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Exchanging new ways of teaching and learning for highly intelligent pupils
Start date: Jun 1, 2015, End date: May 31, 2016 PROJECT  FINISHED 

The Instituut Spijker in Hoogstraten is a secondary school for general education with quite some gifted pupils, some of which have an official diagnose of intellectual giftedness. However, the support and guidance of these pupils is often considered a blind spot in the policy of our school. At the moment, we do have some detached initiatives to support and guide highly gifted pupils. Apart from that, we also participate in a network for secondary schools organized by Exentra, an expertise centre focused on intellectual giftedness. Despite the efforts we are doing right now, we are regularly confronted with pupils who clearly are very intelligent, but who nevertheless do not seem to find their feet within the regular education system. They often drop out, thus risking to leave secondary school without a diploma. Therefore, our school clearly needs more expertise among its staff; not only among those who are responsible for the guidance and counselling of our highly intelligent pupils, but among all of our teaching staff. We are in want of a new perspective, a new approach; one that reaches outside our current scope. For this reason, we carried out a job shadowing in a German school that already develops quite some new initiatives for the guidance of highly gifted pupils. They try to approach these pupils in an innovative way, with extracurricular activities and intensive differentiation. By observing these practices on the spot through job shadowing, we wanted to obtain an overall picture of the functioning and the impact of their projects focusing on intellectual giftedness. The goal of the project was thus to gather knowledge on concrete instruments to guide and support highly intelligent pupils. Next, we were hoping to spread these instruments within our school and have them implemented by our teaching staff. Apart from that, we also wanted to build a lasting contact concerning the issues of intellectual giftedness with our partner school. During our job shadowing, one of the main differences we noticed concerned defining the profile of a highly intelligent pupil. The German school organized a so-called Plus Kurs for very gifted pupils who obtained great school results (a minimum average score of 85%), while we wished to focus on highly intelligent pupils who lose motivation in the regular curriculum and who are therefore underachieving. Due to this difference, we were forced to adjust the goals of our project. We were not able to exchange best practices that aim at getting demoralized pupils back on track. Instead, however, we were able to get to know the Plus Kurs through conversations with both students and teachers/counselors involved. We found out that there was in fact quite some common ground between our schools, which would enable us to build up a lasting partnership. Already during our job shadowing, we started brainstorming about applying for a KAII-project focused on highly intelligent pupils. Afterwards, we continued to work in this application through email and Skype. The German school agreed to coordinate the project and applied for the project with their national agency. Via our own international contacts, we were able to engage a Swedish school, and the German school contacted a Slovenian and a Polish school at an international seminar about internationalization. At the beginning of July, our common application was accepted, which will enable us to carry out our KAII-project ‘Brains in Action’ in the next three years. In short, we had to adjust the initial goals of our job shadowing: we needed to let go of the exchange of good practices to support demoralized, highly intelligent pupils. Of course, we did share our experiences concerning the Plus Kurs with our school’s support team for pupils with special needs, as well as with the rest of the teaching staff. This way, we made sure to spread the knowledge we acquired within our school. However, this has not directly impacted our own activities. Nevertheless, by continuing to build up a lasting partnership with the German school, we were able to develop a KAII-project centered on highly intelligent pupils. Our goal is to exchange our approach concerning highly intelligent pupils with four other European schools. Furthermore, those highly intelligent pupils should be able to participate in the project’s challenging activities abroad too. This way, we hope to increase their motivation in order to avoid them from dropping out of the regular school system and its curriculum.

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