Gifted and Talented Middle School Educator Perceptions of Program Implementation During COVID-19 Protocols



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Background: Providing appropriate and equitable services to the special population of Gifted and Talented (GT) students is the responsibility of educators and educational leaders throughout the United States. During 2020-2021, the COVID-19 pandemic presented barriers to meeting the educational needs of all students. Federal and state policy makers mandated safety protocols to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In the spring of 2020, educational leaders, both globally and locally, shifted to online “virtual” learning during the mandatory “shut down”. As educational entities strategically planned for the 2020-2021 school year, the online learning platform proved necessary for many districts. Purpose: This study gathered educator perspectives to assess the impact of a COVID-19 protocols on GT educator experiences. Question: What are middle school GT educators’ perceptions regarding the impact of COVID-19 protocols on their implementation of GT student learning opportunities? Method: This study employed a qualitative case study to collect and analyze data regarding middle school GT educator perceptions of the impact that COVID-19 protocols had on their own implementation of GT learning opportunities. Four participants were selected via purposeful convenience sample of middle school GT educators currently providing instruction to GT students in a large urban school district in Texas. To ensure data credibility, participants provided data in four phases: 1) a semi-structured survey, 2) an individual interview, 3) a member check interview, and 4) a focus group to gather information about implementation experiences. The researcher employed six steps to qualitative thematic analysis to code, analyze, and report findings. Following the data analysis, district-level GT specialists reviewed these data sets to ensure trustworthiness. This study adds to the literature on middle school GT educator experiences and how those experiences influence GT student learning experiences in the midst of COVID-19 protocols in both face-to-face and in online learning. Findings: After acquiring responses from the participants, four themes emerged: 1) GT curriculum that encourages the application of critical thinking skills in personally relevant ways to support GT students more appropriately is needed; 2) COVID-19 protocols both hindered and created opportunities for GT student growth; 3) GT professional development should include cross-curricular critical thinking application strategies; and 4) GT educators and parents should more effectively communicate valuable information about GT individual student qualities, expectations, and progress at the secondary level. Conclusion: GT educators have unique access to GT learning experiences necessary to inform GT program decision making. Post-Covid education requires pedagogical reflection by GT educators and leaders to evaluate current GT implementation to provide more effective GT services considering challenges experienced during COVID-19 protocol administration. As observed by GT educators, some GT students excelled under novel circumstances acting on their intrinsic motivation and grit, yet other GT students completed minimal tasks. Future GT services must address individual GT student needs by evaluating possible educational gaps as well as providing scaffolded intellectual challenges. GT educators require tailored GT professional development supported by funding and personnel from GT administrators and GT decision makers at local levels. Unique GT students deserve individualized support.



GT, Middle School Educators, Educator Perceptions, Gifted and talented, GT Middle School, COVID-19, COVID-19 barriers and opportunities, K-12 Public Education