Beginner Pre-Service Special Education Teachers’ Learning Experience During Practicum


Overall, the findings of this study indicate that the majority of PSSE teachers had a positive experience during the new SET practicum. These positive experiences were related to the fact that they were better able to understand their pupils’ needs, they were able to link what they learned in their courses to the SET practicum, they could write IEPs and deliver their lessons to the pupils and they had overall good rapport with both their school and University supervisors. The new process of practicum, as indicated by the PSSE teachers, was understood by all involved in the process and this was also conveyed clearly to the PSSE teachers during the ten-week SET practicum. The findings highlight the importance of a quality mentorship programme reported in other studies (Cameron et al., 2007; Conderman et al., 2006; Evertson & Smithey, 2000; Roehrig et al., 2008).

While the overall process was clearly understood by the school and University supervisors, the study showed that a small percentage of teachers were somewhat unhappy during their practicum. These PSSE teachers cited unhappiness due to stresses of being overloaded, being watched and having poor rapport while others as problems with understanding the needs of their pupils given that they had a very short time in the schools (8 observations within ten-week SET practicum). Williams and Gersch (2004) reported the lack of time to spend with individual student as one of the stressors experienced by SEN teachers in their studies. In this study, a small number of the PSSE teachers cited transition from the full-time course work at the NIE followed by the immediate ten-week SET practicum at the school was difficult for them.

In view of these challenges faced by the PSSE teachers and to enhance the quality of the PSSE practicum, the authors in this study recommend a continuous SET practicum experience throughout the 1-year full-time DISE course (see Figure 2). This continuous practicum will allow the PSSE teachers a better match with their supervisors in schools and classrooms while also reducing the stress faced in the current SET practicum as PSSE teachers will be able to better understand the needs of their pupils. In addition, given that the PSSE teachers would be in the school throughout the DISE course, better rapport could be built between the school, the school supervisors, pupils and the PSSE teachers. While recommendations to enhance the quality of the PSSE practicum are made, PSSE teachers may need to realize that occupational stress experienced by teachers is common as reported in other studies (Antoniou et al., 2009; Boyle et al., 1995; Emery & Vandenberg, 2010; Forlin, 2001; Hui & Chan, 1996; Schonfeld, 2001). It is further suggested that educators could use the practicum experience to prepare PSSE teachers cope with the challenges encountered in real classroom settings.

Figure 2. Revised SET Practicum Process for Special Schools.


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Ahmad Mohammad Al-Shabatat

Merza Abbas

Hairul Nizam Ismail

Universiti Sains Malaysia

Many people believe that environmental factors promote giftedness and invest in many programs to adopt gifted students providing them with challenging activities. Intellectual giftedness is founded on fluid intelligence and extends to more specific abilities through the growth and inputs from the environment. Acknowledging the roles played by the environment in the development of giftedness leads to an effective nurturing of gifted individuals. Further, giftedness requires a context that enables it to develop. However, no study has investigated the direct and indirect effects of environment and fluid intelligence on intellectual giftedness. Thus, this study investigated the contribution of environment factors to giftedness development by conducting tests of fluid intelligence using CCFT and analytical abilities using culture reduced test items covering problem solving, pattern recognition, audio-logic, audio-matrices, and artificial language, and self report questionnaire for the environmental factors. A number of 180 high-scoring students were selected using CCFT from a leading university in Malaysia. Structural equation modelling was employed using Amos V.16 to determine the direct and indirect effects of environment factors (family, peers, teachers, school, society, and resources) on the intellectual giftedness. The findings showed that the hypothesized model fitted the data, supporting the model postulates and showed significant and strong direct and indirect effects of the environment and fluid intelligence on the intellectual giftedness.


Environment plays an essential role as an incubator hold the energy, direction, and feedback which give the gifted opportunities to manifest their potentials, and support constructing connections between the fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence through social interfaces (Al-Shabatat et al., 2008). However, giftedness requires social context that enables it to develop and individuals’ aptitudes need nurturance and support. The child surrounded environments such as family, peers, school, and community, beside the social, economical, and political institutions can help to determine the field of talent that society expect to be achieved (Tannenbaum, 1991). However, researchers advocating the environment, or nurturing, account of talent development promoted the belief that appropriate environmental conditions could lead to the development of giftedness to become into talent. Individuals’ dedication to their activities is typically accompanied by great sacrifices for both the individuals themselves and their families, they are surrounded by others, who support and nurture their talent. Further, families, peers, and teachers play an essential role in the development of expertise (Bloom, 1985; Csikzentmihalyi et al., 1993; Feldman, 1986; Winner, 1996).

Environment has been studied through two levels; micro-level (e.g. family, personality givers, socioeconomic) that children interact with their families, peers and school (Amabile, 1983; Csikzentmihalyi & Rathunde, 1998; Gottfried, Fleming, & Gottfried, 1998; Wachs, 1992). Second is the macro-level (e.g. demographic, sociological) which helps to shape environments as a larger socio-historical milieu (Li, 1997). Bloom (1985) demonstrates that the role of families is vital in nurturing individuals’ talents. In his study, the individuals participating defined their families as greatly child-centered in which parents offer efforts to support their talent development. For example, they would work more than one job to pay for private skating lessons, or make extra efforts in order to be closer to training facilities. Indeed, as Csikzentmihalyi et al. (1993) stated that when the child's abilities are truly prodigious, parental and social investments need to be prodigious as well (p. 26). Therefore, parents must provide the right nurture stimulation at the right time according to the genetic trait of the child in order to give a greater chance for the child to achieve giftedness (Haensly, 2004).

Parents tend to set high standards for their talented children rather than their emotional and financial support (Winner, 1996). Parents also support their children to challenge, to strive for increasingly higher levels of achievement and evaluate the success of their performances (Bloom, 1985). According to Zimmerman and Ringle (1981), talented children's levels of achievement and personal ambitions are affected by the goals parents set for them. Thus, the best environments for cultivating talent challenging are provided by supportive families (Csikzentmihalyi et al., 1993). Moreover, the behaviours parents’ model influences children's talent development (Bloom, 1985; Winner, 1996). For example, children closely notice the way in which parents conduct themselves, and they garner many parental values. In addition, parents also can teach children industriousness and perseverance by working hard themselves. Indeed, Zimmerman and Ringle (1981) found that the length of time children were keen to work on a similar situation, influence the duration of an adult model's persistence on a task significantly.

Competitive and supportive peer groups can serve to promote the intrinsic value of school and the educational process in its members (Ryan, 2001). The influence of the peers is quite considerable outside the classroom. Peers have an influential effect on attitudes and concepts (Guimond, 1999). Children's peers also support the development of talent (Bloom, 1985). However, talented children often tend to spend their time alone and with parents more than with than non-talented children, because they feel isolated from mainstream peers (Csikzentmihalyi et al., 1993; Winner, 1996).

Even parents themselves often feel alone and unable to talk with friends about their parenting experiences and their children’s development (Delisle, 2002a; Webb & DeVries, 1998). Moreover, talented’ peers themselves are varied in terms of their developmental and social goals. For example, a child whose central ambition is often looking for peers of similar ability to chase her/his talent development. These children flourish when encircled by peers that challenge, support, and legitimize their talents. On the other hand, the tendency to interact more frequently with non-talented children accompanied by a proclivity that often consequences in a lessened desire to achieve by talented whose main goal is to be sociable (Feldman, 1986).

Teachers also play an important role in the development of talent (Bloom, 1985; Csikzentmihalyi et al., 1993). Instructional environments affect the ways in which children are motivated to participate and excel in their activities. Teaching styles characterized by clear rules for achieving distinction, controlled decision-making, and public performance evaluations promote extrinsic motivation in children. On the other hand, teaching styles that highlight student participation in evaluations of success and decision-making processes encourage intrinsic motivation and autonomy (Eccles et al., 1998).

Triarchic Theory of Human Intelligence

Sternberg (1985) identifies three kinds of giftedness including analytic, synthetic and practical giftedness. The identification includes assessment through observation of a student’s ability in these three areas. Teachers may then design opportunities for students demonstrating analytical, synthetical and/or practical abilities. According to Sternberg (1985), people with analytical giftedness can analyze and understand problem elements, and this kind of giftedness might be tested by traditional tests for intelligence, such as testing analogies, synonyms and matrix problems. The second type is synthetic giftedness, which might be noted on the people who are creative or tend to deal with discovering and inventing. Unlike the first kind of giftedness, this kind might not be measured by the traditional tests of intelligence. The third type of giftedness is practical giftedness, people who are practitioners have a propensity to apply and implement what have been analyzed or synthesized, with an investment of environment situations. The analytical abilities were investigated in this study by measuring the effects of general abilities g and the environmental factors on this element of intellectual giftedness.



The study involved one hundred and eighty students (age ≈ 19-20) in the schools of Mathematics and Computer Science at a leading university in Malaysia. Students were selected through lecturers’ nominations and exceeding the cut-off point of 35 of the raw scores of CCFT. A total of 210 students were nominated by their lecturers as good to excellent first-year students at these schools. The Cattell Culture Fair Test (CCFT) was then administered to identify the potentially gifted students. Since CCFT can be administered by groups, the nominated students (210) were divided into five groups and tested according to the test manual. Out of the 210 students, only 180 exceeded the 35 cut-off point of CCFT raw scores and were chosen for the study. The analytical test was administered the following week through two sessions with a refreshment break. The environment questionnaire was administered immediately after the students had completed the analytical test.


Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test (CCFT)

The test consisted of four types of spatial problems administered according to a set time. All four subtests of geometric figures are intended to give the widest range of perceptual relation-educing operations possible. Each subtest begins with three practice items. Test items are graded in order of increasing difficulty following an easy-to-grasp item to start off with (Cattell & Cattell, 1960). To score performance on the test, one point is given for each correct item. A total score out of 46 is calculated. The test can be given either as a group test or as an individual test using exactly the same instructions and time limits. The test is considered to have low knowledge dependence, thereby making it a reliable test for measuring general intelligence g despite socioeconomic status, educational background, and cultural upbringing of any participant.

Analytical Abilities Measure

To measure the analytical abilities 30 items were developed and validated prior to the time of conducting this study. These items were subjected to factor analysis which revealed five factors with Eigen values greater or equal to one while three items were dropped due to cross loadings (> 0.30). Further the items were subjected to reliability scale to calculate the internal consistency; Spearman-Brown technique was used to calculate the reliability coefficient for the analytical abilities items. The internal consistency measuring the reliability of the analytical abilities measure using Spearman-Brown was ranging from 0.70 to 0.79 and the overall coefficient for the scale was 0.73. These values show high reliability indices which support the appropriateness of the instrument as shown in Table 1. According to Nunnaly (1967), a value above .70 is considered as highly reliable.

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