Conference Junkie here! As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I love going to conferences to connect with other educators, learn new ideas, and share what I’ve learned about educating children. One of my favorite conferences is the National Association for Gifted Children’s (NAGC.org) annual conference. This year’s conference was held in Indianapolis, Indiana, November 7–10. There was so much going on this year that I never left the hotel/conference site—I was “boxed in” for 4 days! But it was all for a good cause.
As a member of several volunteer organizations, I’ve come to understand that my role in these organizations can be as involved as I choose it to be. Involvement within organizations can range from simply attending the annual conference, to holding an office, to participating on committees. With NAGC, I am very involved in many levels of the organization. When I first became a member over 15 years ago, I simply attended the conference soaking up as much information as I could on gifted children. As I got more comfortable with my knowledge base and leadership role, I began submitting proposals to present at the conference. I also got involved in committees, task forces, and so forth.
This year I was so involved, I wasn’t able to attend any sessions (except my own). So for this year’s review of what happened at the NAGC conference, I’m going to share all the
workshops I presented and a few ideas I learned along the way.
This was a special year at the conference, in that we celebrated the launch of Differentiation for Gifted Learners: Going Beyond the Basics, the new book that I coauthored with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Diane Heacox. Most of the sessions Diane and I presented were components of our collaborative work. Below are the sessions I presented.
Secondary Programming for Gifted Students: Beyond AP and IB
Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate are commendable programs that offer advanced content for academically talented students. However, these programs alone are not adequate for addressing the holistic needs of gifted secondary students. Secondary gifted students require a range of services including sophisticated academic programming as well as enhanced social-emotional guidance and post-secondary/career advice. In this session, I demonstrated how to increase rigor in general education courses by placing an emphasis on “differentiating up” for honors or advanced level courses. Participants were offered programming methods for guidance and advising gifted secondary students toward post-secondary success.
When programming and scheduling gifted secondary students, place equal weight on the cognitive, social, and affective learning. Often at the secondary level we may neglect the social and affective learning aspects. Gifted adolescences must be nurtured on all three levels.
Articulating, Aligning, and Accounting (AAA) Secondary Courses for Advanced Learners
Honors level courses are a common way to meet the needs of gifted secondary students. Teachers and school leaders struggle to come to consensus on what defines an honors level course. Without a universal definition, honors courses lack consistency of curricular and instructional practices. To ensure honors courses are truly rigorous and differentiated to meet the needs of advanced learners, I explained how schools can articulate the specifics of an honors course, align the course work to the comprehensive school curriculum, and put in place accountability measures to ensure fidelity and integrity of practice.
Honors courses and programs should be examined annually to ensure we are doing what we intend to be doing. Courses must provide levels of depth and complexity not found in the general curriculum and be taught at a more accelerated pace. We must be certain we are equitable in avenues of access for all students who need this kind of a learning experience. Review of these courses must be done by a trained expert in the field of gifted education.
Differentiation for Gifted Adolescents through Disciplined Inquiry (Co-presented with Diane Heacox)
A highly effective technique of differentiating for gifted students is through the method of disciplined inquiry. Disciplined inquiry weds the skills, strategies, and mindset of critical reasoning to engage in complex learning experiences. The student-centered process compels students to invest in building knowledge and acquiring new skills through the activation of their interests. The nature of disciplined inquiry requires learning to extend beyond the four walls of the classroom to the creation of authentic productions. In this session, we showed teachers how to construct disciplined inquiry activities and shared strategies for encouraging gifted students to think at sophisticated levels.
Case Method (explained in more detail in Chapter 5 of our book) is a wonderful way to engage gifted students in thinking differently. Some gifted students can be frustrated with open-ended thinking activities, because they have spent most of their educational career finding answers quickly, without much effort. Disciplined inquiry places great emphasis on divergent and analytical thinking, which can be quite messy and require effortful thinking. Support your students through the process with quality questions that encourage and nurture delaying gratification.
4Cs of Effective Gifted Practices: Consultation, Collaboration, Co-Teaching & Coaching (Co-presented with Diane Heacox, Patti Drapeau, and Carolyn Coil)
As staffing and budgets become more limiting, school districts are forced to redesign gifted programming options. This shift necessitates the need for a more inclusive model of meeting the needs of gifted learners at the middle school level. Using the 4Cs Model (consultation, collaboration, co-teaching, and coaching), quality differentiation for gifted learners can be deeply embedded within the general classroom setting. With my highly respected gifted expert/friends, we shared methods for designing learning experiences for gifted students within the general classroom setting. Through this model relationship between GT and classroom teachers is an enormous positive effect on the learning of all students.
Before approaching any of the 4C strategies, be sure you have administrative support! Without this backing, you could encounter hurdles and system limitations that may decrease the effectiveness of any one of the strategies. In Differentiation for Gifted Learners we include strategies, techniques, and forms to assist you in developing any one of the methods.
Developing Promotion Strategies for Self-Regulation: Critical Skills for Underrepresented Students’ Success in Gifted Programs
Self-regulation, the skills used to achieve success, is oriented toward facing challenges (promotion) or avoiding failure (prevention). Students with promotion orientation approach tasks with confidence to succeed, even in the face of obstacles and setbacks. Students from diverse and economically disadvantaged backgrounds may be underrepresented in gifted programming due to their lack of promotion strategies for self-regulation or their overuse of avoidance strategies acquired during previous experiences. In this session, I framed promotion orientation and growth mindset theories and provided techniques for teaching self-regulation strategies of achievement. Additionally, I offered effective methods for supporting diverse students in gifted programs.
Not all students from disadvantaged backgrounds lack self-regulation. Continue to support these students’ development by encouraging and offering options for post-secondary and beyond. Some students from disadvantaged backgrounds may not have a long-range view of what’s to come after high school. Providing “people like me” mentors and role models can have a great effect on their optimism toward the future.
Most educational organizations depend upon their members to promote and accomplish their goals. As a member of an educational organization, get involved at the level you feel most comfortable and continue to grow your level of service. I guarantee you will not only grow as a professional, but you will also deepen your knowledge of effective practices, broaden your abilities as a teacher leader, and contribute valuable ideas toward furthering our collective knowledge of teaching children.
If you attended the NAGC conference in Indianapolis, I’d love to hear about your highlights. Also, mark your calendars for the 61st Annual Conference for the National Association for Gifted Children in Baltimore, Maryland, November 13–16, 2014.
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