Presented at the NCSSS 2019 Professional Conference
Academic Support, Peer Tutors, Strategies, Executive Functioning
Academic support is critical to the success of students, and gifted students are no exception. The support they need is as unique as the students themselves. The difficulty of the material challenges some students, some struggle with time management, others struggle with breaking tasks into smaller chunks and other executive functions. The challenges become even more significant in a residential environment where students need to adjust to living and learning independently while also developing new social groups. Parents may also need assistance in helping students transition into this new, more independent role. Presenters will share application-based ideas from real-time programs, presentations, and outreach as well as communication tips. Approaches are multi-faceted and incorporate a team structure including the student, parents, teachers, counselors, and other staff.
The session will focus on providing a more in-depth look at some of the particular resources successfully implemented at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. First of all, the Learning Strategies Coordinator maintains oversight for the support programs and is the key point person for students, parents, and staff. As such, she leads a weekly strategy meeting with key personnel including school counselors, college and academic counselors, school nurse, residential life staff and representatives from faculty. Presenters will share how the interactions of these staff members help to address issues of some of our most at-risk students proactively and how brainstorming together contributes to success. Supporting students through a leave of absence or the return from a concussion is coordinated through this team as well. Specialized study sessions to assist students academically emanated from this group.
Empowering students to help one another is an effective strategy. Presenters will share an overview of a successful peer tutor program along with suggestions for managing such a program. Our current peer tutor program places tutors in the main academic building during the day as well as in the residential hall and informational resource center in the evening and on weekends. Peer tutors are trained to support students effectively. Lead peer tutors take on a more defined role and provide direction to other tutors and organize more specific study sessions as needs arise. One such example is a Sunday evening finals preparation at the conclusion of each semester.
Often, students in a residential setting need an adult advocate beyond adults they regularly interact with to act as cheerleader, coach or just a sounding board. Staff volunteers throughout the academy serve in this important role which has had a powerful effect on some of our most at-risk students. Some students are assigned to be participants in the program while others choose to selfidentify. Presenters will share the program structure along with challenges and successes.
Finally, supporting the student often involves helping the parent as well. In addition to individual interactions, parents receive multiple touchpoints through group settings. Presenters will share suggestions for parent outreach and ideas for helping parents to navigate expectations.
Keck, Amy and Hinterlong, Diane, "Holistic Approach to Academic Support at Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy" (2019). Publications & Research. 7.