…and those who work with them.
The mission of Vanderbilt Programs for Talented Youth is to develop talent in academically gifted students and those who work with them. One way that we serve the unique needs of gifted learners is to equip teachers and other education professionals. That means we host professional development workshops throughout the year. When it comes to our summer programs, like VSA and SAVY, we schedule orientation and training sessions well before classes begin. Thus, over the past two weeks, VSA instructors have met with PTY staff to cover ways to map conceptual thinking in order to design lessons that teach “whole-to-part.” (That is, gifted students tend to think of the details in terms of the big ideas, so it is the big ideas that we want to teach them first.) We also spent time discussing instructional strategies and how to plan for the six-hour learning day. Summer SAVY instructors will be meeting in their own training sessions soon, and we are also planning cooperative, topic-specific training sessions between VSA and SAVY. We are going to cover topics like activities to vary instruction, teaching for different learning styles, facilitating creative thinking, and more.
We stay engaged with our instructors throughout the summer. Every lunch at VSA, for instance, our instructors, teaching assistants, academic coordinators, and educational consultants meet to discuss situations that might have come up in the classroom or ways to address the particular needs of individual students or classes. We also send daily “Teaching Tips” via e-mail to our instructors, just to give them little reminders, ideas, and tidbits of information to help them keep things fresh all session long.
One of the things that makes our programs special is that we combine excellent teaching with content expertise. Research shows that exposing students to experts in their fields of study is the best way to help them learn not only course content but the habits of thought and scholarship needed to achieve great intellectual heights. But we also recruit professors and advanced Ph.D. students with experience in teaching and a passion for effective pedagogy. Thus we do everything we can to refine their skills, because serving the individuals who teach our courses is another way of helping our students – you! – to have the best Vanderbilt summer experience possible!