An exploration of face-to-face and online professional development for gifted specialists

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University of Alabama Libraries

The purpose of this study was to explore the practices and beliefs of certified gifted specialists regarding face-to-face and online professional development in gifted education. In order for gifted specialists to grow professionally and meet the unique cognitive and affective needs of their gifted students, they must attend professional development specific to gifted education. Alabama gifted specialists are required to earn certification through college courses and thereafter required to earn PD credit towards certification renewal. School systems provided ongoing professional development for general education teachers; however, little to no professional development was provided regarding gifted education. Therefore, gifted specialists must seek professional development outside of their school systems. This study was situated in descriptive, qualitative research through constant comparative analysis, which provided a systematic analysis of data to understand the phenomena and not to develop and prove a theory. Maximum variation sampling was used to select 12 school systems from which one gifted specialist per school system was asked to participate in individual and focus group interviews. When more than one gifted specialist was employed by a selected school system, the superintendent or the gifted coordinator selected one specialist to participate in the interviews. Nine gifted specialists participated in the research. Results of the study showed that the participants accessed professional development outside of their school system in many, varied, traditional, and nontraditional activities in order to meet their students’ needs and interests. Most participants had engaged in gifted learning activities that were not credited toward certification renewal and the participants had not realized that these activities were professional development. Although gifted online professional development provided access, choice, and differentiated learning activities, the majority of participants had not attended online professional development. Additionally, most participants did not believe the quality of online professional development was equal to the quality of face-to-face PD. Administrators approved individualized professional learning plans, which included at least one gifted specific activity. However, that learning activity was not always credited towards certification renewal. Professional development has been changing and the way it is approved and credited toward certification renewal must change.

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Gifted education, Education, Educational administration