Keep Engaging and Challenging Advanced Learners

Chin-Wen "Jean" Lee and Debbie Dailey

Few people foresee the need to convert instructional modes beyond an extended spring break or a short-term school closure amid the outbreak of the coronavirus. However, with the uncertainty of a pandemic, returning to school during this academic year is not assured. We understand that successful remote instruction requires more than instructors’ efforts to modify instructional and assessment practices. Students are expected to possess minimum computer skills and digital literacy skills. Additionally, to continue their education, students will need access to Internet and electronic devices (including resources available in the community), assistance in family, and continuous guidance from the school district for their teachers. Unfortunately, many areas of the country are still without adequate access to internet services. With this in mind, schools and teachers need to be mindful of learning tasks that can be done with and without internet access.

This document is set out not to overwhelm educators, but to serve as guidance for educators to continue their job to engage and challenge students when teaching remotely. We point out the evidence-based practices included in the 2019 Pre-K-Grade 12 Gifted Programming Standards (Professional Standards Committee, 2019) that are specifically related to using technology to advance students’ learning experiences. Along with the Emergency Remote Instruction (ERI) Checklist for K-12 (Quality Matters [QM], 2020), we have some suggestions that can help educators plan for meaningful, challenging learning activities (see Table 1).

Many parents find their gifted children complete the two-week-long learning module in an hour. Try a passion project! Embedding a project filled with tasks that use analytical, evaluative, and creative thinking skills would challenge gifted learners and encourage them to persist in the learning experience. To increase the relevancy of the project, teachers or parents should consider using our current crisis (i.e., COVID-19) as part of the learning experience. Here are some tips:

  • Encourage students to keep a journal or to develop a project timeline. Create opportunities for students to self-reflect and self-assess their efforts. Expect progress, not perfection. Note. QM recommends providing students with timely feedback to enable them to track their learning progress (K-12 SRS 3.3 Assessment strategies provide learners with opportunities to reflect on their progress towards meeting course requirements and mastering learning objectives or competencies.)
  • Develop tasks so that they require students to exercise analytical, evaluative, and creative thinking skills.
  • Consider providing a way for students to share their projects with an audience. Using communication tools such as Flipgrid, Zoom, Skype, students can share their progress and product with teachers, students, or mentors. If they have no access to technology, students can create a paper-based project that can be mailed to the teacher for feedback or saved until school resumes.

Although many school districts have decided to run virtual classrooms, they also consider paper-based learning packets indispensable to continue the education of those who are economically disadvantaged. After all, remote learning does not equal online learning. Think about how students picked up new things before computers and the Internet were invented. These are some tips for you when a learning packet is you and your students’ learning management system (LMS):

  • Make the instructions in the learning packet self-explanatory.
  • Embed a self-assess system into each learning activity. Invite parents to participate in their children’s self-assess process.
  • Create a check-in procedure that works for you and students. Use the phone when there is no Internet!

To conclude, take the challenge to deliver remote instruction as a positive force to transform your teaching experience and your students’ learning experience. Remember to keep engaging and challenging your advanced learners who are staying at home.


Professional Standards Committee. (2019). 2019 Pre-K-Grade 12 Gifted programming standards. National Association for Gifted Children.

Quality Matters. (2019). Specific review standards from the QM K-12 rubric. Quality Matters.

Quality Matters. (2020). QM Emergency remote instruction checklist: K-12 education. Quality Matters.

About the authors: Chin-Wen “Jean” Lee is an educational consultant at Beyond Inclusion Educational Services and a member of the NAGC Professional Standards Committee and Education Committee. Her interests include gifted education, special education, teacher preparation and professional learning, and program evaluation.

Debbie Dailey is an assistant professor at the University of Central Arkansas, chair of NAGC's STEM Network, and co-chair of the NAGC Professional Standards Committee. Her interests include science education, engineering education, gifted education, teacher preparation, and professional development.

The views expressed here are not necessarily those of NAGC