Professional Development

Dr. Lori C. Bland, Director of Professional Development and Practice in Gifted Education

Supporting Practice in Gifted Education One of the goals for the professional development program at the Center for Gifted Education is to promote leadership and exemplary practice in gifted education. The Center is creating a community of  learners, scholars and practitioners together, who will work to solve some of the pressing issues facing our children.  We seek to strengthen the knowledge and skill base of all educators so that we may  support learners with high abilities, gifts, and talents effectively.   We will continue to do this through our existing venues, as well as through new ventures.

 National Curriculum Network Conference. We will continue to offer our flagship conference, the National Curriculum Network Conference in March. One focus of this conference is to bring educators together to learn about our curriculum and other instructional practices in gifted education.  We will also expand this conference to be more inclusive of researchers and others in the expanding field of gifted studies who will discuss their work and the implications for practice.  The research focus will not just be related to teaching, but also to psychology, counseling, and broader areas of research that may impact gifted education.  We have also had feedback that teachers would like to put the “N” back into this conference.  Therefore, we plan to provide many more opportunities within the conference for networking, including social events. We had very positive feedback from our conference this year held in the new, elegant Professional Development Center in the new School of Education building on campus.  We hope that you will join us next year.

Summer Professional Development Institute. Every summer in June, we host a Professional Development Institute.  One purpose for this institute has been to learn about our curriculum and instructional strategies in depth.  We will continue to offer these courses.  As a result of feedback that we received last year, we expanded our language arts offerings to include an Advanced Strategies section for teachers who have been using our curriculum.  We have also expanded the Institute to include a specific focus on leadership needs, as well as “hot topics in gifted education.”

Advanced Placement. Every summer we host a College Board-endorsed AP Institute during the first week in August.  We hope to be able to offer these courses for college credit next summer.   We also plan to offer Pre-AP classes next summer during the last week in July.  Stay tuned for more information as the year unfolds.

International Efforts. Like many other organizations in our field, we have become an international organization.  Over the past two years, we have worked with individuals from or supported organizations located in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, China, Egypt, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, and United Arab Emirates.  Our efforts have included providing professional development on campus to travelling the world.  Our topics have a broad range, such as the characteristics and needs of gifted learners, psychology and development of gifted learners, curriculum development, program development and evaluation, standards and assessment for gifted learners, leadership and starting schools for the gifted, and focused instruction on subject areas such as language arts or science for gifted learners.

Virginia State Advisory Council. Two years ago, the Center invited the gifted education school district leadership in Virginia to participate in our State Advisory Council.  That Council has been instrumental in identifying directions for the Center.  One of the directions has been related to the professional development needs in the state.  We have begun to answer these needs in multiple ways, including by providing very specific sessions at our conferences, such as the session that Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska presented at Summer Institute, Gifted 101:  What Every Coordinator Needs to Know about Gifted Education.  Further, the state advisory council has encouraged us to begin to provide professional development via electronic means.  A subcommittee has formed to help develop materials in this area.

 Measuring Gifted Students’ Growth. Recently, I have started a very specific focus to work with school divisions in Virginia to support their needs related to measuring gifted students’ growth.  I’ve conducted presentations at regional meetings and at our conferences.  In addition, I have recently worked with Prince George County to develop a model for  working with smaller school districts that is economically efficient.  I have also begun discussions about bringing my conference sessions to other regions around the state, where getting funding for travel has been difficult.  Further, a subcommittee has formed to work on a process of developing assessments.

Customized Services. We have expanded our services to address the needs of school districts and other organizations serving children with gifts and talents.  We provide customized professional development based on the needs of the organization.  In addition, we partner with school districts and other organizations to create learning communities focused on topics identified by the school district.  We will conduct a review of your program (or needs assessment or program evaluation) and work with you to develop a customized program for your school district.  The customized program can be simple as providing specific professional development sessions or workshops or  complex as developing curriculum or re-developing programming arrangements for your gifted learners.  Whatever your needs, we are here to help. If you are interested in receiving customized services from us, working with us on professional development or assessment development, or lending us your expertise, please contact Dr. Lori Bland at lcbland@wm.edu or 757-221-2364.  I look forward to collaborating with you to help children with high abilities, gifts, and talents. To paraphrase Bette Davis, “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a fun and wild ride.”  Come join us.