Identification of Gifted and Talented

This post is part 2 of the outline of my study into catering for students with higher abilities. Although my focus has been on differentiation within the inclusive classroom, it has become obvious that I need to consider the Australian Curriculum and what it states about the importance of student diversity. In light of this, I am also considering the means of providing appropriate programs for these students, and as the title suggests, a process of identification of students.

The Melbourne Declaration on Education in 2008 stated that:

Goal 1: Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence.

Goal 2: All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens.

It is from this that the Australian Curriculum makes comment about Student Diversity.

Gifted and talented students are entitled to rigorous, relevant and engaging learning opportunities drawn from the Australian Curriculum and aligned with their individual learning needs, strengths, interests and goals.

I have come to the conclusion that whilst a differentiated classroom will go some way to helping many of these students, there are some students for whom it is necessary to work individually with. A program which blends support for teachers in providing a differentiated classroom and developing individualised, ‘relevant and engaging’ learning programs for the students is an important part of a school’s provision of a broad education.

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Gathering valid information is important in the process of identifying students who are gifted and talented as opposed to the compliant and hard-working students who get everything done to quality standard. Parents are an important and oft-ignored source of information. It can be easy to dismiss parents as being overly self-promoting but parents do know their children very well because they are constantly comparing their child with others they see. Another step is consulting with teachers by using a checklist. This can be analysed to determine the level of giftedness as observed in the classroom. Students are also a useful point of reference. They can give feedback about others in the class and nominate students for programs, or they can self-nominate. The final mine of information comes from the objective assessments that can be undertaken by students. They are not necessarily definitive but provide an objective guide which can be useful in fine-tuning the identification process and they are also a good starting point in narrowing down the specific areas of giftedness of students.

The Association of Independent Schools in South Australia have a number of useful and important resources to assist schools with the provision of a relevant curriculum for these students.

You can access a free learning module online from the University of NSW through GERRIC. The module booklet also includes identification resources and a comprehensive list of testing tools.

Not all gifted students perform well in the school system – ‘Gifted and Talented Education Module 2′ (Caroline Merrick & Ruth Targett)

Link

As part of the development of our professional knowledge, our college staff have been granted a day to work on our research project. This is our second full day, along with the staff meetings we have been given to work on our own research. This is a summary of some reading I have undertaken.

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Reading – Chapter 12 ‘Differentiated Instruction’

My major question is, how can differentiation be developed and supported with a school staff to enable students of higher ability to continue to flourish? This has come about because of the developing focus on reducing external classes for gifted and talented students, both through staffing and financial pressures, as well as encouragement that it is actually a preferable way to operate with students identified in this way (in schools taking on the IB PYP I have observed this to be the case).

What Tomlinson has to say in this chapter is that differentiation is “…the adaptations in content, process, product, affect and learning environment in response to student readiness … interests and learning profile … to ensure appropriate challenge and support for the full range of learners in the classroom.”

What the research appears to show is that even short-term differentiation has a positive impact on reading achievement (a Columbia study is cited) across ability levels compared to non-differentiated classrooms. However, Tomlinson states that there is little research which shows how differentiated classroom instruction compares with extension and gifted programs in student achievement. It is probably a given that unless there is a financial will, withdrawal programs for students of higher ability will be an exception rather that a rule.

Students who are ‘ready’ to progress further in their learning may already have the prior knowledge and understandings in relation to the learning intention of the class, or may develop that readiness during the learning time.

Interest based differentiation is the promotion of their own development of questions which are intrinsically motivating for them. For those students with a narrow focus of interest (for example with just football or Minecraft) it is to provide contextual interest such as applying to real life, novelty or connection with past experiences.

The learning profile can include student preferences of learning style or intelligence, gender (although the research tends not to support positive impact for this conclusively) or cultural impacts. It is the innate or external environmental drivers of learning for the student.

Differentiation should be pre-planned and intentional and this is where the difference can be made in schools. Leadership is the main agent to support any change required in teacher practice. There is much that education researchers such as Fullan, Hargreaves and Starratt, among many others, say about fostering long term, positive change in schools. The question leaders should be asking is

What is the actual practice of differentiation in the school? If there is no differentiation, why? Is it because it is not needed, or that staff are not sure how?

Links research by Tomlinson and others:

Differentiating Instruction in response to Student Readiness, Interest, and Learning Profile in Academically Diverse Classrooms

Differentiation of Instruction in Elementary Grades

Influential Grandparents

After witnessing another great day with grandparents visiting our school, I was struck by the hum of positive activity around the school. Particularly striking were the number of difficult to engage students engrossed in the variety of activities. There are often other times when I get the same sense of active learning but it begs the question, what was special about today?

Out of the various possibilities, it was time to pause and consider the impact of the grandparents’ presence and time with the students. Having a respected and loved family member guiding and encouraging them certainly had a very powerful impact on the students’ engagement. Is there potential for more involvement of the grandparents of our children in school life? It is possible but a lot of things would need to be put I place to enable it to happen. It would be great to experience more of the positive humming.

Hearing a teacher say to a grandparent, “You should come in every day!”, could be a reality perhaps.

Video Frontloading

The picture is of a beautiful sunrise at a beautiful place, Pt Neill in South Australia. Quiet and picturesque, it is one of those places that take a while to get to but when you are there the drive is worth it. The sunrise is the promise of a new day, and that’s an apt metaphor for the use of YouTube to ‘front-load’ a conference.SONY DSC

One of my workplace colleagues, responsible for promotions and marketing, makes the point that people want to receive their information as often as they want in the manner they prefer and the use of video and YouTube is an important part of this.  This is what it seems ACLE4 organisers had in mind when they requested that all presenters create a video to outline their presentations for the consumption of prospective attendees. I have to admit that it is not something I actually utilised, and had I done so I may have chosen some different workshop presentations to attend (I really wish I attended Teach Meet!)  I personally don’t tend to use this format very often, but I know my children do at home. It is an important research tool.

Along with this, a YouTube channel was created by the ACLE team to promote different aspects of the conference. Links to each new episode about the conference was sent via email to the attendees and they certainly generated discussion among the attendees from our school.

As a parent (and teacher) I know that many children respond very well to video – it tends to automatically engage them. How can we use video in our work as educators? As I am doing a bit more classroom teaching next year I would like to try using video, and look at how I can use it in my leadership role. Some ideas are:

  • Post an introductory video about myself for the parents and students to view before the start of the school year
  • Produce videos with information and explanations of what the class will be doing
  • Email links on YouTube about the units that are planned for the year
  • Create an online classroom that the students can also upload to (e.g. Edmodo or via a class blog)
  • Select online videos (e.g. Ted Talks) for viewing by teachers in preparation for staff meetings
  • Regularly provide videos about school events for uploading to the college YouTube channel

This is a quick list which no doubt could be easily and more creatively expanded on. Hopefully video becomes another tool that I can use to motivate students, and engage the school community in learning.

Reflections on a Conference

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Having recently returned from a national conference for educators in Lutheran schools, I have been thinking about what I learned, and what I will do with what I have learned.

Conferences can be great to attend, especially when there are large numbers of people who you know also in attendance. The networking and friendship renewal which goes on can be exhilarating. Keynote speakers can be inspiring and workshop presenters can engage the mind with possibilities. There is often much that you can get out of conferences; you can return from them with a heightened sense of excitement about what you want to achieve in your role back at school. Indeed, conferences can at times have a lasting impact on what happens in your workplace.

The lasting impact I have from this conference isn’t just the individual ‘bits of information’ I picked up on, or the new strategies and ideas presented. The lasting impact was seeing the way technology was used to enhance the conference and then considering how this could be of benefit as an educator. This is the first conference I have been to that had an integrated approach to using ICT to engage and connect participants. I was impressed that the conference actually endeavoured to emulate good teaching practice. There were some great presenters, and they had great things to share but my ‘deep learning’ happened elsewhere! These are my six main learning points (and the topics for my next 6 blog posts):

  • Youtube Front-loading
  • Using Twitter to Learn
  • The Conference App
  • Live Online Conference Presenters
  • The Power of Google Docs
  • YouTube Followup…Ongoing Learning

 

Twitter for Education

Have just returned from Brisbane. This conference was the first conference I have attended where Social Media was a significant part of it. I have to say that it was a terrific experience to connect online with other educators. The real value I got out of it was being able to read on the conference hastag what other attendee’s thoughts were about presenters and their statements. There were a number times that I thought ‘Wow!’
I got so much out of the conference. I made the decision very early on to try and immerse myself in following the conference Twitter back channel by reading it constantly and contributing where I felt I had something to offer. I learnt a lot!
As I have just stated I got some immediate insight into what other attendees were thinking. This happened predominantly through people’s quoting of presenters. Every once in a while though someone would ask a question which prompted me to reflect on what was being said and every now and again a response came from someone else following the Twitter back channel. Also, there were a couple of occasions where a discussion ensued between people where someone would would challenge what was being tweeted. This added to the learning.
I also learnt from workshops I didn’t attend. At one point in the conference it became obvious that I made the wrong choice of workshops and wished that I had attended another one. I couldn’t because the workshop was at another venue, but I was able to catch up with other attendees and ask about it. It was valuable to read comments from other sessions which connected with session I was attending.
I need to wear hearing aids and there were a number of times where I was unable to hear what the presenter had said. In fact, in one of the presentations the keynote speaker’s was so hard to follow for me that the only thing I got out of it was from the Twitter feed! It was a wonderful presentation!
I hope that future conferences I attend will have Twitter as a significant part of it. I would like to see more of the staff in our schools use it. I got the sense that about 10% of people at the conference engaged with the Twitter aspect of the conference. This begs the question why? Which in turn leads me to ask how could greater engagement be fostered? It really took no effort to have the hashtag open as there was a dedicated wifi connection provided for us and it really was very easy to switch between taking notes on Google Drive and reading the Twitter feed. The Twitter feed on the hashtag could have been put up on a screen in the auditorium. There could have been greater use of the Twitter questions as part of the Q&A sessions. A workshop on use of social media by educators could have been offered.
The Brisbane ACLE was the most engaged I have been at a conference and I think a lot of that had to do with the high prominence of social media, especially Twitter. There was also a dedicated Facebook page but I didn’t use it at all. It certainly received some attention after the conference dinner however.

Why should our college have a twitter account?

The question has arisen, what is the benefit to our college in having a Twitter account. My first response is ‘Why not?’

This quote from George Couros explains how not having a Twitter account could be counterproductive: ‘The more savvy someone is with social media, the more frustrated the person will become with this approach, and if he or she has another option, the person will take it…We need to not only get into the same room but also talk when we are all there.’ In other words when people have confidence in using social media, and in fact use it and rely on it in their day to day life, they can become disenchanted and actually look elsewhere. I would count myself as one of those people.

The main impediment perhaps in our situation is the number of people in our college community who use Twitter (we know there are students using it) which at first glance would be low. There is no doubt however that there are some people who use Twitter and maybe looking for the college to catch up. What if another school in our region fills this vacuum and uses Twitter to engage with the community. This also gives us an opportunity to become progressive and educative, giving our parent community, and the wider local community, a chance to engage meaningfully in a globally significant digital platform.

Other people have explained more eloquently why and how schools can use Twitter such as George Couros  here and via  a short video that gives a quick taster of how Twitter can be used in schools here.

I summary, my thoughts are:

  • The first and most basic reason is to at least reserve a twitter handle you would want to use before someone else gets it
  • Schools promote themselves as progressive, digitally modern schools but without using Twitter are we really missing an important ingredient in living this out
  • It is a great opportunity to show the community that the school is actively involved in the positive use of social media and digital technologies.
  • It gives the school an opportunity to engage with the school community

Here are examples of school Twitter accounts:

https://mobile.twitter.com/BlackRiverMS

http://twitter.com/StAnthonysG

St Peter’s Blackwood

A blog which gives a good rundown of using a school Twitter account as part of it’s marketing strategy at this link