Recently, two educational psychology projects in the Neag School of Education have received grants totaling almost $5 million to perform research in different areas of education for gifted and talented students. The grant, which was funded by the Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, is helping provide money to two different professors and their research teams. Each team is working on a different topic of educational psychology. However, both are ultimately aimed at improving the education experience for gifted and talented students to make learning more challenging and valuable to each individual student.
The first of these two projects to receive funding is called Project LIFT (Learning Informs Focused Teaching). This research initiative, which received $2.4 million of grant money, is aimed at improving the educational experience for students that show high potential, but may come from backgrounds where they are not offered the right opportunities to achieve this potential. Principle investigator and professor of educational psychology Catherine Little aims to “focus on how general education teachers are equipped to support the needs of advanced learners within the context of serving all the learners they support”.
The other project receiving funding for this grant is more specifically geared towards mathematics education. This project, entitled “Thinking Like Mathematicians: Challenging All Grade 3 Students,” has received $2.5 million in funding over the next five years through the Javits Act and aims to “[provide] challenging curriculum to promote talent development among all students in academically and culturally diverse schools”. Principal investigator for this project, Professor E. Jean Gubbins, is leading the team to improve the coursework appropriate for gifted students from all backgrounds and is hoping to revamp and add to previously funded research efforts revolving around the same topic.
Both research efforts are especially important regarding how standards are currently set within education. While the current common core curriculum aims to put students on an equal playing field regarding what information they are taught, students that are higher achieving or have a propensity towards learning may not be able to reach their full potential under these circumstances. This can also lead to many highly achieving students becoming bored in class or not paying attention, which can also cause them to do poorly despite being well equipped to perform strongly in school. Having research dedicated specifically to these children, who can easily be left behind by instructors who find them self-sufficient, shows UConn is using their resources to benefit a greater population within education, even those groups that may not seem in need of extra attention. By trying to make the educational experience more rewarding for students of all abilities, UConn is helping improve these students’ lives while they continue to go through the school system, and in their bright futures to come.