Grantwriting for Gifted Educators – Program Evaluation Support

Since it’s still January, let’s continue discussing our professional goals for the new year. Let’s focus on your goal to start or increase the success of your grant funding efforts – or maybe that is a goal of your superintendent or department chair.

January is a great time to begin working toward that goal, and as a professional program evaluator and frequent contributor to grant applications, I am both equipped and glad to help you. If you are thinking, “Hm, perhaps my organization can finally write for or be awarded one of these grants this year”, read on!

Grant writing meeting
Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Over the past 15 years, I have led a team of evaluators, statisticians, and data collectors at Censeo Group, an external evaluation consulting firm. We support school districts, state departments of education, faculty, and grantmakers in implementing and measuring the impact of grant-funded activities. We help educators craft evaluation and research sections of grant proposals and ensure that goals, activities, plans, and personnel are aligned. Our team has evaluated programs across the country at the K12 and postsecondary levels in formal and informal education settings. We have worked with educators who are creating curriculum units and teacher professional development aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Minecraft activities to help middle school boys and girls develop spatial skills, literacy initiatives, mathematics and Earth science teacher professional development, and online learning for gifted students in language arts instruction.

Censeo Group is currently the external evaluator of a newly-funded School Climate Transformation Grant (SCTG), and we are familiar with federal evaluation requirements for proposal writing and evaluation reporting. We have extensive experience evaluating US Department of Education awards – from Reading Excellent Act and Reading First grants in the 1990s to Javits and current SCTG grant awards.

The Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Program at the U.S. Department of Education is by far the largest and most focused grant program for gifted educators. The 2019 appropriation for this program was $12,000,000. As of this writing, there is no information posted about the FY 2020 Javits competition, but if the timeline is consistent with the 2019 competition, the grant application could be available in early May and deadline to submit in early June. The FY2019 competition was open to state educational agencies, local educational agencies, the Bureau of Indian Education, institutions of higher education, and other public and private agencies and organizations. If you are thinking about submitting a Javits grant proposal , we can help you by discussing your project ideas and evaluation plan so that perhaps your program can be one of this year’s Javits awardees.

A good deal of Censeo Group’s evaluation work is with Primary Investigators funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). We are knowledgeable about the formal and informal education grant programs and can help you tailor your proposal for the NSF. A number of completed NSF grants have focused specifically on services for or the study of gifted learners in informal settings, through the NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) grant program, including projects at the Belin-Blank Center and at the University of Connecticut Neag. Gifted researchers at the University of North Texas received an Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program award and researchers at George Washington University (OSPrI project) and SRI International (iSTEM project) received funding through the Discovery Research PreK-12 (DRK-12) program.

Currently, 24 active National Science Foundation (NSF) grants include gifted students in project activities. The majority of these projects, funded by specific NSF science directorates, focus on basic science research and include gifted students in summer experiences or lab visits. For example, the Division of Astronomical Sciences (AST) funded a study of faint dwarf galaxies at Ohio State University (NSF award number 1615838) that includes, as a small component, a dwarf-galaxy-hunting project for gifted high-school students attending a summer program, scholarships for students to attend the program, and a video blog (vlog) and a guide for students interested in scientific careers.

Censeo Group evaluators could support NSF-funded projects that include gifted learners in several ways:

  • Measure changes in student STEM attitudes, learning, and career interest as a result of their engagement in project activities.
  • Investigate the methods and impact of mentoring provided by undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Study the impact of mentoring on project staff.
  • Measure the impact of the summer learning experience and activities.
  • Support building curriculum materials from summer programs into robust learning experiences for informal or formal science settings.
  • Study the process of implementation, and the factors that supported or interfered with project activities in order to improve implementation in subsequent years.
  • Support and evaluate the effectiveness of dissemination and communication efforts.

If you have an idea for a grant submission that you would like to discuss, please email me at Tania@CenseoGroup.com. We would love to work with you to develop your idea and support your grant writing and grant evaluation efforts to increase research and effective programming for gifted learners. Censeo Group prides itself on helping clients not only set their goals but also attain them!

Creativity and Design Based Learning – Applications to Gifted Education

One of the domains measured by the Gifted Rating Scale is creativity. When we think about creativity, we often think about its role in artistic endeavors. In today’s blog, I wanted to highlight the importance of creativity in research, engineering design, and design-based practices and offer several resources about these practices in gifted education.

At Censeo Group, the external evaluation firm that I lead, our portfolio includes a number of science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) evaluation projects. Our evaluation team often supports faculty who are developing and researching the effects of STEM curriculum materials and instructional practices on student learning. We recently completed a project supported by the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program. The University of Akron Zip to STEM team developed a curriculum unit that integrated engineering and technology into force and motion science instruction. Middle school students in the Akron Public Schools (APS) used technology, including CAD software and a virtual wind tunnel, to design, test, and race a soap box derby mini car. Through this project, 8th grade APS students had the opportunity to experience hands-on, engaging learning, use technology, and apply science concepts to a practical task.

Activities that incorporate the engineering design process or design based learning allow students to engage in hands-on, applied projects in which they search for problems, investigate the viewpoints of those who use a product or engage with a system, work with diverse teammates who bring different perspectives to problem solving, analyze their proposed solution, and iterate to improve solutions. Design based learning processes guide students to deep learning around a practical problem for which students propose solutions.

A recent episode of Bonni Stachowiak’s Teaching in Higher Education Podcast with guest Nicola Ulibarri provides a great introduction to design thinking and the importance of creativity in research and design endeavors. Dr. Ulibarri’s recently-published book, Creativity in Research, is a good resource for researchers and for teachers who are supporting student-led research activities. Although the podcast focuses on teaching in higher education, there are many ideas relevant to K12 educators and gifted education.

Below is a list of articles and books that discuss engineering design and design based thinking in gifted education that provide a good start to learn more about this topic.