Middle School IOAPA: Working Through Challenges

This is part two of a three-part series on implementing our new above-level online middle school courses.  Read the first post here.

Last month, we explored how one teacher at a pilot school navigated our middle school IOAPA courses with her students. Laurie Wyatt and her team at Southeast Polk have worked hard at collaborating and developing ways to integrate these new opportunities into existing curriculum for high-ability students. What other things might be helpful for teachers and administrators who are considering middle school IOAPA for next year?

  • Will students be able to handle an accelerated format? Gifted students learn more quickly than typical students. This is incredibly important when planning curriculum for gifted students because it not only allows students to pick up on concepts more quickly, but also lets them progress at a much more rapid pace. Because of the pace and the guidelines we recommend for students interested in middle school IOAPA courses, students should see these courses as a fun challenge rather than an overwhelming amount of work.
  • Will students be able to complete this material independently? One thing that we recommend for our high school IOAPA students as well as middle school IOAPA students is that site coordinators and mentors work with students to develop a system for tackling online coursework. Often, these courses are a first introduction to online coursework, and students may need additional guidance as they familiarize themselves with the pace and expectations of online classes. Suggestions for mentor support and encouraging good time management practices can be found on our blog.
  • What if students have gaps in their knowledge? A common concern when considering implementation of online coursework is that students may skip content that is important later in their education. However, because high-ability students can work more quickly, gaps are often easily remedied. We recommend assessing for knowledge gaps through the use of unit/end-of-course tests, and then, if gaps are found, developing a project aimed at filling the gap and increasing the students’ knowledge within this area. More information about course acceleration and working with students can be found in various publications on the Belin-Blank Center website.

Stayed tuned next week for more common concerns related to accelerated coursework!

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