Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

11.17

How Grade Skipping Changed Everything

speed limit

By Deborah Mersino

I’ve only been knee-deep in the world of gifted and talented education for 3+ years. Prior to that, my exposure was somewhat minor. I read scores of parenting books (some on gifted children), and we had both girls tested for programming at the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University. We also considered sending them to Quest Academy in Palatine, Illinois, prior to our move to Colorado. However, it wasn’t until this summer that we heard the words about our dd10 (dearest daughter who is 10), “She’s an excellent candidate for a grade skip, and she wants to…”

Then, a week or so later, the same scenario repeated itself with my younger daughter at the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. “She, too, would be a prime candidate for acceleration.”

My first reaction was, “Really? Are you serious?” For one, I thought acceleration was primarily geared toward early entrance to kindergarten and profoundly gifted kids entering college. Our two daughters, ages 9 and 10, were smack dab in the middle of elementary school. Did people really grade skip at this juncture? I had loads of questions:

  • How will we know if it’s the right decision?
  • What happens if one skips and the other one doesn’t want to?
  • What about the fact that one daughter doesn’t seem to be particularly fond of school? She’s not even getting top marks.
  • What about my perfectionistic daughter? Will it be too challenging for her?
  • What about socially? Are they mature enough to handle a skip?
  • Will the school be amenable? How do I even initiate the process of discussing acceleration?
  • Should we be concerned that there are equally bright students (perhaps even more advanced) in their current classes?  They do have peers. Shouldn’t they simply stay where they are?
  • Will they feel too much pressure? Is this just a novel idea that will wear off when the work seems harder?
  • What about learning gaps? What happens if they don’t know what they’re supposed to learn about Colorado history and/or certain science requirements?
  • What if they start and then hate it?

Thankfully, we got all of these questions answered and then some. Between Dr. Linda Silverman, Barbara (“Bobbie”) Jackson Gilman, and Kim Boham at the Gifted Development Center, we not only discussed each question thoroughly, but we also learned an extraordinary amount about research on acceleration, how vital it is for the students to initiate the idea (not parents), and how to advocate with the school to ensure the best possible outcomes.

Many of you have asked me to share a bit more about our experiences. I’m going to simply provide a brief summary. As you can imagine, every child is different, and every school situation differs as well. This is not meant to be an exhaustive testimony on acceleration, but rather an example of how it unraveled for one family – ours. My hope is that you may resonate with some of the questions and/or concerns we had and learn a bit more about how to explore this option.

Here are some of the biggest lessons we learned:

  • Comprehensive assessment and testing is essential. We were fortunate to have both girls tested at the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. We started with a Needs Assessment. Then, the measures administered included the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Fourth Edition (WISC-IV); Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III ACH), Self-Perception Profile – Ages 8-12, “What I Am Like”, Gifted Development Center Emotional Inventory, Characteristics of Giftedness in Children Scale, Introversion/Extraversion Continuum, Behavioral Checklist, Short Sensory Profile, Overexcitability Inventory for Parents (OIP). This is only a sampling of the tests/measurements available to families; these represent the customized recommendations based upon our girls’ Needs Assessments.
  • Having a psychologist who specializes in gifted learners is essential. Both our girls felt an immediate rapport with the testers. Given we have an introvert and an extrovert, I was delighted. Such camaraderie helped make the entire experience much more enjoyable. Both girls had fun, and my oldest even said, “Why can’t school be more like this?” Moreover, the amount of experience and discernment such experts bring can have a significant impact on the quality of the evaluation, recommendations, and consultation.
  • Proper assessment gives parents a clear picture of their student. As someone who is admittedly controlling, I thought I had a pretty good read on my girls. I was actually aghast upon looking at their WJ-III scores. “Really?” I thought. I was also surprised to hear some of the comments they both had made to their testers about school. Afterwards, we felt as if we had new lenses on, which would help us in the years to come.
  • Parents can discover hidden learning disabilities and/or minor glitches. We learned that both girls had small tracking issues with their vision, something that often goes undetected in regular eye exams. Both girls received referrals for visual-therapy. Parents of twice exceptional students benefit particularly from comprehensive assessments such as this.
  • The post-test consultation was worth its weight in gold. I found myself shaking my head in amazement as I learned new insights about their personality types, their strengths, nuances, outlooks on life and family, views on school, needs, and passions.
  • The Psychoeducational Evaluation we received allowed us to initiate discussions with our girls’ school in an ideal manner.

Iowa Acceleration Scale

In the days to follow, we contacted the school’s GT specialist, who offered to complete the Iowa Acceleration Scale for both girls. According to the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration, the Iowa Acceleration Scale offers the following:

  • A more objective look at the student;
  • An analysis of the major factors to be considered in making a decision;
  • Guidelines for weighting the relative importance of the major factors;
  • Documentation of the student’s strengths and concerns;
  • A numerical range to guide the discussion and decision of acceleration; and,
  • A standard of comparison with students who have had successful accelerations.

Together with the Psychoeducational Evaluation provided by the Gifted Development Center, this tool accessed additional factors. After the specialist discerned that both girls were, in fact, good candidates, he scheduled a meeting with the school principal, the assistant principal, the school counselor, the District’s Gifted and Talented Coordinator, and our entire family.

We sat down in July with this group at the school and had an informal discussion about what the girls wanted and their concerns. Both girls readily stated they wanted to do a whole grade-skip. After discussing specifics, including dd10 going into Middle School instead of 5th grade, we came to a final decision.

In the weeks following, we had several conversations about next steps. It was then that the GT specialist suggested our dd10 take the end-of-year 6th grade Math assessment. Based upon her Woodcock-Johnson III scores, he and the principal thought she might benefit from a double-acceleration in Math. After taking the test, she was given the option to go from 4th grade math directly to 7th grade math; she chose to give it a whirl.

We’re now several months into the school year, and I must say, the grade skips have had such an extraordinary positive impact on both girls. We’re fortunate that the receiving teachers welcomed the girls with open arms and understanding. The principal,  GT teacher, GT coordinator, and counselor proved so supportive and insightful. The adjustment has been much smoother than I anticipated. DD10 has confidence navigating the halls of middle school and has made good friends. She even went to her first dance right before Halloween! DD09 has finally gotten comfortable with not immediately knowing the answers in class and is developing much more of a growth mindset. She says this is her favorite year of school by far.

I realize we’re fortunate. Not all administrators and classroom teachers are familiar with the empirical research on acceleration. My hope is that this post might open a few minds. There will always be those who argue, “But you’re giving up a whole year with your kids!” and “They won’t have their driver’s license at the same time as other kids.” I feel more calm about our decision than ever.

Thanks to the experts at the Gifted Development Center and the girls’ school who guided us, I’m now aware of the dangers of not grade skipping students with certain profiles. Breezing through coursework without being sufficiently challenged and potentially losing interest in school altogether can prove debilitating – and even toxic – later on in life.

Here’s to promoting  a love for learning with no limits. Here’s to the psychologists, gifted specialists, and administrators who take the time to learn about the research and the cognitive and social-emotional needs of these learners. You’re impacting our collective futures, and I, for one, am utterly grateful.

11.17

Are You a Visual-Spatial Learner?

picture in mind

By Deborah Mersino

I remember vividly the day my daughter at age 4 said spontaneously, “You know Mom, when you want to remember something important, you just need to take a picture of it with your mind. Then, you can keep it forever and go back to it whenever you want.”

At the time, I had never heard of the term visual-spatial learner (VSL), nor did I understand the essential implications for supporting students who think in images at school and at home.

In her book, Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner, Linda Kreger Silverman, PhD, writes about this learning style in detail. Silverman, a licensed psychologist who directs the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development and its subsidiary, the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado, explains that “…the way VSLs learn is upside-down: easy material is often hard for them and the hard subjects are easy.”

In describing how society views these individuals, she says, “…right-hemispheric giftedness turns all of our preconceived notions of “smart” upside down. Visual spatial-learners usually don’t conform to the typical notions we have about bright people. We rarely think of them as gifted children. Yet, in adult life, it is visual-spatial reasoning that leads to true genius: scientific and technological breakthroughs, innovative forms of art, inventions, new perspectives in every field, and visionary leadership. Sounds like something we should know about, right?

Silverman’s colleague Betty Maxwell summarized it this way:

  • There appear to be two major ways of learning: auditory-sequential (more left-hemispheric) and visual-spatial (more right-hemispheric). Auditory-sequential learners are good listeners, learn well in a step-by-step process, tend to be rapid processors of information, and are generally able to express themselves verbally. They are often able to compartmentalize their reasoning from their emotions.
  • In contrast, visual-spatial learners are excellent observers, comprehend holistically – may have a sudden “Aha!” understanding that leaps over steps – appear to think in images, may need translation time to put their ideas into words, and sometimes have word retrieval problems. Their thinking and emotions are very intertwined.

So, why then should we learn more about visual-spatial learners? Neither learning style is better than the other. According to Silverman, “Some of my highly gifted, complex friends find this dichotomy too simplistic. Maybe it is. I certainly don’t mean to imply that people are completely one or the other. I see each pair of the characteristics as a continuum, and I believe we are all a mixture of both.

“More teachers need to be able to spot visual-spatial learners, so that their special talents can be developed,” says Silverman. “Validation studies we conducted with middle schoolers suggest that approximately one-third of the school population are probably visual-spatial learners! Their numbers are growing and we simply can’t afford to ignore them any longer.”

Do you think in images? Are you a visual-spatial learner?

Are you ready to discern whether your student is a VSL? Whether you’re a VSL? Click here for the Visual-Spatial/Auditory-Sequential Identifier.

Then, to learn more, visit http://visualspatial.com/. This site, which will be redesigned soon, is chock full of useful information for teachers, parents, psychologists, and administrators. I also highly recommend the book, “Upside-Down Brilliance.” It’s now available for purchase via the Australian Gifted Support Centre. Click here for the order form (it’s a bit tricky to open; you’ll need to right-click and save).

Upside-Down Brilliance

It’s worth it though. This book provides specifics on all things visual-spatial, including assessment, twice-exceptional students, the inner world of introverts, the challenges of parenting a visual-spatial learner, teaching techniques that work, and what it means to be a visual-spatial adult. I could not put it down.

When I saw one of the cartoons in the book, with a teacher asking a student this question, “You mean to tell me that you can do this complex math problem, but you can’t tell me what day follows Tuesday?” I smiled and thought of my daughter. She makes more sense to me now. And isn’t that what the best books do? Expand our knowledge and understanding?

Here’s to visual-spatial learners everywhere; after all, you do make the world click!

10.20

An Invitation to Austin: Guest Post by TAGT President Michelle Swain

Michelle Swain

By Michelle Swain, 2011 TAGT Executive Board President

As President of the Executive Board for the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented, I would like to invite all of you to my home town of Austin for our 34th Annual Professional Development Conference. The TAGT staff and Local Arrangements Committee have done an amazing job putting together another wonderful conference with some of the best presenters and exhibitors in the nation!

We are so excited for you to experience the many presentations, activities, and events all focused on gifted and talented children, and to take advantage of the opportunities to learn, network, and re-connect with friends. We encourage you to come enjoy the Austin lifestyle and experience the many restaurants and live music venues during your evenings. We hope the Annual Conference is one of the highlights of your year and that each of you will take your new knowledge and insight home to share with students, teachers, parents, and colleagues.

Austin

Our conference theme this year, Gifted 3.0, has multiple meanings. This is a time of new frontiers for education. Schools will be implementing new state assessments under new financially-influenced conditions and new accountability systems. Educators, parents, and students continue to explore new technology and applications which influence how we teach and learn. The gifted community is also exploring new and better ways to identify and serve gifted students, using what we know from the Texas GT Equity initiative and research from the field to expand opportunities to traditionally under-represented populations. All of these meanings converge in the theme and are reflected in the presentations you will enjoy during your time in Austin.

This year’s conference promises to be an outstanding experience, with the return of many valuable activities and events and a few new changes. We begin the conference on Wednesday with conference institutes, in-depth study of topics of interest over three to six hours with experts in the field. Wednesday evening we host the open house for parents, allowing the opportunity to access the exhibit hall and free mini-sessions of interest.

Thursday morning, Dr. Bertie Kingore, TAGT 2011 President’s Award recipient, will enrich us with her wealth of knowledge and experience in the field of gifted education in our opening general session. Friday morning, we will engage in a panel discussion on social media technology with Deborah Mersino, Ian Byrd, Joel McIntosh, and TAGT President-Elect Dr. Lynette Breedlove, followed by a live session of the international Twitter sensation – #gtchat! Friday afternoon we are hosting the Curriculum Potpourri. What an exciting way to bring the conference to a close!

Another new feature this year is a special conference-within-a-conference for psychologists, counselors, and others interested in the identification and assessment of gifted youth. Titled Testing the Gifted in the 21st Century: Looking Forward, this event features many leaders in the field, including Dr. Linda Silverman, Dr. David Lohman, Dr. Susan Johnsen, Dr. John Wasserman, Dr. Jack Naglieri, Dr. Joyce Juntune, Dr. Paul Beljan, and Dr. James Webb. Over the three days, it will be possible to earn as much as 15 hours of professional development credit. This training is co-sponsored by Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted (SENG), an approved provider of continuing education for psychologists by the American Psychological Association.

We hope you are able to attend TAGT’s 34th Annual Professional Development Conference and we know the time you spend here will enrich both your personal and professional life. We sincerely appreciate your support of both TAGT and gifted children.

08.24

No Bullying – Guest Post by Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman

by Linda Kreger Silverman

We have greater awareness today of the harmful effects of teasing and bullying, but there is one area of our lives where it remains unchecked: within ourselves. Even the most sensitive and compassionate among us, who would never intentionally hurt another, do not think twice about mercilessly berating themselves. I would like us to examine this accepted practice. What we have labeled “perfectionism,” and have tried to cure in gifted children, may actually be this self-denigration exposed, which is uncomfortable for us to view.

As Peace Pilgrim and Virginia Satir have affirmed, peace in the world can only be attained when we have achieved peace within. If our children could read our minds (when they are little, some of them can…), would they hear words of self-comfort that they could emulate? How often are we our own Greek Chorus, our own cheering team? Have we ever asked ourselves if it is OK to treat ourselves the way we do?

I wrote this in the last chapter of Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner:

We expend an inordinate amount of psychic energy defending ourselves from blame and ridicule, and the vast majority of time the judgments we are defending against are from ourselves!  Can you imagine what it would be like to totally accept yourself, and not have to justify your thoughts, your actions, your reasoning?  Not have to defend yourself?  Not have to answer, “Why did you do that?”  “Why didn’t you…?”  No “you should haves”?  We are so used to living in an internal court of law that we assume it is “natural” and appropriate to continually prosecute ourselves.  But it’s only our left hemispheres running amok. (Silverman, 2002, pp. 348-349)

Jill Bolte Taylor (2006), author of My Stroke of Insight, offers wonderful suggestions for keeping that part of our brain in check. I urge you to listen to her Ted Talk on YouTube. If these ideas resonate with you, I promise that you will find those 18 minutes enlightening and her book even more so. Jill is a brain researcher who experienced a massive left-hemispheric stroke and documented the different realities of our left and right hemispheres. She says that there is tiny portion of our left hemisphere, no bigger than a peanut, which gives us all these negative messages. We are so used to this brain circuitry that we do not even question its appropriateness. But we have choices about listening to it and we can teach our children that they have choices as well.  In Chapter 18 of her book, Jill gives practical, concrete advice for dealing effectively with these persistent cognitive loops of negativity.

At the end of an exhausting day, when my own “Peanut Gallery” reminds me of all the things I didn’t get done, and starts to make me feel guilty, I now hear another voice in my head with competing messages. This appreciative voice says to me, “Look what you accomplished today! Good job! You’ve done enough. Now it’s time to rest and rejuvenate. Everything else will wait until tomorrow.”

Consciously create your own positive messages and discuss them with your children. Before they go to sleep at night, ask them to share a positive message about themselves with you and to think about it as they fall asleep. Let me know if it makes a difference in the happiness quotient in your family. I would love to hear your stories. Write to me at gifted@gifteddevelopment.com.

More about Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.

Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist.  She directs the Institute for the Study of Advanced Development, and its subsidiary, the Gifted Development Center in Denver, Colorado. Over 6,000 children have been assessed at the Gifted Development Center in the last 32 years.  She also founded Visual-Spatial Resource.  Her Ph.D. is in educational psychology and special education from the University of Southern California.  For nine years, she served on the faculty of the University of Denver in counseling psychology and gifted education.  She co-chaired the NAGC Task Force on IQ Interpretation, during which research was conducted leading to extended norms on the WISC-IV.  She has been studying the psychology and education of the gifted since 1961 and has written over 300 articles, chapters and books, including Counseling the Gifted and Talented, Upside-Down Brilliance: The Visual-Spatial Learner and Advanced Development:  A Collection of Works on Gifted Adults.

08.20

10 Ways Social Media and the Web Are Moving Gifted Education Forward

By Deborah Mersino

Amid early adopters, platform loyalists, time and budget constraints, enthusiasm, privacy concerns, real-time collaboration, media hype, avoidance, and resource-sharing, it’s clear that social media is not only alive and well and impacting the world of gifted education, but it is also truly shifting mindsets and creating opportunities.

Here are 10 ways social media and the Web are catapulting the gifted education movement forward. Some of these developments have been around for a while now; others depict social media’s current and future evolution relative to gifted, talented, and creative learners – and those who serve them. Thank you to those who have helped crowdsource many of these points.

Should you have additional ideas to offer, please “Leave a Reply” so others can benefit. If you’re a parent, educator or organizational leader who is just getting started online, welcome! I’m hoping this post inspires you to delve in further. As always, feel free to contact me with your questions and/or consulting needs. Here we go!

1. Down come the walls

Scholars, gifted education specialists, classroom teachers, administrators, parents, counselors, authors, and advocates are communicating outside of their long-standing silos, which is igniting newfound learning and compelling action.

2. Up comes the engagement and true collaboration

Like never before, you will find parents helping parents, teachers supporting parents, parents enlightening teachers, psychiatrists answering parents’ questions, authors asking for input on new books, journalists finding sources, and teachers sharing ideas online with verve.

3. Read all about it

Access to scholarly articles, resources, videos, podcasts, blogs, and news about the gifted movement is allowing more immediate response and action, especially relative to advocacy.

4. Options galore

Whether searching for homeschooling resources and/or garnering assistance with a passion or specific subject area, open-source and distance learning opportunities continue to give gifted, talented, and creative learners more opportunities to learn 24/7 – often in collaboration with other learners throughout the world.

5. Dialogue develops

Real-time chats, like #gtchat on Twitter, continue to boost understanding among varied audiences and remind us all that gifted learners and those who parent and serve them need and deserve ongoing support. Gifted organizations can – and should – begin planning now for virtual conferences to reach broader audiences cost-effectively and efficiently. And while online discussion platforms have served powerfully for years, we’ll continue to see significant growth in this area and other online parent forums in the years ahead.

6. Facebook groups and Google+ Circles provide ideal platforms

Everyday, these tools allow for audiences to witness and participate in Q&A sessions, professional development, and curricula sharing across the globe.

7. Images create momentum and memories

YouTube, Flickr, video blogs, Skype, and Google+ Hangouts are bringing the power and benefits of gifted education and peer interaction to life.

8. Community comes home

Whether a parent or teacher is looking to connect with others about issues of twice-exceptional students, dual-college enrollment, camps for profoundly gifted learners, and/or students in rural areas, today’s social media platforms are making finding one’s tribe not only possible, but also convenient and rewarding.

9. New Zealand informs New York and vice versa

No longer bound by geography, gifted educators, parents, policy makers and advocates are sharing knowledge, resources, and insights globally.

10. Socratic Seminars in Google+ Circles

We’re just at the beginning of transformative learning. Educators at universities and high schools are already seeing the power of shared learning through social media tools. Group projects and real-time dialogue between professors and students, mentors and students, and learners from different countries will continue to ignite ideation and solutions. Here’s just one of hundreds of examples of an organization recognizing the need to “get it” soon: Stanford University GSB Seeking Social Media & Email Marketing Manager, Marketing & Communications.

No Limits

What impresses me most is the intense commitment shown by teachers who are creating, sharing, and applying the latest social media tools and apps to their curriculum. Parents and students are just now seeing the seeds of true engagement. And we haven’t even scratched the surface yet.

As more private gifted schools, gifted nonprofits, publishers, and psychiatrists adjust their views of social media, they will stop “marketing” to target audiences and begin engaging them. They will cross the aisle to communicate with other fields. They will tap advertising and online sponsorship options instead of simply signing up to be a vendor at a traditional, in-person conference or expecting others to manually visit their Web site without interaction. Those who don’t may soon find themselves struggling, wondering why conference attendance rates, revenues, and donations are down, and/or finally realizing they’re becoming obsolete despite long-standing leadership in the past.

It can be hard sometimes to fully comprehend the complexities inherent in the intersection of social media, education, and marketing. Leaders who see behind the predominant myths and embrace the possibilities truly will be the ones shaping the future. Here’s to all of you who are open to seeing these new realities!