Professional Development

Super Sunday Session

Professional Learning in Cluster Grouping and Acceleration: Translating Theory and Research into a Continuum of Inclusive Practices

Sunday, November 12
9:15 AM - 10:15 AM
Location: 217 BC

This panel of experienced educators discusses issues related to the gap between theory/research and effective classroom practices for PK-12 gifted learners. Although theory and research provide evidence to support cluster grouping and acceleration, translation into practice in PK-12 settings with gifted learners may be marginal at best. Because cluster grouping and acceleration span a continuum of research-based practices for gifted learners, PK-12 schools need professional development that incorporates their essential elements. Designed for teachers, administrators, and support personnel, this session recommends materials and strategies that translate theory and research into effective and inclusive practices for diverse gifted learners.

Connie Phelps

Director of Gifted Education and Professor
Emporia State University

Connie Phelps directs the Gifted Program and teaches graduate coursework in Gifted Education as Professor at Emporia State University in Kansas. She also serves as Director of the Great Plains Center for Gifted Studies, Historian for the Kansas Association for Gifted, Talented and Creative, Past-Chair of the National Association of Gifted Children Professional Development Network, editorial board member of Teaching for High Potential, and Coordinator for the Inventions dimension of the International Torrance Legacy Creativity Award. Her research areas include the assessment of creativity, gifted girls, underachievement, differentiating language arts curriculum and addressing the affective needs of gifted children. In Fall 2012, she conducted sabbatical research on high ability children with the LATI group at Paris Descartes University. She is co-editor for the Emporia State Research Studies journal and her recent publications include Parenting for High Potential, Torrance Journal for Applied Creativity, Gifted and Talented International and International Journal for Talent Development and Creativity. She holds memberships in the World Council for Gifted and Talented and Research on Gifted, Creative, and Talented SIG of AERA.


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Laurie Croft

Associate Director, Professional Development; Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development
University of Iowa

Laurie Croft is a clinical professor of gifted and talented education in the Department of Teaching and Learning, University of Iowa College of Education; she serves as the Associate Director for Professional Development at The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center in Gifted Education and Talent Development. She received her Bachelor of Arts (Honors) and Master of Arts degrees, both in History, from Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, respectively. She earned her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at the University of Tulsa, emphasizing gifted education. Research interests include the conceptual foundations of gifted education, professional development for teachers of the gifted, and teacher excellence. Croft has made presentations at various state, national, and international conferences, and to parent groups, teachers, and school boards. As well, she has experience facilitating professional development in gifted education for educators from around the world. At the Belin Blank Center, Croft is responsible for planning and coordinating the comprehensive program of classes and workshops in gifted education that enable educators to earn an endorsement in gifted education; as well, she supervises practicum experiences for teachers of the gifted. She develops new professional educational opportunities for teachers, has designed new courses in curriculum concepts and in program models in gifted education, and is developing a graduate certificate in talent development. Croft serves as the Honors Advisor for the College of Education Honors Opportunity Program, and she encourages undergraduates in the Teacher Education Program to complete coursework in gifted education, a shortage area in Iowa, as well as other states.


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Dina M. Brulles

Director of Gifted Education
Paradise Valley Unified School District

Dina Brulles, Ph.D., is the Director of Gifted Education at Paradise Valley Unified School District in Arizona where she has developed a continuum of gifted education programs, preschool through high school. The programs and services Dina oversees incorporate innovative uses of technology, enfranchise underrepresented populations and provide extensive professional development opportunities. She is also the Gifted Program Coordinator at Arizona State University.

Dina currently serves on the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) Board of Directors as the School District Representative. She has also served as president of her state gifted association, vice president of SENG, on NAGC Task Forces and on leadership teams of NAGC Networks. Dina was a co-recipient of the inaugural 2014 NAGC Gifted Coordinator Award and also the first NAGC Professional Development Network Award in 2013.

Dina co-authored the books, Differentiated Lessons for All Learners, The Cluster Grouping Handbook: How To Challenge Gifted Students and Improve Achievement For All, Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classrooms, and Helping All Gifted Children Learn, along with other publications and teacher training courses. Dina assists school districts in developing, supporting, and evaluating gifted programs with an emphasis on integrating current educational initiatives. Having implemented and supervised the Schoolwide Cluster Grouping Model, she has become a recognized expert in that practice.


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Elizabeth A. Fogarty

University of Minnesota

Dr. Elizabeth Fogarty is a Lecturer in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Minnesota where she coordinates the Reading Licensure. Liz was an associate professor of Elementary Education in the College of Education at East Carolina University. Her education includes a B.A. Elementary Education, Psychology, College of St. Benedict; an M.S. Gifted Education and Talent Development, Minnesota State University, Mankato; and a Ph.D. Educational Psychology, Gifted Education, Literacy concentration, University of Connecticut.

In 2006, she was recognized by the National Association for Gifted Children with the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award and in 2010 with the Early Leader Award. In 2013, she received the East Carolina Alumni Association Outstanding Teaching Award. Liz lives in Chaska, Minnesota with her husband and two children.


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Angela M. Novak

Assistant Professor
East Carolina University

Angela Novak was a teacher for 10 years in regular, special education, and gifted education settings. She has worked in the private-non-profit sector as well as in public school and central office settings. She is currently Assistant Professor at East Carolina University in Elementary and Middle Grades Education. She has a gifted endorsement through Shenandoah University, an MA in gifted education from the University of Connecticut and a doctoral degree in gifted education administration from The College of William and Mary. She has presented at the local, state and national levels on topics in gifted education including differentiation strategies, professional development, tiered assignments, curriculum compacting, gifted students in college, the social and emotional needs of gifted children, and Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities. She is the Past-Chair of NAGC's Professional Development Network.


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Karen L. Brown

Gifted Program Mentor
Paradise Valley Unified School District

Karen Brown is the Gifted Program Mentor for Paradise Valley School District. As a National Board Certified educator she works extensively with teachers in grades K-12 to ensure that the instruction and curriculum provides the appropriate challenge and support for all students. In her role as Gifted Program Mentor she supports administrators, teachers, parents, and students in both academics and social emotional areas. Karen teaches and facilitates classes in the Gifted Education Masters Program at ASU as well as consults with districts throughout the country on Curriculum Mapping, Common Core Implementation, Curriculum Implementation, Differentiation strategies, Depth of Knowledge and Depth and Complexity Training. Karen is the co-recipient of the 2013 NAGC Professional Development Award. Karen is a co-author of the recently released Differentiated Lessons for Every Learner.


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Christine L. Weber

University of North Florida

CHRISTINE WEBER is a Professor of Childhood Education in the Department of Childhood Education, Literacy and TESOL at the University of North Florida. She also serves on the Editorial Review Board for Gifted Child Today and co-edited the January 2012 issue on “Teacher Professionalism.” As the Principal Investigator of the Working on Gifted Issues Project, a grant project funded by the FDOE, the Florida’s Frameworks for K-12 Gifted Learners (2007) was developed. Weber has published many articles in Gifted Child Today, Gifted Education Press Quarterly, the Journal of Faculty Development, Voices in the Middle, Understanding Our Gifted, and Florida Educational Leadership. She has presented at Florida Association for the Gifted (FLAG), NAGC and the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children and the Asia Pacific Conference on Giftedness. She currently serves as the Representative Assembly for CEC-TAG, Chair-elect for the NAGC Professional Development Network, and Co-chair of Awards for the Research & Evaluation Network. Her recent books with co-authors Cecelia Boswell and Wendy Behrens include Differentiating Instruction for Gifted Learners: A Case Studies Approach (2016) and Exploring Critical Issues in Gifted Education: A Case Studies Approach (2014) which also received a 2014 Legacy Book Award nomination from the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT). These books present problem-based learning scenarios that explore authentic situations found in K–12 classrooms. The scenarios can be read and discussed in a short amount of time, allow the reader to gain greater understanding through empathy, require an analysis of multiple perspectives, and support the standards of excellence set forth in the 2010 NAGC Pre-K–Grade 12 Gifted Education Programming Standards.


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Professional Learning in Cluster Grouping and Acceleration: Translating Theory and Research into a Continuum of Inclusive Practices


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