Alternative Pathways In Cultivating Programs To Support Highly Able Learners: Persuading Decision Makers Why They Should Care

Presenter(s): Lawrence Mann

Defining Highly-Able (HA) students can be a difficult task for schools, administrators and staff. Statutes are scant, nonexistant and teacher training programs lack obligatory pedagogical curriculum within their programs. Advocacy for appropriate support is limited to a small minority of stakeholders, while misconceptions and antiquated attitudes are rampid up through decision-making levels. Thus, Highly-Able programs are rarely a priority. Thus, many questions remain in regard to the likelyhood of successfully cultivating self-sustaining HA programs amongst a glut of unfavorable conditions. The aim of this investigation was to examine the process, adoption and implementation of HA programs that have used alternative avenues and actions relative to typical beauracratic means. HA learners have unique and sometimes intensive needs. Consequently, social and emotional aspects were equally considered during this process. A mixed method approach was utilized as a means for the collection and analysis of data. And a wide range of qualatative reseach was derived via cross curriculum staff focus groups, surveys, student interviews and small clustered extension sessions with HA elementary and middle school learners. Qualatative results revealed a high level of interest regarding HA learners amongst staff but a low level of knowledge and understanding in recognizing the needs of such students and providing actual and/or appropriate support. Elements from this study have been essential in documenting evidence so as to bring about a paradigm shift within the school environment. Most notably, securing the foundations for self-sustaining HA programs and providing appropriate support services for HA learners.