We all know how important it is to see our gifted students’ growth. We know how key it is to measure growth in meaningful ways that also matter to our students. If you’re a fan of KWL and entrance and exit tickets, because you value reflection and metacognition, you might enjoy this fun digital tool to help gifted and talented students see what they’ve grasped in the short course of a unit or a lesson. It also allows for you to take a look at data.
In a prior post, Vet or Reset that Icebreaker, we talked about the importance of academic, conceptual icebreakers to help welcome our students to a new topic or a new year. Where you set the tone with themes and concepts–the big-picture ideas. It’s also great to measure the acquisition of content knowledge–new terms and definitions–that speak to a level of sophistication gained through learning experiences.
How do you measure knowledge acquisition with your gifted students? Share with us below!
In our eStudies Chemistry course, an online, seven-week opportunity for gifted middle and high school students to explore chemistry fundamentals, instructor Jade Marks uses WordClouds, a free digital tool. During our Getting Started module–a four-day period where students prepare for more intensive academic learning–Jade asked students to share words and phrases they felt confident were related to chemistry. Students were asked during a Live Session–one of the hours of synchronous webinar time per week–to generate this list together.
“… the students only came up with ~90 words/phrases relating to chemistry and the three most commonly used words only appeared 2-3 times. Some of the words/phrases were pop cultural references like ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘mad scientist.'”
At first glance, some of us educators would be impressed. These are seventh, eighth, and ninth graders–technically, no graduates of any chemistry class as of yet–tossing about “ionic” and “compounds”? In this mix there seems to already be above-average knowledge. Knowing our student profile, we design eStudies courses that push students of this age to go deeper and wider into a few topics in the chemistry field–or many other fields (check out our course list)–so that they emerge with a greater depth of content knowledge, skills developed, and essential understandings. As Jade shares, knowing how much of this knowledge of sophisticated terms was sparked by TV shows and pop culture, and also knowing how gifted youth retain stray and random bits of information quickly and avidly, we can’t say that there’s any depth of understanding happening here.
What They Didn’t Know They Could Learn
Here is what students could share after almost seven weeks of learning. They generated this new WordCloud during another Live Session in Blackboard Collaborate.
Note the greater specificity, for starters, showing a knowledge of not only terms and definitions but a deepened historical understanding as well. Jade reports:
“In the final live session the students came up ~170 terms – nearly double! The list included 113 unique words/phrases . The three most commonly used words were used 7 times each, and no one wrote ‘Breaking Bad’ or ‘mad scientist.’
Before we attempted the activity for a second time, I asked them if they remembered it from the Getting Started Live Session and some students responded with ‘I’d rather forget about that’ or ‘I was so stupid back then.’ When we made our new word list, they were quite proud of how many terms they came up with. They even got a little competitive about it, boasting ‘I think I won!’ (even though it was not presented as a competition) and ‘Look at mine, look how many words I wrote down!'”
Of course I explained that they weren’t ‘stupid back then’ – they just had more room for growth. But the message is clear, they recognized how far they had come.
I will definitely be using this again.”
Individual assessments have their time and place, but group assessments do a lot of things: they reflect back, and they motivate.
- In the mirror of colorful WordCloud script, these chemistry students can see evidence of their knowledge growth.
- TIPsters often talk about finding “their people” in TIP classes, and here they were able to compete with those at their level.
- With an effective educator at the helm, they were able to recalibrate their perfectionism that so harshly judges any accomplishment.
A small activity with an effective digital tool can create an invitational environment that inspires greater growth, communicating this sense of strength and potentiality: Now that you’ve got these chemistry words in your “lab,” who knows what else you might be able to do?
How you enter and exit a topic with gifted students is as important as that fabled first impression. We’re creating a forever imprint of how we see ourselves in a subject and what we want to learn about it. How can we do this in fun, inspirational, and memorable ways?