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Independent Study for Gifted Children: I Did It My Way!

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During the summer, here in the US, we celebrate Independence Day on July 4, but I think summer is a great time to celebrate student independence all summer long. The thing I love about independent study is the process of discovery. I love to see students delve deeply into something that really interests them, discover what it is that they really like about that topic, and do it in a way that makes sense for them. I also love discovering more about that student during the independent study process—things I might not notice in a group setting or while implementing mandated curriculum

Now, with summer coming, I encourage young people to make good use of their non-school time to engage in their own personal independent studies to discover something new and exciting, both about themselves and about a topic or concern of interest. The beauty of doing this process on your own is that you can do it your way, in your own schedule, at your own pace, with your own outcomes.

Here are a few things to remember as you embark on your study. Once you get a topic, be sure to pose your idea in question form to help direct you in your research as you strive to answer that question. This step will also help you define what it is you are really interested in knowing.  Next, write 3-6 mini-questions to direct your study. Make sure these questions will help you answer your big question.DO IT WITH PASSION, OR NOT AT

When you do your research, use multiple, original sources and make sure you have a good system for note-taking that helps you understand and summarize information. After doing your research, create a product that addresses the big question, reflects the kind of product a professional in that field would produce, and that uses your newly gained knowledge in ways that reflect your creativity and strengths.

After your initial self-critique and first round of improvements in your product, choose an audience to give you additional feedback. Make sure your audience is appropriate for the topic and present your ideas to several different audiences, if you can. After receiving additional feedback and making final improvements in your process and product, reflect on your learnings, clarify your interests in this or related areas, and discern what questions you have at this point that might lead to additional studies.

If you are embarking on an independent study this summer, share your ideas with us and with others. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with ideas for independent study ideas, and hearing what others are interested in can spark new ideas for those seeking topics. We’d love to know what fascinates you! Happy Independence Summer!

All the best,

Dr. Barbara Swicord, Ed.D.
Executive Director, National Society for the Gifted and Talented (NSGT)
President, Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG)

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