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A pilot study on the effects of a pull-out enrichment programme on the social-emotional competencies of gifted students in Flanders, Belgium

Else Beckman

Background and aim:

Over the years, multiple enrichment programmes have been developed to provide gifted students with challenge and enrichment. For these students, a lack of appropriate education may lead to a decline in (intrinsic) motivation, underachievement or even (social) dropout. To meet the specific (learning) needs of gifted students, a pull-out enrichment programme is frequently used. These programmes usually focus on the social-emotional development of the gifted (e.g., through contact with ability-like peers) and the so-called “soft skills” (e.g., problem-solving, collaboration skills). The current empirical research base on the effectiveness of these programmes is, however, quite thin, especially concerning programme effects on social-emotional outcome measures. Accordingly, this study aimed to answer the following research question: (How and why) does an enrichment pull-out programme affect the social-emotional competencies of gifted primary school students in Flanders?


To answer this research question, a quantitative examination of the effectiveness of an enrichment programme was conducted on the social- emotional competences, measured with the Devereux Student Strength Assessment, using a quasi-experimental pre-, post-, and follow-up AN(C)OVA test design. In addition, a qualitative evaluation was carried out to explore students’ and parents’ experiences with the programme (via interviews/satisfactions surveys), to assess the soft skills (via satisfactions surveys), and to determine fidelity of implementation (i.e., quality of implementation, via observations). The study population consisted of gifted upper elementary students from Flanders (ages 7-12), whose parents have consulted a recognised expertise centre on giftedness. The experimental group (i.e., participants of a pull-out programme at the expertise centre) consisted of 19 and the “no-treatment” control group of 28 participants. Effect sizes (ES) were calculated to portray the magnitude of the effects involved.


The results indicate that the pull-out programme mainly has positive effects on the emotional competences of gifted students and that these effects (partly) endure. Among others, a significant positive effect for self-management (F(1, 44) = 4.89, p = 0.032) and a large ES for optimistic thinking (d = 0.87) was found after the intervention took place. Long-term significant differential effects for self-management (F(2, 70) = 4.17, p = 0.019) and optimistic thinking (F(2, 70) = 3.63, p = 0.032) were found as well. Surprisingly, no effects were found on social competences (i.e., relationship skills, social awareness). Furthermore, parents and students were largely positive about their programme participation and the observed effects (e.g., improvement in self-awareness, collaboration skills), although they did not see improvement on all programme’s goals (e.g., intrinsic motivation). Overall, the fidelity of implementation of the programme was accurate. The teacher of the pull-out programme had an important role in this given her expertise and position as role model. However, due to the fact that the lessons were fast-paced and limited direction was given, some students experienced educational frictions as the programme did not fit their personal (learning) needs and/or characteristics.

Conclusion and recommendations:

This research has shown the added value of combining qualitative and quantitative data in assessing programme effectiveness, to get a better understanding of the critical components of a programme. It became clear that a pull-out programme will not automatically be suitable for all gifted students, so it is important to take into account individual characteristics of students in order to determine whether the programme is an appropriate option (or not). Teacher professionalization is important to address gifted students’ talents and to adequately support them. Further research should examine whether the effects of pull-out programmes can realize transfer to the family and school context.

Keywords: Giftedness, pull-out enrichment programme, social-emotional competences, effectiveness research, mixed-methods

By: Else Beckmann

Supervised by: prof. dr. A.E.M.G. Minnaert and dr. C.E. Oenema-Mostert

Last modified:18 September 2019 4.10 p.m.
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