Education Opinion

NAGC 2011 Day 3

By Tamara Fisher — November 04, 2011 5 min read
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It’s really only Day 3? It feels like Day 7!

I began today in a mini-keynote titled “Critical Questions in Talent Developement: Answered Through 40 Years of Longitudinal Research by Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY),” presented by Camilla Benbow and David Lubinski, both of Vanderbilt University. I loved the questions that were part of the description of this session in the program book, among them:

* “Who among talent search participants become eminent and creative as adults?”
* “Do educational interventions in adolescence boost adult creativity and professional accomplishment?”
* “Can we enhance the likelihood that true excellence will emerge?”

The 40 years of data that they analyzed included 5,000+ gifted youth in five different cohorts, many of them somehow connected to one of the Talent Search programs (at Johns Hopkins, Duke, and Northwestern). These are programs where (usually 7th grade-ish) students take the SAT or some other radically-off-level test and score at the highest levels, thereby qualifying themselves to attend the summer programs of intense immersion in advanced academic content hosted by these universities. Among their findings of the longitudinal data on these students are the following:

* The higher their age 12 or 13 SAT performance, the further their post high school accomplishments, even with all other important factors constant (motivation, support, others).
* In comparing grade-skippers with those of about equal ability who weren’t grade-skipped (and were also comparable on about a dozen other variables), the grade-skippers were far more likely to get doctorates, be published, and achieve other markers of advanced “success.” Additionally, they led overall more productive lives (i.e. they had access to more years of adulthood to be productive and contributing citizens).
* Those who entered STEM fields had greater spatial ability scores relative to their verbal ability scores (on their 7th grade Talent Search test), whereas those in all other future careers (except those earning 4-year business degrees) had greater verbal scores relative to their spatial scores.
* Kids with a higher “dose” of intervention opportunities became more successful and higher achievers than comparable kids with a less intense (or “low”) “dose.” Interventions really do make a difference for these advanced learners! The Talent Search students in the study (once identified and given the intense, highly-advanced summer coursework), didn’t have to “wait to grow.” They didn’t have to wait until high school to take Algebra II or Calculus. They were ready to learn it, and got to do so in a very intense summer while also interacting with other similar kids who were also ready for the same material.

I’m serving as a mentor for one of the Javits-Frasier Scholars this week. The Javits-Frasier Teacher Scholarship Fund is available to teachers from Title I schools who are attending NAGC for the first time. Consider applying for next year (Denver, November 15-18, 2012); or, if you want to support the program, consider making a donation to the fund. Here are this year’s Javits-Frasier Scholars:

Do you tweet? You can follow the goings-on via @nagcconvention!

I took a little time to wander the Exhibit Hall today and found the ALEKS booth. I have very recently begun to learn about ALEKS, so stopped to learn even more. It’s even more incredible than I had thought! ALEKS is a fully-online (web-based), adaptive option for learning mathematics. After the student takes an initial (again - adaptive) assessment, the system provides the student with access to the content and problems he has just shown he is ready to learn and solve. The system includes handy pie charts (viewable to student, teacher, and parent) that show how much of the content the student has mastered (dark colors) and how much is yet to be mastered (light colors). Here is one example:

(ALEKS is a registered trademark of ALEKS Corporation.)

When solving a problem, there is an “Explain” button which pops up an explanation of how that problem works. If the explanation doesn’t make sense, the student can click the “Another Explanation” button and have it explained in another way. There’s even a “I haven’t learned this yet” button on the initial assessment.

There is a worksheet option, too. The problems can all be done online, but they can also be printed for those who can’t access the internet at home to do their work. When a student clicks to download a worksheet (at school, in this case), the answer key is immediately emailed to the teacher!

Obviously some outside instruction, particularly tasks involving manipulatives, would be needed (and more teacher-based), but for certain, somewhat sizeable, portions of math learning, this systems looks like it could fill a lot of opportunities for advanced learners ready to move on.

The “Review” tab allows the student to be re-assessed about every five hours or 20 topics. If any mastery has been lost since previously showing mastery, that portion is added back into the child’s “pie” of material to be learned.

Yes, it is all correlated to mathematics standards: those of all 50 states (plus the Canadian territories), and the Common Core. “Textbook Integration” is also offered. You can tell the system that your classroom is using a particular math text and the system will adjust the problems given (and vocabulary used) to correlate with the material the students are encountering in their math texts.

Teachers can access and analyze individual student reports on their progress toward mastery of the standards, how much work they have done within ALEKS, and what they are ready to learn next. (Whole-class data of this type is available for the teacher to analyze, too.) Students ready to learn a particular topic could be grouped together for that instruction. Students who are far ahead can work at their quick pace and move on when ready to do so. It’s real-time ready-to-learn learning.

And it’s reasonably priced, ranging from $20 per student for one month of access, to $40 per student for 12 months of access. The fee gains the student access to the system, not access to a single course. So for those who might complete the available coursework for a class sooner than the “window,” they can accelerate ahead at their own pace without having to pay additional funds. You can also try a free trial, good for up to 100 students for up to 3 months (assuming the students average 3 hours of work within the system per week.)

ALEKS could be used to supplement your current curriculum, or could be used to provide quality above-grade-level content to a student who has advanced beyond what the teacher or district can adequately provide. It could also be used for additional practice for students struggling more with mathematics.

I’m fried! I’ll have to post the rest of today later.

The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.