Curb Your Complacency: Advocate for Gifted-Related Professional Development!

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Synopsis

We need more professional development in gifted education in schools. Find out WHY this PD matters, WHO is responsible, as well as WHAT is required, and HOW to proceed.

Advance planning leads to meaningful PD, and now is an opportune time to look to the months ahead, and to “up the ante” for more—and also more accessible—quality gifted-related service provision for front line educators!

WHY does this matter? Because ALL teachers can benefit from acquiring understandings and practical strategies that will inspire them to develop the best possible learning environments, encourage high-level ability, and provide top-notch instruction. Every child is entitled to an education commensurate with his or her abilities. And, there are countless children who have gifted or advanced learning needs.

Parents, teachers, and students can, and should, advocate together for professional development programs in their own districts—imbued with content that will ignite, validate, and sustain teacher engagement in learning how to better support and encourage children’s intellectual advancement, creativity, and overall development, including meeting their diverse emotional, social, and academic needs. Fortifying programs and enhancing educational opportunities involves refining materials, instruction, assessments, goals, and ways of addressing children’s individual learning requirements.

To begin with, however, advocacy is vital!

About Advocacy in the Context of Giftedness

The most effective program is a result of teamwork, respectful discourse, and mutually developed expectations.

Advocacy can facilitate, nurture, and support children’s optimal growth. It provides impetus to forge new, creative, and flexibly responsive methods for teaching and learning.

WHO can take responsibility?

Teachers can advocate vigorously, and collectively. They can make a viable case for comprehensive PD sessions focused on giftedness and related issues, and request increased opportunities for productive networking and constructive liaisons.

Parents are also well positioned to speak up and ensure that their children’s high-level or exceptional learning needs are met. For example, parents might request greater resource access for teachers in schools, and more specialized professional development workshops on topics such as differentiated programming, assessment, creative and critical thinking skills, and project-based learning. 

Children and teens can learn about self-advocacy. This helps them understand their rights and responsibilities; communicate their own learning needs; develop their learner profiles; and investigate available options and opportunities for advanced learning.

WHAT is required? That is, what kinds of professional development would benefit teachers, and what problems or weaknesses require address? Consider the value of the following:

-  targeted teacher training in relation to developing students’ gifted/high-level ability,

-  resources being regularly utilized within schools, and

-  time and opportunities for collaboration.

With those points in mind, advocates can

-  request PD that will increase teachers’ knowledge about gifted-related issues,

-  help foster superlative learning environments, and

-  facilitate productive liaisons and collaborative endeavors.

Creating Change and Relevant PD through Connectivity

Advocacy is like bridge-building. A strong bridge sustains. A weak one wobbles.

When advocates connect meaningfully with one another, messages and processes strengthen, and possibilities multiply! By working together, teachers, parents, and students can advocate for relevant, well-targeted, informative, and attainable professional development experiences.

HOW to proceed? Practical and respectful approaches can help advocates become proactive, vigilant, and make strong inroads. It’s essential to first identify what teachers need and want to know about gifted education and high-level development, and to then respond accordingly with recommendations for implementing comprehensive and engaging workshops and programs. This includes requesting professional development experiences that:

-  address misconceptions and controversies about giftedness

-  promote inquiry about instructional methods

-  extend teachers’ understandings about best practice, and cutting-edge programs, and

-  offer practical strategies for promoting creative expression, and empowered learning within their own classrooms.

These experiences are available via conferences, podcasts, webinars, in-school or in-service workshops, lectures, courses, and online offerings by professionals, authors, instructors, and other experts in fields such as gifted education and educational psychology.

More about Addressing WHY, WHO, WHAT, and HOW: Ten Steps

Change doesn’t just happen. It’s a process that takes planning, time, effort, and diplomacy.

What exactly can parents, teachers, and kids do in order to establish and successfully fight for all the above-noted points, and possibly other gifted-related professional development priorities identified within their own schools? Here are ten basic steps for successful advocacy and forward momentum:

1.  Look for like-minded others.

2.  Nurture a climate of trust. 

3.  Get the facts straight. 

4.  Prioritize. Discern exactly what needs to be addressed, and why.

5.  Make a plan. Define simple and reasonable goals, a sensible time-line, and fair responsibilities. And, be flexible.

6.  Be specific and practical. 

7.  Think broadly. 

8.  Foster respectful and productive working relationships. 

9.  Stay committed. Try to retain a sense of optimism.

10.  Encourage children and teens to engage in self-advocacy. 

A school community is a complex and interdependent place. If you want to nurture productive relationships and a climate of trust, then pacing, mutual respect, and flexibility are integral.

Robust professional development in gifted education is not a perk, nor is it something to be treated lightly. Let’s continue to advocate and plan for the best possible professional development opportunities for the educators who work with children, and who strive to help them flourish. Together, we can strengthen our schools by ensuring that ALL students have learning experiences that are relevant, motivating, and appropriately suited, so they can aspire to be the very best they can be—and attain those aspirations.

Reading and Resources

Readers will find additional relevant material in Being Smart about Gifted Education, and also Beyond Intelligence: Secrets for Raising Happily Productive Kids, both co-authored by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster. For information about these books, as well as accessibility to a wide range of articles and links, go to www.joannefoster.ca. Information about professional development workshops and speaker sessions with Dr. Foster can also be found at this website.

For excellent resource material on supporting and encouraging gifted/high-level development, check out the wide assortment of books published by Great Potential Press at www.greatpotentialpress.com.

The book Academic Advocacy for Gifted Children: A Parent’s Comprehensive Guide, 3rd Edition by Barbara Gilman offers information on effective advocacy. (Great Potential Press.)

In The Power of Self-Advocacy for Gifted Learners, educator and author Deb Douglas discusses self-advocacy for advanced students. (Published by Free Spirit.)

See the article Attunement and Advocacy posted on the Resources Page at www.beyondintelligence.net. For more on the ten points noted above, read the article Advocacy in Action at Psychology Today, also accessible online at www.beyondintelligence.net

Tags: education, gifted education, gifted programs, gifted students, joanne foster

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