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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Using Online Professional Development for Teachers of Gifted Students



Gifted education is tricky and many teachers don’t know how to deal with such students. It isn’t often cost effective to implement programs in schools that may host a single or a few gifted children. Little and Housand (2011) discuss the ability to use online education to facilitate learning through multiple school systems in order to raise professional teaching standards and help such students in their precocious development. 

In higher education technology lags behind other industries. The reasons are many but often tradition, skill level, and perception are important considerations. With proper technology professional development in the educational fields has new opportunities. More important, it can help teachers understand their rare students even when such skills are not currently available. There are a few tips when trying to consider the potential success of such programs.

Coherence: The training should match both the goals of the organization, student needs, and teacher needs. The purpose of the training programs should be readily apparent and fit within the national context of gifted learning education. 

Acknowledging Beliefs and Practices: Teachers will need to find relevance with their daily practice and an opportunity to reflect on their beliefs. They need to relate the information to their own work environments. 

Active Engagement and Collaboration: Working with other teachers on professional learning and actively staying engaged with course materials is important. 

Sustained Attention: Single shot education with no follow-up will not likely be remembered. Ensure that attention is supported over time to help in the retaining of information. 

Support from School Administration: School administrators will need to encourage professional development of teachers who work with gifted students.  Time and resources should be allocated appropriately.

Ensuring Quality: Quality professional development is necessary for successful programs. Quality measurements, relevancy, and higher care are needed to make such programs work well. 

The paper highlights the concept that gifted students are relatively rare in the educational market despite a general understanding in the industry. Few teachers actually deal with such students and many schools do not have the resources or support to foster the highest levels of development. Cost can be prohibitive. By helping teachers connect for training from many districts a pool of teachers that have gifted students can work together, lower costs, and provide sound education to this unique population. 

Little, C. & Housand, B. (2011). Avenues to professional learning online: technology tips and tolls for professional development in gifted education. Gifted Child Today, 34 (4).

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