2 DESCRIPTION OF THE RESEARCH
2.1 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND
2.2 RESEARCH TOPIC AND RESEARCH QUESTIONS
2.3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY AND TECHNIQUES
3 PLANNING OF THE PROJECT
This research proposal wants to pay attention to excellence in two broad areas of a human’s life: apprenticeship and profession. While the profession of a person is not directly with his/her abilities connected, education is (see Figure 1). Apprenticeship has in Germany the meaning of a Excellence Education Employment
Figure 1: Area of Conflict (Manstetten 1992, p. 4)
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double-edged sword because it combines vocation and education (Manstetten 1994, p. 4) while both have a different connection to excellence. Therefore, apprenticeship in Germany has long been neglected and even cross-cultural literature review provides only little and hardly proven data about giftedness in adulthood.
On the one hand it is a reasonable approach to focus on children in promoting gifted students because humans of a very young age are very impatient and curious - best prerequisites for nurturance and learning.
On the other hand is Germany an aging country, people older than 40 years dominate our country and this group will still increase in the next centuries. A focus on the minority can not be a sustainable approach; adults have needs as well as the possibility to create the future of the country.
This is the reason why I suggest research in the field of adult education in a future oriented perspective, as a continuation of the secondary school level.
2 Description of the Research
2.1 Theoretical Background
“Life-long Learning” as issue number one for Germany’s educational policy stands for a holistic model which includes every form of institutional, formal and informal learning setting. It is reasonable because of national and international changes in economy, societal values and demography (Baethge 2001, p. 61). People need to be more flexible and need to hold not only technical skills but also social, emotional, personal, cross-cultural and metacognitive competencies (Peters 2000, p. 10). These can only be reached by a continuing provision of education starting from preschool and going though high school, university and/or apprenticeship to vocation and even further. Every German citizen has to have equal rights to take part in this ideal development of life-long learning.
This is at least an indirect inclusion of gifted people and gets supported by the German Bund-Länder-Kommission für Bildungsplanung und Forschungsförderung (2001, p. 15).
While most studies document research in the field of programs for the gifted in school, this proposal focuses on two main stages of most - even gifted - people’s life. According to the Bund-Länder-Kommission für Bildungsplanung und Forschungsförderung (2001, p. 15), about 75 % of adolescents in Germany enter an apprenticeship and follow their professional life. By following the approach of “life-long learning”, we should not neglect adulthood.
The distinction between one quarter that enters university and three quarter of young people who enter an apprenticeship is surprisingly not based on intelligence or specific talents. Germany’s promises about equity of chances in education for all people covers several societal movements that lead to an opposite effect. The societal class determines whether a person enters a “Gymnasium”, “Realschule” or “Hauptschule”, and receives an influential position in his or her career or not (Heuser 2002). The GOLD study, documented by Weinert and Hany (2000, p. 88) showed similar results. Occupational status across life was mainly determined by the educational status of the parents rather than intelligence. The status could be improved best in combination of high ability and high educational background of the parents.
This explains why we will find many gifted students outside the universities in vocational trainings, who have similar needs like university students. Greven (2001, p.282) defines a general educational concept for promoting the gifted according to their talents and their identity rather than technical qualifications.
In 1991 the Federal German Ministry for Education and Research developed a foundation for the promotion of the gifted that finished their vocational training (see www.begabtenfoerderung.de). The feature of the program is the financial support for further training off-the-job, which could be seen as a kind of “enrichment” possibility. An evaluation study by Fauser and Schreiber (1999, p. 11) of this program showed the high success of the support. Most students increased their self-efficacy and occupational competencies, and used the opportunity to attend specific and interdisciplinary courses, which lead to personal and social skills. While this kind of provision for the gifted supports exclusively early career because the limit for program participants is up to 25 years of age, there is a big group of people left who are in their mid and late career. Through changing demography this age- group will increase and will be more and more important in the educational sector.
Achievement in career shows its peak level of productivity in the second decade of career experience. Beard’s theory can be seen as a reason for this because the mid-career allows an optimal balance of enthusiasm and experience. Where the first is high in the beginning of one’s career, the latter is high in proceeding vocation. This theory can be supported by the finding that even a highly gifted person needs at least a decade of serious training to show elite levels of performance (Sternberg 1994, p. 29).
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Figure 2: Beard’s (1874) Two-Factor Theory (Sternberg 1994, p. 30)
Findings about the development of fluid and crystallized intelligence, and whether there is a decrease of cognitive functions with the age of 20, 30 or 40 years could not be verified, yet. However Mönks and Spiel (1994, p. 137) see age as an index of experiences rather than an independent variable that influences human behavior. The amount and quality of academic training and health conditions control cognitive performance.
Companies use acceleration and enrichment programs for their employees in terms of advancing ones career or social and language skills to be more flexible in cross-cultural settings. Personality psychology in the field of further education is booming more than ever, which can be seen in the range of seminars of institutions for extension studies (e.g. Apprendi! & Excellence, further educational provisions of the Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich for entrepreneurs and executive managers). Whether this development meets the needs of talented employees rather than the interests of the company is questionable.
2.2 Research Topic and Research Questions
Suggestions for research emerge from the described position of gifted young students in vocational school and talented adults in mid and late career.
First part of a proposed study should include research in the design of a program for the gifted, e.g. “Does acceleration in apprenticeship make sense or is enrichment a better opportunity to develop further skills?”. In the context of vocational training we need to consider four mayor stakeholders: gifted students, companies and vocational school, which equally teach the students, and benefactors of provisions. Finding the needs and imaginations of companies and schools, defining the basic for funding, and promoting the talents and interests of the students could be the fundament for the development of a program for the gifted in apprenticeship in Germany.
My hypothesis is first, that there will be a higher acceptance of gifted programs by the companies where the students work because enrichment programs would provide a broader education (e.g. in languages), than by schools, which would have to refine their structures, policies and education of the teachers. In my second hypothesis I expect a high popularity of acceleration and enrichment possibilities because apprenticeship in Germany provides low challenges even for the average student.
Second research proposal is the evaluation of the satisfaction of gifted employees in specific talent programs (acceleration) and educational rewards (enrichment). As in part 2.1 already mentioned, it is quite questionable that those provisions meet the needs of the employees rather than the interests of the company. My hypothesis about this study would be first, that acceleration as a fast way to a high position in a company is more popular than enrichment programs because those are, second hypothesis, designed to reach the desires of the institution. Subsequent to this study it might be interesting whether there is a need for educational provisions for the gifted in later life, like the general adult education but even for the gifted. A hypothesis could be, that this is less important for the gifted, because they can achieve a high degree in self-actualization and are more able to design their own intellectual stimulations according to their interests and desires (Lovecky 1986).
Since there has been a recent study about provisions for the gifted in early career, I will not go into this section.
2.3 Research Methodology and Techniques
Part I requires four different questionnaires to reach every main stakeholder to get a holistic idea of the design of a program for the gifted in apprenticeship. First, we are interested in the students needs. Since there is no gifted program for apprenticeship existing, we have to identify gifted students that are our target group, first. This could be done by intelligence measurements as well as teacher observations and recommendations by supervisors in the company. Award winning and good grades could be included, too. The identification process could be based on five mayor characteristics of gifted adults, which Lovecky (1986) developed from Torrance’s Three-Trait Model (see Figure 3).
Figure 3: Characteristics of Gifted Adults (Lovecky 1986)
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