Archived Information

Tools for Schools - April 1998

Schoolwide Enrichment Model

What Is It?

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model is based upon a vision that "schools are places for talent development." The model uses the pedagogy of gifted education to make school more challenging and enjoyable for all students. The Schoolwide Enrichment Model "blueprint" for total school improvement serves as a practical plan for K-12 teachers and administrators to make this vision a reality. While detailed enough to provide educators with the means to successfully implement the program, the model provides the flexibility for each school to develop its own unique program in accordance with local resources, student population, and faculty interests and strengths. Two major objectives of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model include: providing a broad range of advanced-level enrichment experiences for all students and using student responses to these experiences as stepping stones for relevant follow-up.

Why Did It Get Started?

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model evolved from Joseph Renzulli's original Enrichment Triad Model, developed in the mid-1970s and initially implemented in school districts in New England. A wider interest developed, and districts across the country adopted the model. A need for research to investigate why the model was working and how to further expand the theoretical rationale underlying the model was apparent, thus initiating almost 20 years of field testing, research, and dissemination. Used as a basis for many educational programs for high-ability and high-achieving students over the years, the Enrichment Triad Model evolved into the current Schoolwide Enrichment Model, which is intended for enrichment for all children and total school implementation and improvement. The model's roots in gifted education programs is indeed a positive feature, because such programs, unencumbered by prescribed curricular and instructional methods, have proven to be a fertile ground for experimentation with school improvement concepts.

How Does It Work?

Bringing the Schoolwide Enrichment Model to large segments of the school population requires three essential elements:

The Total Talent Portfolio

Students complete various instruments and contribute their best work samples to reflect their strengths and interests as learners. Documenting their abilities, interests, and learning style preferences allows for appropriate decision-making in all curricular areas. This information focuses on students' strengths rather than their deficits, and is used by schools to decide which talent development opportunities to offer particular students.

Curriculum Modification Techniques

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model encourages the development of a challenging curriculum, and one that injects both in-depth and enrichment learning experiences into regular school activities. Curriculum modification may be necessary, and can be done through textbook analysis, curriculum compacting (elimination of repetitive or previously mastered material, improvement of the challenge level of the regular curriculum, and provision of time for enrichment and acceleration activities), and an expansion of the depth of learning (a focus on representative topics and ideas, and an emphasis on students' roles as firsthand investigators).

Enrichment Learning and Teaching

The development of the school program should be based upon the following principles of enrichment learning and teaching:

  • Each learner is unique.

  • Learning is more effective when students enjoy what they are doing.

  • Learning is more meaningful and enjoyable when content and process are learned within the context of a real and present problem.

  • Some formal instruction may be used, but a major goal is to enhance knowledge and thinking-skills acquisition through inductive teaching and the application of knowledge and skills that result from students' construction of meaning.

The above three elements of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model can operate within three types of school structures:

What Are The Costs?

Costs will vary in each school, but should include provisions for salary and materials for a part-time Enrichment Specialist (one full-time Specialist is recommended in larger schools), professional development ($3,000 to $4,000), and general program implementation expenses (between $3,000 and $5,000). Professional development involves a 2-week summer training program at the University of Connecticut, which is usually attended by a team of faculty members who then serve as an enrichment team and as peer coaches.

How Is The Model Implemented In A School?

Change should be initiated, nurtured, and monitored within the school. The Schoolwide Enrichment Model does not replace existing school structures, but seeks to improve them by concentrating on internal and external factors that have a direct bearing on learning. The procedure for adoption and implementation of the model calls for ownership and involvement of staff, administration, and parents. Implementation steps include team-building through steering committees and discussion groups; familiarization with the model by all involved; a decision to embrace the Schoolwide Enrichment Model concepts; development of a mission statement, proposal, and time line for the school; and formation of a Schoolwide Enrichment Team to guide the implementation of the Model.

What Is The Evidence That The Model Is Successful?

The Schoolwide Enrichment Model is a product of 15 years of research and field testing. The model has been implemented in school districts worldwide, and extensive evaluations and research studies indicate the effectiveness of the model. The review of the research on the Schoolwide Enrichment Model is subdivided into (a) the effectiveness of the model as perceived by key groups, (b) research related to creative productivity, (c) research relating to personal and social development, (d) the use of the model with underserved populations, (e) research on self-efficacy, (f) the use of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model as a curricular framework, (g) research relating to learning styles and curriculum compacting, and (h) longitudinal research on the model. Research suggests that the model is effective at serving students in a variety of educational settings and in schools that serve diverse ethnic and socioeconomic populations.

Where Can I See It?

Hundreds of school districts in urban, rural, and suburban districts throughout the United States, as well as in other countries, are implementing the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. Contact the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented at the University of Connecticut to locate nearby visitation sites.

Whom Do I Contact?

National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented
University of Connecticut
362 Fairfield Road, U 7
Storrs, Connecticut 06269-2007
Telephone: 860-486-4676; Fax: 860-486-2900
E-mail:; Website:

The Research Base

Three principal bodies of research have influenced the development of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model. First, the model is designed around the body of research evidence indicating that instruction must take into account the varying abilities, background interests, experiences, and learning styles of each student. Secondly, learning is more meaningful and enjoyable when content and process are learned within the context of a real problem and when students use authentic methods to address the problem. Finally, the model builds on research suggesting that all students, including low income students, need to be provided with challenging and accelerated learning content. Learning experiences are therefore designed with the goal to engage and offer stimulation and enjoyment to all students.

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