The Morgridge College of Education (MCE) Curriculum and Instruction program with a specialization in Gifted Education has received approval from the Colorado Department of Education to offer coursework leading to Endorsement in the areas of Gifted Education Core, Gifted Education Specialist, and Gifted Education Director. All three endorsements were approved in the State Board meeting on June 13, 2018 and will take effect for the 2018-2019 academic year.

”This approval provides a platform for [MCE] to serve educators dedicated to improving the lives of gifted students,” said Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education. “Whether as a teacher serving gifted students in his or her classroom or a district level leader developing and implementing programs, our graduate students will be provided exemplary training to impact the field.”

The University of Denver has been a leader in education of the gifted for over four decades. Teacher and administrator training, research, professional development and direct service to children have provided both depth and breadth of community impact. The need for trained educators continues to expand as too often children go unrecognized and are frequently underserved. The three endorsement programs provide multiple levels of training and opportunities resulting in impact on schools, children and families.

  • Gifted Education Core can be achieved through the MCE’s Teaching and Learning Sciences Teacher Education Program (TEP) and can also be met through a certificate program.
  • Gifted Education Specialist standards may be achieved via two different pathways; students complete a Masters level degree as part of TEP with a cognate in Gifted Education and then take additional coursework to address the specialist level standards; or, students meet the Specialist level standards through a Masters level degree separate from TEP.
  • Gifted Education Director standards are incorporated into the Education Doctorate (EdD). The Director of Gifted Education training is a combination of Gifted Education, Initial Administrator preparation, Curriculum and Instruction training, and Research Methods.

The next available term for the Gifted Education cohort is Summer 2019; applications for the 2019 term are open now.

Morgridge College of Education graduate Dr. Jennie Mizrahi (EdD ’18) has been awarded the John Laska Dissertation Award in Curriculum from the American Association of Teaching and Curriculum (AATC). According to the AATC, each year it recognizes two outstanding dissertations in teaching and curriculum that best represent its mission and founder, Dr. John Laska. Laska earned his doctoral degree from Teachers College and was a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The University of Texas at Austin from 1967 until his death in 1995.

Mizrahi’s award-winning dissertation, Underachievement of Creatively Gifted High School Students, tackles why under achievement is a common issue with gifted students, specifically creatively gifted students who may be at greater risk because of personality traits, lack of challenge in strength areas, a mismatch between school environment and student needs, low status associated with creative achievements and behaviors in the school system, and other factors.

“I am humbled by the honor,” Mizrahi said, “and hope that this will give me an opportunity to help raise awareness of the issues faced by creative underachievers so that we as educators may better meet their needs.”

Her research focused on “…six creatively gifted, underachieving high school students from an urban-cluster area in the western United States. A hermeneutic phenomenological approach was used to gather data in the form of interviews with underachieving, creatively gifted students, their parents, and teachers; observation of classrooms; and creative artifacts to uncover the essence of the experience of underachievement for these stakeholders. These data groups were then compared to each other and existing literature to help generate recommendations for changes in school programming and practice for helping this student population.”

According to Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education at the University of Denver and Mizrahi’s academic advisor, Mizrahi’s conclusions “focus and elaborate on the themes of emotionality, learning versus achievement, shaping the student self, motivation and power, and student creativity in crises.”

Mizrahi’s results saw creative high school students, their parents, and their teachers experience underachievement in many ways. According to her, several major themes emerged; the first was the interaction of creativity and underachievement, which included differences in priorities and contradictory goals for various participants in various contexts. The second was motivation. Participants tended to discount or undervalue intrinsic motivation for creative tasks and experienced lack of motivation for school tasks (often seen as “hoop jumping”) as a character flaw on the part of the student, who was often viewed as having a poor work ethic. Participants had little understanding and no tools for increasing motivation. The third theme was the student self. All three sets of participants had similar perceptions of the student self, but the conflict between student needs and student perceived self, and the values and expectations at school and at home placed students sense of self under threat. The fourth theme was power. While a sense of student autonomy is key for creativity and academic success, when students underachieved, parents and teachers tended to exert types of power which undermined student autonomy, sometimes triggering reactance (rebellion against the attempted power influence) in an attempt to protect student autonomy and sense of self.

Mizrahi recommended separate support groups be formed for parents and students, a review of grading policy and goals at the school site, and the formation of a gifted and talented program at the site to help advocate for students and train teachers in differentiated curriculum and the needs of gifted students. The gifted and talented program would also provide extension and exploration opportunities for students.

“Dr. Mizrahi was an exceptional graduate student, a leader in her cohort and a meticulous and thorough researcher,” Hafenstein added. “Simultaneously, her passion for the arts and for a special population of gifted students created the context in which this extraordinary project occurred.”

Part of her award includes a one-year membership to AATC, a conference fee waiver to the annual AATC meeting where the award will be presented, and an invitation to present the dissertation at an AATC conference session. Mizrahi will accept her award and present in person at the 25th AATC annual meeting in Dallas, Texas in October 2018.

Faculty member Norma Hafenstein, Ph.D., has been named the Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair in Gifted Education. The Chair reflects the University of Denver’s—and the Morgridge College of Education’s (MCE)—long history of commitment to gifted education through service to gifted children, training of teachers to serve children’s needs, and support of doctoral research around giftedness.

Dr. Hafenstein’s award-winning professional career spans numerous positions in leadership and scholarship. She is a Full Clinical Professor—and former Ricks Endowed Chair for Gifted Education—in the Teaching and Learning Sciences (TLS) department at MCE. She founded the Ricks Center for Gifted Children, a PS-8 school on the DU campus, in 1984. In addition, she founded the Institute for the Development of Gifted Education in 1997, which has moved to a dormant phase. The work of the Institute will be subsumed by the Ritchie Endowed Chair, and the widely respected annual conference on gifted education will continue to be offered.  The cast bronze bell at the entrance of the Ricks Center carrying the inscription, “Dr. Norma Hafenstein, Our Founder”, was a gift from former Chancellor Ritchie, and is tuned with the carillon at the Ritchie Center.

The impact of the gifted programming in MCE extends beyond the DU campus. In 2013, MCE launched an Ed.D. with a Specialization in Gifted Education in the TLS department. Led by Dr. Hafenstein, students work on research and impact projects such as training preschool teachers to understand giftedness, working with principals to implement school gifted programs, and examining social and emotional curricula for gifted learners.

Dr. Hafenstein’s accolades include the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented Lifetime Achievement Award and DU’s Outstanding Service to the University Award. She is the Co-Principal Investigator on a federally-funded Jacob K. Javits state grant for Right 4 Rural (R4R), a project developed in collaboration with the Colorado Department of Education. R4R focuses on the identification of and service to underrepresented gifted children in rural Colorado. Additional research work includes E-RiDGE, a Bradley Foundation-funded project to measure the impact of doctoral training at the student-service level.

Dr. Hafenstein presents extensively on giftedness at national and international conferences. Upcoming engagements include the National Association for Gifted Children, where she will give three presentations at the 2016 conference titled, Evaluation and Replicability in Doctoral Gifted Education: Impact and Implications; Radical Acceleration: When is it Time to Imagine Early College Attendance; and Giftedness in Rural Poverty: What do we Know? Furthermore, Dr. Hafenstein has presented at the International Dabrowski Congress, Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted Annual Conference (SENG), World Council on Gifted and Talented Children Biennial World Conference (WCGTC), and the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting (AERA).

The Daniel L. Ritchie Endowed Chair of Gifted Education was established in October 2016 by the Considine Family Foundation, making it the fourth endowed chair in the Morgridge College of Education. The College expresses its gratitude to the foundation for this generous gift.


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