Examples of Concept-Based Lessons in Science Gifted Education Programmes

A sample lesson of gifted science education programmes, which was observed during the 2003 study, illustrates how gifted science programmes were implemented in comparison with science teaching in regular schools (see Table 4). It is certain that more student-centred learning activities were provided with students in gifted science classrooms than in regular classroom. Students in gifted science classrooms were given opportunities for planning and conducting experiments and presenting experimental results. However, some weak points were evident such as lesson themes not being initiated by students’ ideas and instead being made by teachers. Consequently, students were somewhat passive learners at the beginning of the lessons. Furthermore, although students were allowed to plan experiments, teachers to some extent limited students’ creative thinking ability by providing learners with starting materials. Additionally, students were not actively involved in discussions during the group presentation of experimental results. Hence, in 2003, teachers tried to teach a concept-based science curriculum, but in reality it turned out that

Table 4 Comparison between 7th graders of gifted and regular classrooms in science teaching

Gifted education classroom

Regular education classroom

Science teachers’ perceptions to science teaching

Teaching goals

Nurture thinking ability in breadth and potential to be top-level manpower in life sciences in order to contribute to national development

Character education

Lesson objectives

Develop ability to use scientific methods and conduct project-based research independently

Develop habits of the scientific mind and nurture attitude to enjoy science

Teacher’s role

Introduce problems to solve

Assist students’ learning

Promote higher order thinking abilities

Transfer contents to students

Science teachers’ viewpoints of students

Good students

Students who are challenging and raising many questions

Students who are aware of rationale of learning

Students who show positive attitude


Students have above-average cognitive abilities and are affective

Students have below-average cognitive abilities and show difficulty in learning the national science curriculum

Science teachers’ ways of organising curriculum


Reorganise contents of regular science curriculum from upper grades at middle and high school levels

Choose contents of regular curriculum at a given grade level


Adjusting the level of difficulty to average students of gifted class

Opportunity for experiencing scientists’ ways of conducting experiments

Various instructional strategies of lectures, discussion, lab activities, etc.

Teacher demonstration and lecture

Characteristics of lessons (based on results from researchers’ classroom observation)

Lesson objectives

Understand organelles of plant where photosynthesis occurs and able to explain process of photosynthesis

Understand principles of telescope and explain them

Lesson activities

Concepts introduced by teacher

Principles introduced by teacher (reasons for studying solar system, evolution process of the sun, telescopes)

Instructions of experiments presented

Group of four students conducted experiments

Each group presented experiment results to class

Teacher demonstration of how to operate telescopes

Write experiment report

Table 4 (continued)

Gifted education classroom

Regular education classroom



Students were allowed to plan and carry out experiments and appreciate scientists’ ways of conducting experiments

Students were not given explanation about connections between telescopes and solar system

Students were not given problemfinding tasks based on their interests at the beginning of lesson

Students were not given opportunities for operating telescopes

Source: Seo and Son (2003, pp. 295, 297). Results from classroom teaching observation in 2003

Table 5 Time allotment of each theme in gifted science education programmes in 2012

Time allotment

Number of science gifted education programmes


2-3 themes in one block time (90-180 min)



1 theme in one block time



1 theme in one semester (17 weeks)



1 theme in 1 year (34 weeks)



Unable to categorise






Source: Yoo et al. (2012)

concepts were not properly introduced by teachers and students were not fully allowed to explore concepts.

Gifted science education in Korea is offered as after-school programmes and takes place on Saturdays. They can also include lessons during the summer and winter vacations. Students attend gifted education programmes every two Saturdays during the semester and, in some cases, every day for 1 or 2 weeks during vacations throughout the academic year beginning in March and ending in February of the following year. Table 5 shows the time allotment by themes in the gifted science education programmes. Out of 84 programmes, 11 programmes (13 %) reported that they taught a substantial theme/topic including abstract concepts over an extended period of time. Forty-eight percent of the respondents reported that they covered one theme in one block time programme, which would have provided students with marginal time to explore the new concepts presented in the theme. Twenty-eight programmes (33 %, out of 84) reported covering more than one theme in one block time, and there is a great deal of possibility that this would have involved a large amount of teacher-centred focusing to ensure that there was transmission of core content with little time for self-directed learning activities or concept exploration and explanation by the learner. Implementing concept-based curriculum demands a series of classroom periods and block time arranged, so that it is evident that this was not achieved in about half of the programmes teaching science to gifted learners.

An example of a gifted science programme for elementary 4th graders included four themes in one academic year, and they were (1) a dinosaur project, (2) rising

Table 6 An example of themes of gifted science education programmes in 2012 characterising enrichment triad model

Triad E model


Key learning




Type I: general exploratory activities

Activity 1: what are the different kinds of dinosaurs?

Investigate, analyse, classify



Type II: group training activities

Activity 2: investigate dinosaur fossils and produce your own fossils

Explore, data collect, analyse



Activity 3: rebuild dinosaur as real creature






Activity 4: explore environmental conditions and extinction of dinosaurs

Experiment, classify, discuss



Type III: individual and small group investigation of real problems

Activity 5: produce ‘Love Dinosaur’ Project

Discuss, present



Source: Yoo et al. (2012)

and falling, (3) build a weather observation station and (4) Dream of Icarus.[1] However, there was also no evidence of interrelated concepts that connected the four subthemes through the 1-year programme. The learning activities for the first theme of dinosaurs are shown in Table 6. While this theme can explore the possible concepts of the characteristics of dinosaurs as living organisms and its extinction in relation to environmental conditions, it appears that there was no extant concept that was focused on, from an exploration of the lesson documents.

Teaching the concept-based curriculum is assisted by the adoption of specific instructional models, such as the triad enrichment model (Renzulli, 1976) and problem-based and project-based learning models. Of the 84 gifted science education programmes surveyed for the 2012 study, only 47 programmes were perceived to have adopted any specific instructional model. Of the 47, 18 programmes showed characteristics of the triad enrichment model (Renzulli, 1976) with time allotment ranging from one block time to one academic year. The second frequently appeared model of teaching and learning of gifted science education programmes was the inquiry-oriented model. Fifteen programmes out of 47 were characterised with providing inquiry-oriented learning activities. However, none of the 15 programmes allowed students to initiate inquiry themes and to explore their own inquiry questions at the beginning of the programme, so that they were not adequately differentiated to cater to self-exploration or building on students’ interests. On the other hand, it was noticed that these 15 programmes allowed students to choose different variables when they were designing experiments and to present experiment results in various ways. A few programmes appeared to utilise problem-based learning (eight programmes) and the project-based model (six programmes). Hence, we can conclude that some level of concept-focused learning is taking place through the application of teaching models, although it may not result in full-fledged concept-based curriculum-related learning.

  • [1] Icarus is the son of the master craftsman, Daedalus in Greek mythology. Icarus attempted toescape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feather and wax. He ignoredinstructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea wherehe drowned. www.wikipedia.org
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