Sunday, November 18, 2012

A New System For Identifying Gifted Education - My New Pursuit and Passion

It is 3 am here in Denver Sunday morning. I crashed hard last night after the third day of absorbing so many great ideas. I need to write up a general reflection of the conference separate from this post, but one of the great things about this conference is the connections that are formed.

I met the amazing Ginger Lewman after checking out one of her poster sessions. I stuck around a bit and next thing you know we had a great conversation that lasted 40 minutes. What came out of this conversation was an idea I have had for screening for gifted students and her excitement and dialogue has prompted me to actually pursue this idea more. It was the kickstart I needed. I walked away with that burning desire to start NOW! You know that feeling right? The one where you cannot focus on any other idea or aspect of life until it is resolved. Hence the reason I am typing this up at 3 am. I have to get my ideas down.

Here is the basic breakdown of the idea. I am sharing this here on my blog as well as on a Google Document because I would love input, insight, and suggestions. This is a rough sketch at best. There is much work to be done(perhaps I will pursue the PHD/dissertation with this idea!)

Overlying Issue With Identification

I know that everyone screens a bit different based on state and district requirements, resources, community needs, and availability to data, but in my experience where I teach the screening process has become a stressful time in the lives of the kids. We have a system in place that people realize what we are doing and why certain things are being done. To keep data accurate and measurable we bring our screening pool together and test all of them together for CoGAT and some writing samples. You can cut the stress in the air with a knife. Some could care less. Some don't want to do any of the process. Some cry. Some fidget.I started to ask myself if there could be a better way. Are we really getting the data and information we need?

The first and most important aspect of screening should be to eliminate any additional stress. I want the system in place to be fun so we really get to the "real" student.

How Do We Eliminate Stress?

My vision is a one day screening process that is inviting and fun. A whole day devoted to watching the student interact with various stimuli and other peers. Students would have this day full of little mini challenges while several people are making notes and observations looking for key pieces of information.

In order for the stress to be reduced I think the key piece in all of this is that nowhere during the day do students see adults taking notes or marking rubrics. We would have to develop a system where there is a common flow of trained people coming in and out of the location so that when one mini session ends those people could go to a separate room and make notes and evaluations.

I still don't get what you are saying?

We want students are wanting to learn and NEED a place to have their needs met. We would start with an application process where students are nominated by teachers, parents, themselves, and/or friends. There would be no requirement of a certain test score to be nominated. This is the start. This would tell us who we should be really focusing on. This allows us to not miss anyone who might be poor test takers. Numbers never tell the whole story.

After we have the applications we start to assemble a profile page. We could gather basic info like

  • Basic Information (application)
  • Records/Attendance
  • Why they should be screened/reasons?
  • Support and Proof
    • Have a few required pieces such as test scores, report cards, etc.
    • Give student freedom to submit whatever they want
  • Parent Interview
  • Teacher Interview/Evaluation Form
  • Classroom observation
The Day of Screening and Fun

Once we have the necessary information on each student, then we hold a meeting with people who will help with the day long adventure. At this point I don't know if it would be wise to create a profile based on information gathered as stated above or wait until the day of screening is over to keep the mind open . This is something I need to think through more.

During this meeting we would talk about what to look for, key pieces of information, explanation of the day, etc. The panel of evaluators could include gifted staff, general ed staff, administrators, parents, community members, etc. I think the more diverse the better information will be gathered. This also opens up the program to everyone. By including the general ed teachers this could begin to open up better communication between gen ed. and gifted. Bringing in community members by give us a different perspective. It would be obvious that a training of some sort would have to occur prior to just throwing these people together.

The day of observation would entail many things. Here is just a brainstorm list of ideas and concepts that need to be pursued further. At least it provides a start of this discussion. This is where I need more help.

Welcome - students come to specified location and are greeted. While waiting for things to begin we watch what they do. An open space with a variety of things to do will be available and we just  observe what they do and how they interact. This piece could be recorded so evaluators could go back and watch again if needed. This is very open and just a chance to see them in a new environment.

Following that we bring everyone together and talk about the day and schedule.

The morning would have sessions that students work through
  • Free play
  • individual tasks
  • group tasks
  • verbal intelligence
  • multiple intelligence
Lunch Break and Debriefing - At this point we could get a chance to just talk with the kids, perhaps just observe, talk with parents, etc. 

After lunch provide the afternoon to a challenge where they have x amount of time to create something and be ready to showcase what they created.

End with a sort of celebration

Afterwards everyone would get together and go through what they observed and field any questions or ideas. That day nothing would be decided, but everyone will have time process everything and compile a profile form of some sort and finalize their ideas and who they think need services.



Issues

The first issue is that this is a big undertaking, but if I can create a system where everything is created that would help out immensely(hence my new project!). This is not easy because it does take time, but I really feel that we would gain so much more information that any test cannot always provide. The tests are important and will play a part in the process, but we need to spend more time with the kids.

The second issue that I foresee is that this is something that you just throw together quickly. If you have move in students how do you screen them in a timely fashion? Clear protocols will have to be developed and perhaps a small scale version could be created for this very purpose.

Where do I go from here?

I need help and guidance. So many of you are much brighter and well versed in education research, materials, and lingo. I need to develop a group willing to help me piece together the right materials, observation forms, stations and challenges, etc.

I really feel that this could be the change needed. It needs some serious work, but if done right.......WOW!

Feel free to share your ideas, suggestions, concerns. My goal is to begin to construct this idea in more detail and specifics over the next few months. I will keep everyone updated.

Here is the link to the Google Document which is a copy of this blog post - Feel free to go in and edit, modify, make suggestions, etc. Mark it up with your insights!

https://docs.google.com/document/d/17nKYKQW-fTSf5PIP1h2bevjrhJi2s45iN-QfNQ9-UBA/edit
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