The description of an Enrichment Culster below was taken from:

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model1
Executive Summary

Joseph S. Renzulli and Sally M. Reis
University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut, USA

. . . The Enrichment Clusters
The enrichment clusters, one component of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, are non-graded groups of students who share common interests, and who come together during specially designated time blocks during school to work with an adult who shares their interests and who has some degree of advanced knowledge and expertise in the area. The enrichment clusters usually meet for a block of time weekly during a semester. All students complete an interest inventory developed to assess their interests, and an enrichment team of parents and teachers tally all of the major families of interests. Adults from the faculty, staff, parents, and community are recruited to facilitate enrichment clusters based on these interests, such as creative writing, drawing, sculpting, archeology and other areas. Training is provided to the facilitators who agree to offer the clusters, and a brochure is developed and sent to all parents and students that discusses student interests and select choices of enrichment clusters. A title and description that appeared in a brochure of clusters in a school using the SEM follows:

Invention Convention

Are you an inventive thinker? Would you like to be? Brainstorm a problem, try to identify many solutions, and design an invention to solve the problem, as an inventor might give birth to a real invention. Create your invention individually or with a partner under the guidance of Bob Erikson and his students, who work at the Connecticut Science Fair. You may share your final product at the Young Inventors' Fair on March 25th, a statewide daylong celebration of creativity.

Students select their top three choices for the clusters and scheduling is completed to place all children into their first, or in some cases, second choice. Like extracurricular activities and programs such as 4-H and Junior Achievement, the main rationale for participation in one or more clusters is that students and teachers want to be there. All teachers (including music, art, physical education, etc.) are involved in teaching the clusters; and their involvement in any particular cluster is based on the same type of interest assessment that is used for students in selecting clusters of choice.

The model for learning used with enrichment clusters is based on an inductive approach to solving real-world problems through the development of authentic products and services. Unlike traditional, didactic modes of teaching, this approach, known as enrichment learning and teaching (described fully in a later section), uses the Enrichment Triad Model to create a learning situation that involves the use of methodology, develops higher order thinking skills, and authentically applies these skills in creative and productive situations. Enrichment clusters promote cooperativeness within the context of real-world problem solving, and they also provide superlative opportunities for promoting self-concept. "A major assumption underlying the use of enrichment clusters is that every child is special if we create conditions in which that child can be a specialist within a specialty group" (Renzulli, 1994, p. 70).

Enrichment clusters are organized around various characteristics of differentiated programming for gifted students on which the Enrichment Triad Model (Renzufli, 1977) was originally based, including the use of major disciplines, interdisciplinary themes, or cross-disciplinary topics (e.g. a theatrical/television production group that includes actors, writers, technical specialists, costume designers). The clusters are modeled after the ways in which knowledge utilization, thinking skills, and interpersonal relations take place in the real world. Thus, all work is directed toward the production of a product or service. No lesson plans or unit plans are created in advance by the cluster facilitator; rather, direction is provided by three key questions addressed in the cluster by the facilitator and the students:

  1. What do people with an interest in this area (e.g. film making) do?
  2. What knowledge, materials, and other resources do they need to do it in an excellent and authentic way?
  3. In what ways can the product or service be used to have an impact on an intended audience?

Enrichment clusters incorporate the use of advanced content, providing students with information about particular fields of knowledge, such as the structure of a field as well as the basic principles and the functional concepts in a field (Ward, 1960). Ward defined functional concepts as the intellectual instruments or tools with which a subject specialist works, such as the vocabulary of a field and the vehicles by which persons within the field communicate with one another. The methodology used within a field is also considered advanced content by Renzulli (1988a), involving the use of knowledge of the structures and tools of fields, as well as knowledge about the methodology of particular fields. This knowledge about the methodologies of fields exists both for the sake of increased knowledge acquisition, and also for the utility of that know-how as applied to the development of products, even when such products are considered advanced in a relative sense (i.e. age, grade, and background considerations).

The enrichment clusters are not intended to be the total program for talent development in a school, or to replace existing programs for talented youth. Rather, they are one vehicle for stimulating interests and developing talent potentials across the entire school population. They are also vehicles for staff development in that they provide teachers an opportunity to participate in enrichment teaching, and subsequently to analyze and compare this type of teaching with traditional methods of instruction. In this regard the model promotes a spill-over effect by encouraging teachers to become better talent scouts and talent developers, and to apply enrichment techniques to regular classroom situations.

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