Category Archives: Belin-Blank Center News

Message from the Director: At the Edge of Knowledge, What do Students Need?

The needs of gifted students come from their strengths, not their deficits. 

I’m paraphrasing, slightly, what Executive Director of Western Kentucky’s Center for Gifted Studies, Professor Julia Link Roberts, expressed last month during Denver University’s annual Gifted Education Conference.  This simple yet elegant statement captures the essence of the Belin-Blank Center’s model for serving gifted and talented students from grade 2 through college.  Our strength-based model features various systems for discovering domain-specific talent and then developing that talent.  A strength-based model is synonymous with talent development.

Although highly effective, there is one critical group of educators who neither implement nor advocate for a strength-based model in which talents are developed.  The group is comprised of the vast majority of faculty in colleges of education across the country; the same individuals who prepare future teachers and counselors.  

This was the situation decades ago when I was preparing to be a science teacher, and it remains true today.  For example, students with strengths in science reasoning need to be able to do what scientists do – create hypotheses, conduct research, experience success…and fail, and start all over again. It’s the rare science classroom where students with strengths in scientific reasoning have regular opportunities to experience “science” during the school day.  The same is true for individuals with talent in mathematics. 

To some extent, the lack of emphasis on talent development in schools explains the popularity of university-based summer programs among parents and students.  Every summer, tens of thousands of elementary, middle, and high school students across the country take advantage of myriad programs and courses that build on their strengths and nurture the development of their talent.  The Belin-Blank Center’s programs are among these. Our students explore their interests and stretch their intellectual muscles in the Blank Summer Institute, the Perry Research Scholars Institute, the Secondary Student Training Program, Summer Art  Residency,  and Summer Writing Residency and find respite from the lack of challenge during the school year.

Educators who participate in the Belin-Blank Center’s summer professional development can observe talented pre-college students in programming that is uniquely strength-based and talent-development focused.  Our hope is that by observing a strength-based classroom, educators will see the importance of taking this model into their own classrooms during the academic year.  This is one of the most critical lessons from their professional development experience because for every student who attends a summer program in a university setting, there are several others who are equally talented but don’t have this opportunity.

Education doesn’t have to be strengths vs. deficit.  In fact, every program we offer, including outreach programming such as the STEM Excellence program, now in its sixth year of implementation in nine rural schools across Iowa, is an excellent example of a thriving strength-based program that aims to develop the math and science talents of middle-school students.

Our work in twice-exceptionality offers additional evidence that understanding a student’s strengths is as important as understanding their challenges.  Individuals with a diagnosed disability or disorder face challenges (deficits) that can – and must – be addressed. However, this should be done in alignment with developing their strengths.

The strength-based approach is the essence of our collaborative twice-exceptional research agenda with our Iowa Neuroscience Institute partners. This work uses an unprecedented amount of data from our Assessment and Counseling Clinic to better understand the relationship between high ability and challenges in learning, social-emotional development, or behavior. Indeed, understanding the role of cognitive strengths within the context of learning and social-emotional difficulties is a critical aspect of the research we are conducting.  It is only with a sample of twice-exceptional individuals, who have both intellectual strengths and cognitive challenges, that each of these can be controlled for, allowing researchers to examine their effects both independently and combined.

We are looking forward to bringing together researchers, clinicians, educators, and parents to learn about the research on twice-exceptionality at the Summit on the Neuroscience of Twice-Exceptionality this July. We invite you to join us in discussing new, unprecedented studies of twice-exceptionality, the future of research in this field, and the possibilities available for collaboration among institutions, gifted education organizations, and talent development centers in order to advance our understanding of this unique population and their strengths and challenges.

The needs of gifted students – and the professionals who are involved in their education – come from strengths not deficits.  Yet, for the foreseeable future, deficit models in education will likely dominate our thinking – and funding.  I recommend that we “lean into” the current deficit model and use it as a platform to reveal the many advantages to including a strength-based approach in gifted education and talent development.  We will continue to share our perspective and research findings, and we hope to see you at one of our events or programs soon.

Message from the Director: Welcome Home!

Our June newsletter coincides with the start of six weeks of amazing energy and enthusiasm for our myriad pre-college and professional development programs.

Our elementary (Blast) and junior high students (Junior Scholars Institute, Blank Scholars Institute) will be challenged in their areas of interest and strength, digging into an advanced course during the day, all while having fun with other bright kids who share their level of interest and ability. Junior high and high school students also get to experience life on a college campus, living in the residence halls and hanging out with new friends at cultural and recreational activities in the evenings.

Our high school students will experience life-changing opportunities for personal and academic growth. Our summer programs include a behind-the-scenes look at research careers and the ways and places we discover new knowledge on many different topics (Perry Research Scholars Institute); an intensive, highly selective, STEM research experience (Secondary Student Training Program); and art and writing residencies (Summer Art Residency, Summer Writing Residency) here at the University of Iowa, one of the premier arts campuses in the US, also home to the famed Iowa Writers Workshop.

This summer, educators will be making progress toward their TAG endorsements, maintaining their license requirements, or pursuing career advancement through a variety of online and on-site courses and workshops or Iowa Licensure Renewal Units. We will also have the pleasure of spending time with many who join us on campus! Some will be here for the Chautauqua program, which carries the benefit of enabling educators to earn half the credits they need for a TAG endorsement in just two weeks! Others will become qualified to teach Advanced Placement (AP) courses, increasing the number of subject acceleration opportunities for gifted students across the country, at our AP Teacher Training Institute.  Still others have been admitted to the prestigious Belin-Blank Fellowship, which aims to help teachers new to gifted education understand the qualities and needs of gifted individuals so they can better teach and develop the potential of those students.

This month, “welcome” is the most often-used word in my vocabulary, as I meet dozens of students and educators new to the Center.  I greet returning students, families, and educators with a warm “welcome home!” Expressing both of these words — welcome and home — sparked my curiosity about the etymology of each.  That curiosity, in turn, led to a few reflections about the next six weeks of summer programming.

“Welcome” comes from the Old English, wilcuma, “a wished for guest.”  Indeed, we absolutely wish for individuals to join us in our programs. We spend months preparing for them to ensure that they will have an engaging and energizing experience.  We know that for many participants their time on the UI campus in a Belin-Blank Center program offers a pivotal, often life-changing, experience.  We never tire of hearing these stories, and now that we are entering our 31st year of programming, we have heard from people who had that experience 10, 20, or 30 years ago! 

We also “welcome home” past participants and use the word “home” with great warmth.   As a noun, home, comes from the Old English, ham, and implies a “dwelling place.”  That is exactly how we want everyone who attends our programs to feel.  We want them to know that we have created a place that inspires them to reach beyond their current level of performance, where they can inspire others to extend their reach, and assure them that professors, residence advisors, and Center staff are dedicated to their well-being and happiness.   Attaining that goal is an indicator that we truly have welcomed our newest participants and welcomed home those who have returned. 

Here’s to the start of a great summer that concludes in late July!  We would love to welcome you at two very special events at the conclusion of the summer program. 

Even if you can’t join us in person this summer, be sure to connect with us by following along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and our blog. However, if you are joining us this summer, welcome home!

IOAPA: Spring Dates & Deadlines!

We want to help you keep on track for 2019! Here are all of the important dates and deadlines related to IOAPA and AP courses for the spring semester.

  • January 25, 2019: Last day to drop IOAPA courses without being assessed a $350 drop fee. (Note: Per the IOAPA drop policy, these fees are waived for students in middle school and computer science courses.)
  • January 31, 2019: Deadline for submission of AP Course Audit materials for new courses (i.e., courses that have not been offered by your school prior to 2018-2019).
  • February 22, 2019: Deadline for submitting testing accommodations requests for students with disabilities who plan to take AP Exams. See our post about the changes to this process that took effect in January 2017.
  • March 13, 2019: Deadline for pre-administration materials for AP Computer Science Principles.
  • March 29, 2019: Deadline to order 2019 AP Exams.
  • April 30, 2019: Deadline for submitting Performance Tasks for AP Computer Science Principles students.
  • May 10, 2019: IOAPA spring courses end.
  • May 6-17, 2019: AP Exams are administered. A complete schedule of exam dates is available on the College Board website.

Ordering AP Exams

Students (generally with advice from teachers, parents, school counselors, or other school personnel) are responsible for deciding whether to take AP Exam(s) for the courses in which they enrolled. Schools are responsible for ordering those exams from the College Board for all students who indicate intent to complete exams. More information about specific procedures for ordering exams is available from the College Board.

Different states and schools handle exam fees differently. In general, for 2019 exams most students will pay the school $94 per exam. The College Board offers reduced-fee exams for students with financial need; these students generally pay the school $53 per exam. Further information can be found on the College Board website.

The Belin Blank Center is pleased to announce that we are offering a new funding opportunity to pay for the cost of AP exams for low-income students in rural schools.  Stay tuned for more information, coming soon!

Follow IOAPA on Twitter @belinblankIOAPA for reminders about deadlines, as well as other useful information to support mentors and students.

Register for APTTI and Apply for Funding Opportunities!

AP Teacher Training Institute 

Start the New Year off right by planning your summer professional development! Make sure to save the date for the 2019 AP Teacher Training Institute (APTTI). This will take place at the University of Iowa campus on June 25-28, 2019. Registration is now openWe will be offering workshops for AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Chemistry, AP English Literature & Composition, AP Physics I, and AP US History.

AP Teacher Training Institute instructor demonstrating a lesson to smiling AP Biology teachers.

APTTI is a College Board-approved AP Summer Institute (APSI). AP Summer Institutes provide subject-specific training for teachers who are interested in teaching an AP course. Summer Institutes can also benefit current teachers already teaching AP courses to develop their skills, or gain familiarity with the course. Teachers who attended our previous institutes shared some of their valued experiences:

It gave me a framework for how to structure my course, wording for my syllabus for the College Board, and very valuable information to prepare my students for the AP exam.

Not only did I gain more resources to further my instruction, but I also learned many strategies for implementing these materials. I had the opportunity to learn from an instructor who was vastly knowledgeable and taught us as if we were students…so we could better understand how to teach our own students. This knowledge was immensely valuable!

I feel like this program has a direct impact on high school students…I am more confident in the material and the course/text structure, and my experience as an AP teacher has been much more successful than it would have been without an APTTI.

It was a wonderful course that prepared me to teach AP. The instructor modeled an AP class for us, so we not only left with content knowledge, but methodology knowledge as well. These methods can extend beyond just our AP classes and into our general classes as well.

Funding

We want to inform you of scholarships funded by the College Board that support teachers in attending an APSI. Applications for these scholarships are due Tuesday, February 12th, 2019. Scholarships offered by the College Board are listed below, and you can find more information about these scholarships and the application process here.

  • AP Fellows Program: For teachers at schools serving minority or low-income students
    • Scholarship Amount: $1,000 – for cost of tuition and lab fees (when applicable)
  • AP Rural Fellows Program: For teachers at rural schools
    • Scholarship Amount: $1,500 – for cost of tuition and lab fees (when applicable)

The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) also offers the AP Institution Grant, a grant to support Iowa teachers in attending APTTI. (Participation in IOAPA not required.) This grant will cover $450 (more than 80%) of the $550 registration fee.  Click here to learn more and click here to access the grant application. This application is due June 1st, 2019. 

Don’t miss the chance to apply for these great scholarships, especially since deadlines for some are approaching quickly! If you’re considering attending an AP Summer Institute and/or our AP Teacher Training Institute, apply today!

Celebrating 30 Years of Nurturing Potential and Inspiring Excellence

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.  That long name packs an abundance of information about who we are and what we do.

Named for two of the four co-founders of the Belin-Blank Center, the name pays tribute to the founding families and honors their philanthropic contributions to the center.  The name also references our international connections and the fact that we address both gifted education and talent development, which are complementary concepts.

Over the years, the Belin-Blank Center has been committed to providing programming and services to educators, students, and their families.  Our aim is to empower the worldwide gifted community through exemplary leadership in service, research, and advocacy. Through our work, supported through the generosity of our benefactors, funds from private foundations, and federal and state grants, we aim to eliminate barriers that impede the full development of students and educators. 

Belin-Blank staff 6/2018

Belin-Blank Center faculty and staff

 

The Belin-Blank Center is part of the University of Iowa’s College of Education.  For the first fifteen years of our existence, the Lindquist Center housed our center.  Early in 2004, we moved from the Lindquist Center to the newly built, six-story Blank Honors Center. This move was essential because over the decades, our staff and faculty have grown; that growth matches the growth in our programs.

Blank Honors Center-0101

Blank Honors Center, home of the Belin-Blank Center, on the Unviersity of Iowa campus

Through all of this change, our values have never wavered; in particular, our strong belief in the benefit of recognizing and validating talent.  Ceremonies such as our annual Recognition Ceremony increase awareness of the needs of gifted and talented students and teachers; simultaneously, they acknowledge for the students, teachers, and their families that their efforts matter.  We have noticed, and we know that they will make a difference. 

30th invitation graphicAn anniversary is an opportunity for reflection and celebration as well as for dreaming about the future.  Thanks to our benefactors, our faculty and staff, and the University of Iowa, this year we celebrate a decades-long reality created from a single vision.  We step into the future empowered to create a better world for the gifted and talented community. Paraphrasing an observation and a question attributed to Sidney Parnes, an early leader in the field of creativity, “We are already living in someone else’s dream of the future; why not make it your dream?”

An Exciting Javits-Funded New Project

We are thrilled to announce that we have received a Javits grant!  The joint project – by co-PIs Professors Susan Assouline, Saba Ali, and Megan Foley-Nicpon, and methodologist Dr. Duhita Mahatmya – consists of a five-year, $2.1 million plan to increase educators’ capacity to identify and provide talented and gifted programming to underrepresented students in Iowa.  Dr. Ali, Associate Dean for Research in the University of Iowa College of Education, and Drs. Assouline, Foley Nicpon, Mahatmya, of the Belin-Blank Center, will use a career intervention Dr. Ali developed, along with I-Excel, a Belin-Blank Center online above-level assessment, to further the goals of this project.

We are fortunate to bring talent and career development opportunities to students with disabilities and students of color living in rural Iowa communities…I look forward to the difference we will make for many students who otherwise would never have been seen or heard.

– Dr. Megan Foley Nicpon

The title of the effort is the “Culturally Responsive Talent Identification and Career Exploration (TICE).”  According to the project abstract, “[u]nderrepresented students, especially students from economically  disadvantaged backgrounds, students of color, rural students, and students with disabilities, are at risk of being overlooked for participation in talented and gifted programs. Project personnel will integrate an expanded talent development model…and a career intervention program…to maximize the identification and development of underrepresented talented and gifted students.”  The Iowa Online AP Academy (IOAPA) will also contribute to this project, broadening the courses available to these students by offering online coursework in the schools.  We look forward to this opportunity to use the experience and knowledge of the Belin-Blank Center and the College of Education from the last several decades to impact bright students who are so often overlooked.

 

Back to School with the Belin-Blank Center

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