to the
interviews, such as student writing journals, critiques, or reflec-
tions, could have strengthened the conclusions concerning the
value of cluster grouping.
Consideration should be given to the classroom setup when
evaluating the efficacy of the findings. Winebrenner and
Brulles (2008) recommended that when using a schoolwide
model for cluster grouping, gifted students should not be placed
in a classroom with the lowest achieving students. Similarly,
the gifted student cluster should not be placed in the same class
as the high achieving cluster(s). This way, the spectrum of achieve-
ment levels inside one single classroom is limited (Coleman,
1995). As noted in the findings section, T reported having both
students who are gifted and those with special needs, making
the spectrum of achievement very broad. This could have made
clustering less effective for the gifted students.
The findings of this study provide evidence of the social, af-
fective, and motivational benefits of using cluster grouping
with students who are gifted. Social development may be fos-
tered by providing a sense of belongingness and social support
from other students who are gifted. This development was
noteworthy to both T and S. S expressed a great deal of confi-
dence, self-esteem, and pride in his ability to be challenged and
complete the tasks the curriculum required. While S reported an
increase in social and emotional well-being, he also reported a
greater level of intrinsic motivation for reading books beyond
the requirements of the curriculum. It is unclear if this motiva-
tion is due to the bidirectional motivation provided by the
teacher and parents, the social interaction of the clusters, or the
curriculum itself. What is clear is that S reported great benefits
from the experience, as did T. Overall, the cluster setup was
effective for learning the curriculum and for social and emo-
tional development, as well as helping the student establish
higher levels of intrinsic motivation.
The findings from this study suggest there are benefits to us-
ing differentiated curriculum within clusters for gifted students.
This research calls for more work to be done using larger-scale
qualitative approaches. These could include in-class observa-
tions, or a longitudinal case study on one particular gifted clus-
ter kept together over the course of a few years. For this type of
design, perhaps focus groups would be optimal. Moreover,
using a quantitative approach would help quantify the results
and potentially corroborate the qualitative findings.
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