Research & Evaluation

Combined Concurrent

Out of the Darkness: Using Problem-Based Learning to Reveal Potential in English Language Learners

Friday, November 10
1:55 PM - 2:15 PM
Location: 213 D

English Language Learners are historically underidentified and underserved by gifted programs. High-ability ELL students face linguistic challenges that result in disparity in achievement when compared with other high-ability students. This session examines the use of Problem-Based Learning in diverse seventh grade English classrooms to identify students with gifted potential. Data from the first three years of Project ExCEL, a Jacob K. Javits project, are shared. Findings support the use of PBL as a universal screening, as it yields a significantly higher number of ELL students identified for gifted services and helps narrow the achievement gap.

Nancy Holincheck

Assistant Professor
George Mason University

Dr. Nancy Holincheck is an Assistant Professor of Education with the Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning program at George Mason University. She earned a PhD in education with a specialization in teaching and teacher education as well as an MS in applied and engineering physics from George Mason University. Among her research interests are teacher education, teacher research, STEM education, problem solving and problem-based learning. Holincheck previously taught education courses in education policy, education research, and science education at American University, and she taught teacher research courses to master’s students at George Mason. A National Board Certified Teacher since 2001, Holincheck began her teaching career as a high school physics teacher in Fairfax County, Virginia and most recently taught at Chantilly High School in Chantilly, Virginia.

Dr. Holincheck is currently involved as Project Evaluator on Project ExCEL, a 5-year research project funded by a Jacob Javits grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Project ExCEL explores the use of PBL to aid in the identification of gifted students at the middle school level, with a particular goal of identifying students who have historically been under-represented in gifted education, including low-income students and English language learners.

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Anne Horak

Coordinator, Project ExCEL
George Mason University

Anne Horak is an Assistant Professor and Coordinator for Project ExCEL, a federally funded Jacob K. Javits grant, at George Mason University. Project ExCEL uses Problem-Based Learning as a universal screening platform to find and serve high ability low income students. Dr. Horak has conducted research demonstrating the efficacy of PBL in middle school classrooms of gifted students (Horak, 2013).
Dr. Horak received her PhD in Education from George Mason University, her M.Ed in Advanced Studies in Teaching and Learning from George Mason University and her B.A. in Secondary Education from the State University of New York College at Oswego. Her research interests include Problem-Based Learning, Gifted Education, Educational Policy and Teacher Professional Development.
Prior to joining the faculty at Mason, Dr. Horak served as Advanced Academic Program Specialist for Middle School for Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) where she was integral to supporting the transition to open enrollment and developing the Problem-Based Learning curriculum. For two years, Dr. Horak was on special assignment for FCPS as a liaison to George Mason University managing a collaborative effort by the two agencies to establish a laboratory school. Dr. Horak has also taught middle school English and Social Studies in North Carolina and Virginia.

Presentation(s):

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Kelley Webb

Doctoral Student
George Mason University

Kelley Webb is a PhD student at George Mason University and Graduate Research Assistant with Project ExCEL, a federally-funded Javits grant that uses Problem-based Learning (PBL) for identifying high-ability, low-income students for potential gifted characteristics. Kelley is a former middle school Spanish teacher and international educator. Her doctoral studies are in International Education and Teaching and Teacher Education.

Presentation(s):

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Steven J. Nagy

Graduate Research Assistant
George Mason University

I am a second year Ph.D. student at George Mason University, specializing in Educational Leadership with a secondary emphasis in Educational Psychology and International Education. I have been working with Project ExCEL, a JAVITS grant, for the last two years. My current research interests revolve around the teacher-student relationship and its ability to impact school climate.

Presentation(s):

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Maria Rybicki

Graduate Research Assistant
George Mason University

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Holly D. Glaser

Graduate Research Assistant
George Mason University

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