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Anales de Psicología

versão On-line ISSN 1695-2294versão impressa ISSN 0212-9728

Anal. Psicol. vol.32 no.3 Murcia Out. 2016 



EPTS Curriculum Model in the Education of Gifted Students

El Modelo de curriculum EPTS para la Educación de los Alumnos Superdotados



Ugur Sak

Anadolu University (Turkey).





In this article, the author reviews the EPTS Model (Education Programs for Talented Students) and discuss how it was developed through multiple stages, the ways it is used to develop programs for gifted students, and then presents research carried out on the effectiveness of this model in the education of gifted students. The EPTS Model has two dimensions: ability and content. The ability dimension has a hierarchical structure composed of three levels of cognitive skills. The content dimension is the extension of the regular curriculum but organized at four levels: data, concept, generalization and theory. Included in the article also is a brief critics of the current state of curricular programs in gifted education.

Key words: Gifted Education, acceleration, EPTS, Gifted curriculum.


En este artículo el autor revisa el modelo de los Programas para alumnos Superdotados y Talentos (EPTS, por sus siglas en inglés) desarrollados en la Anadolu University. Se discute como dichos programas se han desarrollado a través de múltiples fases, la forma en que estos se usan para desarrollar programas educativos para alumnos superdotados y la investigación llevada a cabo sobre la efectividad de este modelo educativo. El modelo EPTS tiene dos dimensiones: habilidad y contenido. La dimensión de habilidad tiene una estructura jerárquica compuesta por tres niveles de destrezas cognitivas. La dimensión de contenido es la extensión del currículo ordinario pero organizado en cuatro niveles: datos, conceptos, generalización y teoría. En el artículo también se incluye una breve crítica sobre el estado actual de los programas curriculares en la educación de alumnos superdotados.

Palabras clave: Educación de alumnos superdotados, EPTS, Curriculum para superdotados.



A good curriculum for gifted students should include certain design parameters (Borland, 1989; Maker & Schiever, 2010; Tomlinson, 2008; Van Tassel-Baska, 1998). This is not the case for most programs in gifted education. Tomlinson (2009) used the "patchwork" metaphor to describe current programs in gifted education that lack essential parameters. According to this metaphor, curriculum for gifted students has represented a patch-on approach by default over the years. A patchy program is detached from the general curriculum, and it is an extra rather than an extension of the regular classroom content, it does not have a coherent scope and sequence of content and skills across grades, and it lacks articulated elements such as a specified philosophy and well-defined goals and learning outcomes.

Even though having such drawbacks, many programs in gifted education have sustained its existence for years. The survival of such programs in gifted education is no surprise as there is so much need and parental support for special education for gifted students. Indeed, Van Tassel-Baska and Brown (2007) asserted that gifted education as a field around the world relies on faithful application of curriculum and program models. If true, this claim invalidates the necessity, not the scientific rationale, of many gifted education programs currently under administration. This claim also uncovers the fact that the influence of many of the models on the growth of gifted students is unknown or unproven. For example, Van Tassel-Baska and Brown (2007) reviewed existing program and curriculum models frequently used in gifted education and determined any evidence of effectiveness for their use with gifted populations. They identified 20 models frequently used with gifted students; but, only 11 of them met the criteria for a curriculum model. Of these models, unfortunately only five were found to have some evidence of effectiveness with gifted students.

The EPTS (Education Programs for Talented Students) Curriculum is a universal model, and therefore can be used to develop both enriched and accelerated-enriched curricular programs for gifted students for most subject areas in most program options at all grade levels. The EPTS Curriculum model includes the four principles that are important parameters in the curriculum design for gifted students. These are universality, specificity, utility, and flexibility. These principles also are supported by leading experts in curriculum models for the gifted (e.g., Tomlinson 2009; Van Tassel-Baska & Brown; 2007). According to the universality principle, curriculum for the gifted should be applicable across a variety of grouping settings, such as special schools, self-contained classrooms and pull-out programs. Specificity principle suggests that the curriculum should have well-defined specific learning outcomes identified based on specific learning needs of gifted students. Utility principle allows the curriculum to be applied to most subject areas, such as science and mathematics. Lastly, according to the flexibility principle, the curriculum model should be applicable across all grade levels. In short, a curriculum model for gifted education is not sufficient and comprehensive enough if it is only for a particular grade level or a specific subject area or if it does not have systematic elements for designing curricular programs.


EPTS Curriculum Model

The EPTS Curriculum Model is a comprehensive skill and content-based model for developing programs in the education for gifted students (Sak, 2009b, 2011a, 2011b, 2013). It was developed based on an integration of the theory of successful intelligence (Sternberg, 1997) and its teaching principles (Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2000, 2007), and research on creativity and problem solving. Sternberg (1997) identified analytical, creative and practical abilities as components of intelligence and suggested that successful people use all three abilities to achieve success.

The theory of successful intelligence explains intellectual bases of success. However, what is missing in a curriculum based on this theory to foster excellence is the content or knowledge component. Knowledge is a requisite component for excellence since excellence is built on experience and knowledge (Ackerman & Beier, 2003; Ericsson, 2006; Ericsson, Nandagopal & Roring, 2005). For example, based on the theory of successful intelligence, Sak (2009a) proposed a model of mathematical ability that included knowledge as well as the abilities of the successful intelligence as essential components of excellence. The analytical, creative and practical components are necessary but insufficient for excellent performance in any fields. Likewise, knowledge component also is a necessary but insufficient component for excellence. That is, these components are jointly sufficient for excellence.

The EPTS Curriculum has two dimensions (Sak, 2011a, 2011b). The first of the dimensions includes three components of ability (figure 1). The second dimension is composed of content component. The ability component was developed through four stages. First, the analytical, practical and creative components of successful intelligence were used as the first-order ability to construct a general framework for the new model. Then, all of the original skills of these components defined in the theory were evaluated for their importance, and thirty-five of them were selected to be appropriate for the model. After some of these skills were revised, they were integrated in the model as the second-order broad skills. Second, new second-order broad skills were identified through the review of literature on creativity and problem solving and included in the model. Third, the second-order skills were further analyzed through the review of related literature to identify their subskills that could be used as specific learning and development outcomes. The analysis yielded a substantial number of subskills. Then, they were defined and labeled as the third-order subskills. Fourth, the sub-skills were evaluated for their importance and appropriateness before they were added to the model as the third-order subskills. The final EPTS curriculum included three first-order abilities, 43 second-order skills and 152 third-order sub-skills (see Appendix A, B and C). These subskills were labeled as the EPTS skills. The analytical component includes eight broad skills, such as problem defining and forecasting, and twenty-eight sub-skills. The creativity component has seventeen broad skills, such as idea generation and creative imagination, and fifty-eight sub-skills. The practical component consists of eighteen broad skills, such as setting priorities and completing tasks, and sixty-six subskills.



The content component of the EPTS is composed of national standards at each grade level and used with the EPTS skills for developing accelerated and enriched theme, unit or lesson plans. Contrary to the ability component, this component of the EPTS curriculum does not have specific learning outcomes; instead national standards both at the regular level and accelerated level at each grade are suggested to be used because national standards vary both from country to country and from grade to grade. However, in developing curricular themes, units and lessons using the EPTS Model, content standards are revised according to Banks and Clegg's classification of knowledge (Banks & Clegg, 1990). The classification includes four levels of knowledge: data, concept, generalization and theory. Data refers to factual knowledge. For example, the number of languages spoken in the world is a factual knowledge. Conceptual knowledge is an abstract idea drawn from particular instances. World language, for example, is a concept referring to a language spoken internationally. Generalization refers to general statements, laws, principles or propositions about the whole drawn from the parts of the whole. For instance, the proposition that languages that do not have written language disappear over time is a generalization based on particular cases. Theories are the highest level of knowledge. A theory is an idea or a set of ideas, generalizations or propositions offered to explain some phenomenon. For example, the gestural theory about the origin of languages are based on several hypotheses, generalizations and evidence (Lefebvre, Comrie & Cohen, 2013). National standards often include data and concept levels only but excludes generalization and theory levels. The inclusion of four levels of content in the EPTS programs better promotes conceptual learning.


Development of Enriched and Accelerated Programs Using the EPTS Curriculum

Acceleration and enrichment have been the dominant approaches for differentiating the education for gifted students. According to some researchers, acceleration is viewed to be one of the most ideal models in educating gifted students (Colangelo, Assouline & Gross, 2004; Stanley, 1977; VanTassel-Baska, 2005) whereas enrichment is so deemed by others (Renzulli & Reis, 2000). For example, Steenbergen-Hu and Moon (2011) did a meta-analysis on the effects of acceleration on gifted students' academic achievement. They reviewed 38 studies published from 1984 to 2008. The results of the study showed that acceleration had positive impact on students' academic achievement. Nevertheless, meta-analytic studies have shown both approaches to have positive learning effects when they are well-designed and used together (Kulik & Kulik, 1992). Indeed, one of the key beliefs guiding the most curriculum models in gifted education is that confluent approaches that allow for both advanced content learning and enriched experiences should be used for serving gifted students (Triffinger, Nassab & Selby, 2009; VanTassel-Baska, 2000).

Aligned with research findings, the EPTS Curriculum is used together with both enrichment and acceleration approaches to develop curricular programs for gifted students (Sak, 2011a). The EPTS skills are integrated with standards of the regular curriculum or advanced contents using the EPTS Lesson Plan Form (Appendix D) to develop enriched and accelerated-enriched EPTS programs that include both ability outcomes and knowledge outcomes (see figure 2). As shown in figure 2, the combination of the 152 EPTS skills together with regular content standards and accelerated content standards produces a possibility for the development of numerous different lesson plans at each grade level. Acceleration is carried out by transferring higher-grade level contents. Any content acceleration also contains enrichment activities designed by integrating the EPTS skills into the accelerated content. This way of acceleration and enrichment promotes the development of advanced content knowledge, conceptual learning and enhancement of higher-order thinking skills.



The purpose of the enrichment of the EPTS is to develop process skills in students and to make their knowledge applicable outside the learning situation. Acquisition of knowledge that is transferable in different situations is a complex learning leading to cognitive flexibility (Gruber & Mandl, 2000). EPTS units are designed so that the same concepts are treated in different units as transversal contents, facilitating their transferability. Transferability of knowledge also is the basis of interdisciplinary learning, a principle recommended for the education of gifted students (Maker, 1982; Maker & Schiever, 2010; VanTassel-Baska, 1992). Transferability of knowledge increases by the use of multiple perspectives on problem solving rather than through abstract context-free learning (Gruber & Mandl, 2000). Applied in gifted education, the single use of acceleration with an emphasis primarily on learning advanced content helps students learn those contents, but could lead to decontextualized learning, and therefore may not result in the acquisition of transferable knowledge. This idea is one of the rationales for combining enrichment and acceleration in the EPTS.


Research on the EPTS Curriculum

Research has been conducted to support the effectiveness of the EPTS Curriculum with gifted students within a variety of educational settings during the last six years. Specifically, significant growth gains in mathematical creativity and competency, scientific creativity and creative writing and linguistic competency have been demonstrated for gifted classes using the developed curriculum units in language arts, science and mathematics.

In some studies, the EPTS Curriculum was used to teach sixth, seventh and eighth grade gifted students in an after school program for gifted students at Anadolu University. During the implementation of these programs, growth in gifted students' mathematical creativity and scientific creativity regularly were measured using the Creative Mathematical Ability Test and the Creative Scientific Ability Test in pretest and posttest settings (Ayas, 2012; Sak, 2013, 2014; Sak, Demirel-Gürbüz, Bal-Sezerel, Ayas & Özdemir, 2013; Sak & Karabacak, 2010; Sak, Karabacak & Kılıç, 2009). In these studies, gifted students' creativity both in mathematical domain and in scientific domain was found to increase significantly from pretest measurements to posttest measurements. Specifically, after students attended the EPTS, they produced more creative hypotheses about scientific facts, designed more effective experiments to test hypotheses, and evaluated scientific evidences more effectively. In the mathematical domain, they posed more original problems and developed more original strategies and methods to solve mathematical problems.

In another study, the social validity of the EPTS was investigated. This study included an examination of middle-school gifted students' perceptions about the EPTS programs offered as after-school programs at Anadolu University and their satisfaction with the quality of the programs. Findings showed that students had high satisfaction with the EPTS programs, an evidence for the social validity of the EPTS (Sak, 2011a; Sak, et. al., 2013). Social validity studies are important for education programs for gifted students; because they show students' perceptions and satisfactions about these programs and the sustainability of these programs are mainly dependent upon students' satisfactions and positive perceptions. Indeed, most withdrawals of gifted students from special education programs presumably result from their dissatisfaction with these programs.

The EPTS Curriculum also has been used in developing programs for gifted students in full-time self-contained classes in Anabilim Schools in Istanbul, the first project school where the EPTS model was applied. In this project, special programs for mathematics, language arts, social studies and science courses were developed at the first, second, third and fourth grades using the EPTS Curriculum Model and national standards. The program of each course included five to seven themes and each theme was composed of four to five lesson plans. All of the themes in mathematics were extensions of the regular curriculum whereas the themes in the other courses were either extensions of the regular curriculum or completely unique, such as electricity as an extension and extraordinary habitats as a unique theme in science. At least 25% of the content of all the courses included upper grade standards. The programs for these courses incorporated both enrichment in content and process and acceleration in content. A program book for teachers and a workbook for students were developed for each course. In order to teach these courses, the regular courses of students were compacted and accelerated 40%. In the remaining time, the EPTS programs were used as parallel programs to the regular courses throughout the school years. During the project, students' creative thinking and problem solving skills in reading, writing, mathematics, and science were measured in pretest and posttest settings at each grade level. In all the comparisons, students were found to have significant gain scores (Sağlam-Demir & Aksoy-Pehlivan, 2013; Sak, Akyol, Sağlam-Demir, Aksoy-Pehlivan, Dora, Ozdek & Karakan, 2014). Particularly important finding in these studies was students' progress in analytical and creative thinking. Students were found to do much better in finding and redefining problems, producing ideas, constructing different types of analogies and associations and developing strategies for solving problems.

In conclusion, the EPTS Curriculum Model has been found effective in the education of gifted students in a variety of domains in both self-contained classrooms and afterschool programs at different grade levels. Our next research agenda is to extend our research on the effectiveness of the EPTS Model on gifted students' thinking and problem solving skills in other areas, such as social domains. Finally, the EPTS team keeps working on the EPTS Curriculum Model with an emphasis on analyses of intelligence, creativity, problem solving and learning theories to identify new thinking and problem solving skills that could be integrated in the EPTS Curriculum Model.



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Ugur Sak.
Prof., Director, Center for Practice and Research on Gifted Education,
Anadolu University.
Department of Special Education.
26470 Eskisehir (Turkey).

Article received: 01-11-2015
Revised: 16-12-2015
Accepted: 31-12-2015

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