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Discussion: Evaluating Purpose StatementsThere is a link between understanding the purpose of one’s research and selecting the appropriate methods to investigate the questions that are derived from that purpose. READ AD REVIEW:”Meeting the Needs of Gifted
and Talented Students: Case
Study of a Virtual Learning
Lab in a Rural Middle School ” (ATTACHED)–(Newman, Ridenour, Newman, & DeMarco, G. M. P., Jr., 2003, p. 169)******For this Discussion, you will evaluate the purpose statements in assigned journal articles in your discipline and consider the alignment of theory, problem, and purpose. You will also explain your position on the relationship between research and social change.( I AM SPANISH TEACHER FOR HIGH SCHOOL, DUAL ENRROLMENT FOR COLLEGE AND ALSO I AM COMPUTER SCIENCE TEACHER FOR HIGH SCHOOL AND CYBERSECURITY TEACHER FOR COLLEGE)Alignment means that a research study possesses clear and logical connections among all of its various components. To achieve these connections, researchers must carefully craft the components of their study such that when they are viewed together, there is a coherent interrelationship.As you read the authors’ purpose statements, consider how well the intent of the study, and its connection to the problem and theoretical framework, is presented. Also consider if the purpose statement reveals the study’s potential for engendering positive social change.As you know, social change is a distinguishing feature of Walden University’s mission. Positive social change implies a transformation that results in positive outcomes. This can happen at many levels (e.g., individual, family systems, neighborhoods, organizations, nationally and globally); and positive social change can occur at different rates: slow and gradual or fast and radical.Post a critique of the research study in which you:Evaluate the purpose statement using the Purpose Statement Checklist as a guideAnalyze alignment among the theory, research problem, and purposeExplain your position on the relationship between research and social change*********(THE ARTICLE IS ATTACHED HERE)RESOURCES:Babbie, E. (2017). Basics of social research (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.Chapter 4, “Research Design”Burkholder, G. J., Cox, K. A., & Crawford, L. M. (2016). The scholar-practitioner’s guide to research design. Baltimore, MD: Laureate Publishing.Chapter 10, “Writing the Research Proposal”


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JOAXXX10.1177/1932202X15603366Journal of Advanced AcademicsSwan et al.
Meeting the Needs of Gifted
and Talented Students: Case
Study of a Virtual Learning
Lab in a Rural Middle School
Journal of Advanced Academics
2015, Vol. 26(4) 294­–319
© The Author(s) 2015
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1932202X15603366
Bonnie Swan1, Xuan-Lise Coulombe-Quach1,
Angela Huang1, Jaime Godek1, Deborah Becker1,
and Yan Zhou1
Researchers used case study methods to investigate a virtual learning lab (VLL) in
a rural school district that was created in 2011 as a way to better meet the unique
needs of exceptional students who are considered gifted. Data were collected
through focus groups, classroom observations, interviews, and reviewing relevant
documents. Topics include an in-depth explication of the learning lab, lessons learned
and suggestions by teachers and administrators, and benefits for improved teaching
and learning. Findings are that VLL programming, specifically online instruction
that takes place in brick-and-mortar public schools, can be an effective means for
providing accelerated coursework to exceptional middle school students who are
gifted. Benefits include cost-effectiveness, parent and student satisfaction, allowing for
individualized work pace in talent area, and others.
acceleration, gifted, qualitative, technology, talent development, motivation,
According to the 2012 Keeping Pace study of online and blended learning across the
United States, blended schools and blended programs are quickly growing segments
of online delivery of content and instruction (Watson, Murin, Vashaw, Gemin, & Rapp,
2012). The report estimates that in 2012, two thirds of school districts offered at least
of Central Florida, Orlando, USA
Corresponding Author:
Bonnie Swan, University of Central Florida, 4221 Andromeda Loop, Orlando, FL 32816-1250, USA.
Email: [email protected]
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Swan et al.
one online or blended program, and a large majority of programs have relatively few
students and rely on external course providers. Districts offer these options with the
intention of expanding access to courses that might not otherwise be available for
students, improving quality of instruction, and reducing costs. However, little research
has been documented on how well or in what ways these programs meet the unique
needs of gifted and talented students.
This case study provides an intimate look at blended learning with the intention to
describe an emerging model. First, that a student must be in a supervised brick-andmortar location away from home at least part of the time; and second, that the person
who supervises is an adult who is physically present. Researchers use case study methods (Creswell, 2007; Stake, 1995; Stufflebeam, 2001) to answer questions focused
primarily on the quality of learning and teaching, and the achievements of learners.
The purpose of the case study was to provide stakeholders with an authoritative, indepth well-documented explication of a virtual learning lab (VLL) school located in a
rural region in the Southeastern United States and information about its benefits and
challenges. It provides useful information for others who might want to implement a
VLL, which infuses a place-based brick-and-mortar style classroom with online
instruction. It also helps document how this type of blended learning addresses all five
of the lessons learned from Rogers’s (2007) synthesis of what the research says about
gifted educational provisions.
Literature Review
Many schools and states are turning to online learning to replace or supplement teaching in brick-and-mortar classrooms. A recent report by the National Center for
Education Statistics (Queen & Lewis, 2011) revealed that for 2009-2010, 55% of public school districts reported having students enrolled in distance education courses.
This is up from about 37% in 2004-2005. Among those districts with enrollment in
distance education, 96% reported having distance education at the high school level,
with fewer having it at the middle (19%) and elementary (6%) school levels. The
report also revealed that while many offer these courses for course credit recovery
(57%), even more do so to provide courses not otherwise available at the school (64%).
Blended Learning and the Forces That Drive It
Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Digital Learning Now Act (2011) that requires
Florida school districts to establish virtual learning options, and authorizes customized
and accelerated courses to be delivered in traditional school settings by personnel
providing direct instruction through a blended environment. The law also requires all
incoming ninth-grade students to complete an online course as part of the 24 credits
required for graduation. Such legislative demands in a time of budget deficits and
infrastructure issues have increased the adoption of virtual and blended learning as a
means to satisfy school choice options (Rauh, 2011). In addition, there has been continued growth in the proportion of postsecondary students learning online, with the
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Journal of Advanced Academics 26(4)
number of students taking at least one online course at an all-time high of 33.5% in
2012 (Allen & Seaman, 2014).
Staker (2011) emphasized two clauses in her definition of blended learning; first,
that a student must be in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home at
least part of the time; and second, that the person who supervises is an adult who is
physically present. The most traditional location for this is in a school building, but it
could be in another type of facility such as a storefront learning center with a computer
lab. There are several models for blended learning, and the adult, or teacher, who is
supervising can play different roles depending on which one is used. For example,
Staker and Horn (2012) used examples of more than 80 programs in the K-12 sector to
identify four broadly defined blended-learning models that have emerged. They
included the Flex, A La Carte (formerly Self-Blend), Enriched-Virtual, and Rotation
models. The VLL we focus on in this study uses the lab rotation variant of the Rotation
model, where students rotate on a fixed schedule between online learning and other
modalities. In this case, students spend one period a day in the VLL and the rest of the
day rotating to more traditional face-to-face classrooms.
An increasing number of cases of blended-learning options are emerging in small,
rural communities (Means, Bakia, & Murphy, 2014). VLL can be a cost beneficial way
to provide access to courses in areas lacking either the critical mass of students needed
to justify a teacher’s salary or the lack of availability of teachers for certain subjects.
Smaller class sizes or finding the right teacher may not be feasible, economically, or
otherwise. An example of this is the lack of foreign language teachers when students
must meet a foreign language requirement for college entrance (Weil, 2009).
This study examines one such VLL, where all of the courses that are being offered
allow students to accelerate. Acceleration is a common strategy for differentiating instruction for gifted students, which can be done in different ways. The term may refer to service
delivery such as grade skipping, early entry, and credit by examination or it may denote
curriculum delivery at a faster pace in one or more subject areas. Some of the benefits of
acceleration include higher academic achievement, positive self-esteem, and healthy social
adjustment (Kulik & Kulik, 1984, 1992; Vialle, Ashton, & Carlton, 2001). VanTasselBaska (1989) described additional advantages of acceleration such as stronger motivation
and confidence, early completion of professional training, and lower education costs. The
acceleration process can allow some students to move at a faster pace than a standard
sequence, and in some cases it can shorten the length of time required for a learner to complete schooling. Vialle et al., (2001) emphasized that schools should have a set procedure
and criteria for identifying students for accelerated programming. The form of acceleration
that is chosen should reflect the specific educational needs of the individual student.
Blended Learning in K-12 Environments
In one of the first studies to collect data on and compare fully online and blended
learning in K-12 schools, it was found that while fully online courses have higher
student enrollment than blended courses, blended models can have greater potential
than fully online models (Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2009).
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Swan et al.
This finding was based on results from a national survey of school district administrators, published by the Sloan Consortium (Picciano, Seaman, & Sloan, 2009). Piccanino,
et al. (2009) found that blended courses may be a better option for school districts that
have concerns about quality, student readiness, and teacher readiness to teach online.
With blended courses, if the online course was not meeting a student’s needs, there would
be a teacher readily available there to help them face to face. They also pointed to another
study, commissioned by the North American Council for Online Learning, that states that
the blended approach merges the best elements of online learning with the benefits of the
face-to-face classroom, and that “it is likely to emerge as the predominant model for the
future—and to become far more common than either one alone” (Watson, 2008, p. 3).
While online and blended programs are becoming more popular over time, there
has been little empirical research regarding the role and effectiveness of this type of
program for K-12 online learners (Hasler-Waters & Leong, 2011; Means et al., 2009)
or how to implement and tailor these programs for gifted students within a school setting (Wallace, 2009). This is particularly true when attempting to measure any differences between blended, online, or face-to-face teaching and learning.
Means et al. (2009) conducted a meta-analysis of the literature for the U.S.
Department of Education to provide research-based guidance on implementation of
online learning for K-12 education and teacher preparation. Their initial search of the
literature published between 1996 and 2006 found no studies contrasting K-12 online
learning with face-to-face instruction that met methodological quality criteria. The
second literature search expanded the time frame through July 2008 identifying more
than a thousand empirical studies, and found only five studies meeting their criteria.
Key findings from the meta-analysis included that students in online conditions performed modestly better, on average, than those learning the same material through
traditional face-to-face instruction; and that instruction combining online and face-toface elements had a larger advantage relative to purely face-to-face instruction or
purely online instruction. The synthesis also revealed that effects were larger for studies in which the online instruction was collaborative or instructor-directed than in
those studies where online learners worked independently. However, they mentioned
caveats. For example, despite the strong support for blended learning, online learning
was not found to be superior as a medium, and observed learning advantages were
likely produced from differences in the combination of treatment conditions (time
spent, curriculum, and pedagogy). Although the report held findings and implications
for K-12, caution should be used in generalizing as the results were derived mostly
from other settings, for example, career technology, medical training, higher education, and teacher preparation, and were not specific to gifted students.
Even more recently, in 2012, Halverson, Graham, Spring, and Drysdale once again
confirmed the lack of blended-learning research in K-12 environments in their review
of the most frequently cited research on the topic. There were two broad reasons for
this shortage. First, researchers and practitioners had varied definitions and terminologies of e-learning and blended learning (Lowenthal & Wilson, 2010; Moore, DicksonDeane, & Galyen, 2011); and second, there was a shortage of research conducted at the
K-12 level.
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Journal of Advanced Academics 26(4)
Online or Blended Programming and Gifted Education
Rogers’s (2007) synthesis of the research on educational practices about educating the
gifted and talented which covered 150 years discusses five lessons to consider for how
services should be implemented. These include that gifted and talented learners need
daily challenge in their specific area of talent, regular opportunities to be unique and
work independently in their areas of passion and talent, various forms of subject and
grade-based acceleration, opportunities to socialize and learn with like-ability peers,
and differentiated instruction in pace, amount of review and practice, and organization
of content presentation.
Thomson (2010) examined perceptions and experiences of gifted students and their
teachers to better understand how online learning environments can meet the needs of
gifted learners and found that the online format was conducive to a more individualized and differentiated learning experience than face-to-face in a regular classroom:
“Students are able to work at a pace consistent with their rate of learning, have more
time to reflect, to feel more in control of the learning process, and to engage in more
self-directed and independent learning” (p. 663). She also confirmed findings by other
researchers (Olszewski-Kubilius & Lee, 2004; Ravaglia, Suppes, Stillinger, & Alper,
1995) indicating online learning can expand access to advanced courses to students
whose local schools cannot offer such a wide variety of options or do not have the
resources for extended gifted programming, and for students who cannot take these
classes because of scheduling conflicts.
While we know what works for gifted education in more traditional settings, the
lack of research in K-12 online learning means that even less is known about the efficacy of online learning for the gifted and talented. Our search identified a few studies
that were relevant to the role and effectiveness of blended learning in a gifted classroom, but none that were empirically based. For example, Olszewski-Kubilius and
Lee (2004) performed a descriptive study, investigating gifted adolescents who took
online Advanced Placement (AP) or honors-level courses for high school credit from
home for part of the day. This research revealed that students’ major reasons for enrollment included interest in subject areas, desire for enrichment and acceleration for
themselves, and to take courses not otherwise offered at their home school. Study
participants were satisfied with the quality of communications with instructors or
classmates. But for some, a lack of contact with their teacher was a source of dissatisfaction. Other findings included that challenge and enjoyment were the most important and beneficial aspects of the experience; and that most students wanted to use
computer technologies to have easier access to teachers, other students, and course
content, but still wanted traditional textbooks and written course materials.
Because there were so few studies, we searched for other blended-learning programs that had been documented for gifted and talented. Clayton Christensen Institute’s
(2013) Blended-Learning Universe database contains 53 profiles and brief case studies of organizations that are beginning to blend online learning with supervised brickand-mortar settings. From the self-reported information, we found only one school in
the database whose designated focus was serving gifted and talented adolescents:
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Swan et al.
STAR Prep Academy (Grades 6-12), which was a private school in Culver City,
California, serving 40 students. Adams and Cross (1999) identified another program,
which is a virtual Governor’s School for gifted and talented students of far southwest
Virginia, which used a blended-learning program to provide challenging courses that
were not otherwise available to the targeted students in their regular school program.
According to Brulles and Winebrenner (2012), due to budget constraints, programs
for advanced learners can be the first to be eliminated, posing an additional challenge
to research and understanding in this area. Furthermore, current support for intervention research, and the data that are collected on those identified as gifted is “very
limited, and what is collected is rarely reported” (Plucker & Callahan, 2014, p. 400).
In summary, this literature, as well as other studies, suggests that while blendedlearning programs are a growing segment of online learning in K-12 schools that can
open the doors to a wider variety of options and benefits for extending gifted programming, very little has been documented about the role and effectiveness of blended
learning in a gifted classroom, and none of this literature is empirically based.
The purpose of this study is to better understand participants’ perspectives and describe
how a VLL, specifically online instruction that takes place in brick-and-mortar public
schools, can be used to provide accelerated coursework to exceptional middle school
students who are gifted.
The premise of this study is that VLL programming can be a way to provide acceleration coursework to these students in their area of talent, while giving them options to
work either with or alongside their same age gifted peers and with differentiated instruction and pace. A case study approach was chosen as an appropriate evaluation tool
because it allowed us to understand the types of interactions between the teachers and
learners in a blended-learning setting, without having to generalize beyond it (Stake,
1998). Investigators closely examined the VLL on multiple levels and holistically
within geographic, cultural, organizational, and historical contexts to come up with a
research-based case description and case-based themes (Stufflebeam, 2001). The study
had several orienting questions, including the following: What is the historical progress
of the VLL and what was the need that drove its development? What are the characteristics of the VLL environment and how does it operate? What benefits are perceived for
gifted learners? How does the lab support students’ development of 21st-century skills?
What are the lab’s most important unresolved issues and lessons learned?
The case described in this report exemplifies a Florida Virtual School (FLVS) VLL
model, which allows public school students to learn in a blended-learning environment. FLVS is among the nation’s largest statewide, accredited, Internet-based public
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Journal of Advanced Academics 26(4)
schools. The school is massive, and currently has more than 1,000 teachers, 148,000
students, and 120 different virtual courses to choose from. Courses are free for students who are state residents and tuition based for those outside the state. School districts use VLL to ease class-size limits, help students fulfill graduation requirements,
and improve academic results (Staker, 2011). As of the 2012-2013 school year, there
were more than 32,000 students enrolled in 317 FLVS VLL in Florida (FLVS, 2013),
which offer courses in a variety of …
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