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The modern system of education places special emphasis on meeting the needs of gifted students. According to Chakroun and Safieh (2012), any society’s wealth is in the human capital, which cannot develop without providing everyone with equal education and learning opportunities. The state must create favorable conditions to enable the most gifted creators to realize their intellectual potential.
In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the number of enrichment programs for gifted children is constantly increasing (Ibrahim & Aljughaiman, 2009). As a result, identifying, engaging, and motivating children who could potentially benefit from participation in such programs is becoming one of the top national priorities.
According to Ibrahim & Aljughiaman (2009, p.319), “in Saudi Arabia, gifted children are usually identified as those who are able to demonstrate high ability in one or more areas deemed necessary by the society. The most used ways of identifying gifted individuals are intelligence tests, creativity tests, and task commitment”.
Nevertheless, ways in which pre-school teachers in Saudi Arabia identify the needs of gifted children and try to meet them remain severely underexplored.
At present, gifted children hold the promise to expand the boundaries of the national human capital and improve the country’s intellectual performance, but pre-school teachers and the system of education, in general, must ensure that the needs of gifted pre-school children in Saudi Arabia are met.
One problem is that the educational, emotional, and learning needs of gifted students differ greatly from those of their chronological peers (Aljughaiman & Tan, 2008).
Another problem is that information on the needs of gifted pre-school children in Saudi Arabia and the extent to which their needs are met is virtually absent. The purpose of this research is to propose a study that will explore the ways in which the needs of gifted pre-school children in Saudi Arabia can be met.
Research Background and Research Question
In order to understand the significance of the proposed research question, the current state of research into the needs of gifted children in Saudi Arabia should be evaluated. The need for the proposed research is justified by the lack of information about the needs of gifted pre-school children in Saudi Arabia and the ways in which their needs can and should be met.
Research has shown that gifted children differ considerably in their talents and abilities from children who do not display any exceptional learning talents (Ibrahim & Aljughaiman, 2009). The most remarkable signs of giftedness include: the learning development of movement, speech, and reading (Ibrahim & Aljudhaiman, 2009). Together, these signs confirm the early development of children’s intellectual abilities.
Such children develop early reading skills and an expanded vocabulary and learn to vocalize and connect complex words early in life (Ibrahim & Aljudhaiman, 2009). Gifted children are also characterized by high linguistic ability, longer attention spans, high ability to capture and understand causative relationships, as well as a remarkable ability for equivoque (Ibrahim & Aljudhaiman, 2009).
At the age of 4-6 years, such children start to display an imminent desire to explore and learn new concepts; they ask questions and show signs of deep, critical thinking (Ibrahim & Aljudhaiman, 2009). They make few or no mistakes when using complex linguistic structures.
Gifted children demand special attention, while the lack of attention to their needs is likely to be detrimental both for their own and the society’s development (Aljughaiman & Tan, 2008).
At present, teachers in Saudi Arabia have a wide choice of strategies and models to identify and test the needs of gifted children. Dozens of tests for measuring creativity and talent have been developed and translated into Arabic languages (Chakroun & Safieh, 2012). These tests have also been modified to meet the needs of the Islamic learning environment.
Saudi Arabian teachers actively use the traditional IQ test, Wechsler IQ measure, Stanford-Binet IQ test, as well as Katel IQ test (Chakroun & Safieh, 2012). The latter was modified to make it suitable for use at all stages of the educational system, from kindergarten to university. The Wechsler test was also codified for use with children (Chakroun & Safieh, 2012).
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However, questions regarding their validity and applicability in the Islamic learning context are still pending. The fact is that cultural context, in which these tests were developed, differs greatly from the cultural context, in which they are applied.
Ibrahim and Aljughaiman (2009) also mention Scales for Rating the Behavioral Characteristics of Superior Students, which are used in primary and secondary education to evaluate the most outstanding students’ talents.
They speak about the Gifted Classification Scale, which was developed in 1979 and adjusted to evaluate students’ academic distinctions in five essential fields: overall mental abilities, leadership and creative thinking, sports and games, visual arts and performance, as well as psychomotor abilities (Ibrahim & Aljughaiman, 2009).
Unfortunately, despite the development of tests and programs, problems associated with meeting the needs of gifted students remain unresolved.
Therefore, the central question of the proposed study is whether the needs of gifted students in pre-school environments are, in fact, met. The current research does not provide any explicit answer to this question. On the one hand, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has become particularly attentive to the issues of giftedness.
Al-Shehri, Al-Zoubri and Rahman (2011) suggest that Saudi Arabia considers gifted students to be part of the national treasure, which must be invested in, given its implications for the future wealth and security of the country.
Batterjee (2010) even tested the efficacy of the Total Giftedness Development Model in a Saudi Arabian sample and concluded that the model enhanced the learning and creative performance of the talented students participating in the study. On the other hand, “Saudi Arabia follows the Islamic philosophy of education, and the principles and goals of its educational system are founded in Islam” (Al-Sadan, 2000, p.148-9).
This means that the primary function of education in KSA is to develop good citizens, who will work for the benefit of their country and contribute to its continued progress. Nevertherless, with the emphasis on Islamic subjects, many curricula lack the flexibility needed to meet the needs of gifted students.
As a result, gifted students may not have enough opportunities to satisfy their striving for intellectual development and growth, as their needs are very different from their chronological peers (Aljughaiman & Tan, 2008). Giftedness also often conceals serious psychological and behavioral problems, such as anxiety (Aljughaiman & Tan, 2008).
Thus, pre-school teachers in Saudi Arabia need to possess extensive learning and evaluation resources, to guarantee that all learning and emotional needs of gifted children are met. However, they also need to be able to identify giftedness and evaluate its scope in pre-school children.
Based on these results, the research question to be explored in the proposed quantitative study is “How do pre- teachers in Saudi Arabia evaluate the gifted needs in pre-school children?”
The proposed study will be non-experimental, quantitative, descriptive, and retrospective. The study is non-experimental, since the independent variable is not manipulated (Johnson & Christensen, 2010). The goal of the proposed study is to describe, in quantitative terms, the ways in which pre-school teachers in Saudi Arabia evaluate and confirm giftedness in their students.
The choice of the descriptive design is justified by the need to understand the phenomenon in question in greater detail. Descriptive designs are used to define the existence of, and describe the most essential characteristics of a phenomenon (Heppner, Wampold & Kivlighan, 2008).
Descriptive designs promote better understanding of the research questions and phenomena that are explored by researchers (Heppner et al., 2008). They are particularly suitable in situations when variables cannot be manipulated or controlled. This study will also be quantitative (based on the use of quantitative data processing techniques) and retrospective (utilizing the data from past experiences).
The retrospective nature of the study is also justified by the need to avoid any experimentation or manipulation of variables. The main variables to be used in the proposed research include: methods of evaluation of giftedness used by Saudi Arabian preschool teachers (IV) and the number of gifted preschool children identified by these teachers (DV).
Analyzing causal relationships is beyond the goal of this study. At present, the retrospective descriptive quantitative design will enable the researcher to create a complete picture of the giftedness evaluation situation and identify possible gaps and problems in teachers’ and parents’ understanding of giftedness.
To a large extent, the proposed study is just the first stage in the subsequent analysis of the needs of gifted Saudi Arabian pre-school children. The results of the proposed study will pave the way to the development of other causative designs, and facilitate the creation of effective interventions to meet the learning needs of gifted pre-school children in Saudi Arabia.
The sample will include the teachers working in at least two preschool facilities in Saudi Arabia and the parents of the children attending those facilities. The total number of the research participants will depend on the number of the teachers working in a particular preschool facility, as well as the number of children attending it.
The main eligibility criterion for choosing a preschool facility is the presence of a special group specifically for gifted children. The presence of such a group will confirm that teachers are aware of the giftedness issues and that they use various techniques to identify gifted children.
Teachers will have to report the techniques they use to identify gifted children, as well as the number of gifted children they have identified over the past five years. Parents’ responses to the quantitative questionnaire will complete the picture of gifted children’s needs and the extent to which they are met by teachers.
For the purpose of this study, cluster sampling will be used. First, preschool facilities with groups designed specially for gifted children will be identified. Second, two preschool facilities to be used as the subjects for the proposed research will be selected at random. Cluster samples are those which are gathered and used in groups (e.g., the teachers and parents of the children attending the same kindergarten) (Sekaran & Bougie, 2010).
Cluster sampling is much more convenient and less costly, although the results of the study using cluster sampling may not be generalizable to broader populations, thus impacting the validity of the design and study results.
However, the two preschool facilities, which are to be used in this study, will be selected at random, from the cluster of other similar facilities that have groups for gifted children. Random selection will help to enhance the validity of the proposed study design.
All research participants will be asked to gather for a meeting. The most detailed information about the purpose and expected research outcomes will be provided. All research participants will be asked to sign an informed consent form.
Confidentiality and anonymity will be guaranteed. All questionnaires will be emailed. The participants will have 24 hours to return the filled questionnaire. Those, who fail to turn in their questionnaires, will not be included in the final sample. The respondents will have the right to refrain from further participation at any stage of the project.
Quantitative questionnaires will be used to collect primary data. According to De Vaus (2002), surveys and questionnaires are considered to be inherently quantitative, based on the positivistic philosophy that makes them drastically different from qualitative studies.
Quantitative surveys are believed to be “dry” and “unimaginative”, but their choice is justified by the remarkable ability to provide “hard”, descriptive and factual information (De Vaus, 2002). One of the greatest benefits of quantitative surveys is that they deliver structured primary data, which can be quickly processed with the help of the most sophisticated statistical methods.
Johnson and Christensen (2010) also write that close-ended questions included in quantitative questionnaires allow for a more effective, standardized statistical analysis. Since the goal of the proposed study is to elicit the participants’ responses to standardized quantitative questions, quantitative surveys are the most suitable form of collecting primary data.
In addition, quantitative questionnaires will deliver a common stimulus to every participant in the proposed study (Johnson & Christensen, 2010). As a result, maximum comparability of the questionnaire responses will be achieved (Johnson & Christensen, 2010). This, in turn, will help enhance the validity of the study design and the reliability and validity of the study findings.
Validity is one of the most concerning issues when designing a quantitative study. In the proposed research, the use of randomization in cluster sampling and quantitative questionnaires to collect primary data will solve some of the most pertinent validity issues inherent in quantitative designs. The proposed study is associated with generalizability issues and has a very limited sample.
These are the main threats to the study’s external validity. The study can be problematic in terms of population validity (generalizing across other populations), ecological validity (generalizing across other settings), and temporal validity (generalizing across time).
However, given that most preschool curricula in Saudi Arabia rely on the same founding principles (Batterjee, 2010), it is possible to assume that the results of the proposed study will be generalizable across time and across other educational settings (namely, preschool facilities).
The study results may not be generalizable to older populations, but they are likely to reflect the general situation with giftedness in most Saudi Arabian preschool facilities.
This study relies on the assumption that within-group variations are much more significant than between-group differences. Its main goal is to guide future studies into the needs of gifted pre-school children in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, the choice of the cost-effective and time-efficient sampling strategies is justified.
The issues of internal validity are not significant, since the proposed study does not seek to establish causal relationships between various phenomena. However, the risks of confounding variables should not be disregarded.
In the proposed study, the relationship between the techniques used to identify gifted children and the number of children identified across different kindergarten teachers may vary, depending on the teachers’ professionalism and experience, their knowledge of the giftedness evaluation scales and their perceptions of such scales.
For instance, some teachers may be reluctant to use the giftedness scales that are available to them. These confounding variables will have to be considered in future studies.
Meeting the needs of gifted children is not an easy task. The current state of research does not provide any clues as to whether the needs of gifted pre-school children in Saudi Arabia are met. The proposed research is designed to answer the following question: “How do pre-school teachers in Saudi Arabia evaluate the needs of gifted preschool children?”
The proposed study uses quantitative descriptive retrospective design, which is non-experimental. Cluster sampling is to be used to define the preschool facility of choice and engage pre-school teachers and parents of pre-school children in the study.
Primary data are to be collected with the help of quantitative questionnaires. Close-ended questions will be used to facilitate the analysis of the primary data collected during the project. The proposed study raises a number of validity concerns that are to be addressed in future studies.
Al-Sadan, I.A. (2000). Educational assessment in Saudi Arabian schools. Assessment in Education, 7(1), 143-155.
Al-Shehri, M.A., Al-Zoubi, S. & Rahman, M.B. (2011). The effectiveness of gifted students centers in developing geometric thinking. Educational Research, 2(11), 1676-1684.
Aljudhaiman, A. & Tan, M. (2008). Anxiety in gifted female students in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Gifted and Talented International, 23(2), 49-54.
Batterjee, A.A. (2010). The efficacy of the Total Giftedness Development Model. Gifted and Talented International, 25(2), 77-90.
Chakroun, G. & Safieh, L.A. (2012). Drawing for early identification of creative thinking of children in different cultures. Journal of Educational and Instructional Studies in the World, 2(3), 86-96.
De Vaus, D. (2002). Surveys in social research. NY: Routledge.
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Ibrahim, U.A. & Aljughaiman, A.M. (2009). The behavioral characteristics of kindergarten gifted children in Saudi Arabia: Construction and validation of a scale. In E. Grigorenko (ed.), Multicultural psychoeducational assessment, NY: Springer Publishing Company, 315-334.
Johnson, B. & Christensen, L. (2010). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches. Thousand Oaks: SAGE.
Sekaran, U. & Bougie, R. (2010). Research methods for business: A skill building approach. Sudbury: John Wiley & Sons.