Category Archives: PBL

Empowering Student Voice in Gifted Education


This week at Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT on Twitter, we chatted about what a choice-driven classroom looks like and why is it important. A truly choice-driven classroom goes far being a choice of menu options – it’s empowering students to control their learning. Full stop. It values a student’s ability to choose while at the same time providing appropriate supports and guidance. Not all students … even GT … will adapt to this new way of learning easily. A choice-driven classroom gives voice to topics explored, grouping, scaffolding, assessment and final product expectations; and, it embodies the ideal that education is preparation for a life well lived and a civil right for all students; including GT.

“A choice driven classroom has students that are engaged because they are empowered to learn about what they like, how they like, and/or their input is valued in how they demonstrate knowledge and mastery.” ~ Amy RogersAdvanced Academics Coordinator for Willis ISD, TX

Gifted students need to be provided tangible ways to express their voice and have those sentiments respected if they are to take ownership of their own learning. They must have a viable option for submitting feedback on a regular basis and have it validated through time response in the classroom. Teachers need to be ready to relinquish control to some extent … motivation for GT students requires independence and developing leadership qualities in students with authenticity being the driver.

How do you incorporate student choice in the classroom? The Choose2Matter movement and Angela Maiers have great suggestions for incorporating student choice: good old-fashioned brainstorming, surveying student interests, debating topics, and voting as final affirmation. Outside the classroom resources can lend direction and authentic responses to student choice via conferences organized and led by students and positive participation on social media platforms. Teachers modeling the ‘process of choice’ can reduce the possibility of risk-aversion by making sure students understand choice works and affects their entire lives.

This topic begs the question, should students choose everything? Students do not control the classroom – they are participants and are subject to the same constraints there that are present in life … civility, available time, prior learning. Adapting to a choice-driven approach to learning still requires educators to provide guidance to their students. The idea of potentially limiting choices in a choice-driven classroom is not the antithesis of such but the validation that it is a ‘process’ and not a ‘result’. Guard rails as guide-rails suddenly makes sense.

How do you assess the learning if students are choosing to do such different things? Assessments must reflect the reality of choice-driven classrooms … students must have responsible influence in how their work is assessed. Authentic assessment includes self-reflection, peer assessment, response to personal inquiry. Choice-driven learning embodies personalized learning and this should include a modest level of one-on-one periodical engagement between teachers and students; again in validation of process. John Spencer suggests that switching to standards-based grading honors a mastery mindset, allows for mistakes and renewal – a good match for choice-driven classrooms.

Far too often, students become accustomed to being told what to do and what is expected of them. Providing choice is a risky undertaking for all stakeholders – gifted students know this and can assess the risk/benefit outcomes. Adults in the room can respect student voice and choice at the same time supporting those choices – ownership of learning increases engagement, critical thinking and ultimately student success. A transcript of this chat can be found at Wakelet.


At the beginning of 2019, the team from Global #gtchat Powered by #TAGT welcomes you all to the New Year!



Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Thursdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Fridays at 2PM NZST/Noon AEST/1 AM UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Wakelet. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news and information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the authorLisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:



5 Tips for Getting Started with Student Choice

Ten Ways to Leverage Student Choice in Your Classroom

What happens when kids struggle with student choice?

Taking Choice Menus to the Next Level for Student Ownership

Student Voice: Inspiring & Empowering Students to Take Charge of their Education

Motivation, Engagement & Student Voice (pdf)

Activating Student Voice Empowers Learning (pdf)

Eight Ways to Encourage Student Voice

Deepening Student Voice and Empowerment

Guiding Students to Drive Their Curriculum

8 Ways to Empower Student Voice in your Classroom

Listening to Student Voice: Toward a More Holistic Approach to School Leadership

How Student Voice Can Inform Assessment for Learning in Schools

Cybraryman’s Student Voice Page

Cybraryman’s What Students Want Page

Extending Student Voice to Gifted Students

Student Voice: Listening to Gifted Learners

Student Voice Menus

What is an Innovation Class…and Why Do You Need One?

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.


Phenomenon-Based Learning


Phenomenon-based learning is a cutting edge approach to education pioneered in Finland. It “does not include a strict set of rules, but rather comprises a combination of beliefs and best practices supported by ongoing research. In this approach, a classroom observes a real-life scenario or phenomenon – such as a current event or situation present in the student’s world – and analyzes it through an interdisciplinary approach.” [ref] In other words, it is the ultimate in project-based learning.

The benefits of phenomenon-based learning include showing students value in theories and information in the learning situation. Students use authentic methods, sources and tools; learning is intentional and goal-oriented.

Phenomenon-based learning is not without its critics. They believe it stretches students too thin; they become deterred from excelling in a particular field. Veteran teachers have resisted phenomenon-based learning; reluctant to give up authority in the classroom to students. They question the lack of providing prior knowledge to students before embarking on phenomenon-based learning. News reports in error stated that phenomenon-based learning replaces teaching traditional subjects which it does not.

Other types of learning can complement phenomenon-based learning. These include project-based learning; Socratic learning; and flipped-classrooms. It also works well with makerspaces and is responsive to student voice. Lisa Van Gemert added, “Essential Questions and the Depth & Complexity models both complement it as well.”

Phenomenon-based learning  can be used to meet the diverse needs of all students. Students from all backgrounds benefit from the structure and flexibility of phenomenon-based learning. Teachers can decide on potential project topics based on students background knowledge and personal experiences.

What strategies can teachers use to transition to phenomenon-based learning? Teachers should be open to altering teaching routines and mindsets; become well-versed in collaborative teaching. Transitioning to phenomenon-based learning does not mean abandoning traditional subject-based teaching. A transcript of this chat can be found at Storify.

Global #gtchat Powered by the Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented  is a weekly chat on Twitter. Join us Tuesdays at 8E/7C/6M/5P in the U.S. and Wednesdays at 13.00 NZST/11.00 AEST/Midnight UK  to discuss current topics in the gifted community and meet experts in the field. Transcripts of our weekly chats can be found at Storify. Our Facebook Page provides information on the chat and news & information regarding the gifted community. Also, checkout our Pinterest Page and Playlist on YouTube.

Head Shot 2014-07-14  About the author: Lisa Conrad is the Moderator of Global #gtchat Powered        by TAGT and Social Media Manager of the Global #gtchat Community. She is a longtime  advocate for gifted children and also blogs at  Gifted Parenting Support. Lisa can be contacted at:


Phenomenon-Based Learning: What is PBL?

Personally Meaningful Learning through Phenomenon-Based Classes

Finland: Replacing Subject with Phenomenon Based Learning (YouTube 3:39)

Finland’s Phenomenon Based Learning (YouTube 7:10)

Finland Education Reform Introduces Phenomenon-Based Teaching

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where & Why It Happens (Amazon)

Finland’s School Reforms Won’t Scrap Subjects Altogether

Phenomenon Based Learning Teaching by Topics

General Aspects of Basic Education Curriculum Reform 2016 Finland (pdf)

Notes on the School of the Future and the Future of Learning 

Using Physical Science Gadgets & Gizmos, Grades 6-8: Phenomenon-Based Learning (Hawker Brownlow)

Learning and Teaching with Phenomenon

Elementary Science Phenomena Checklist and Bank (Google Doc)

Concern, Creativity, Compliance: Phenomenon of Digital Game-Based Learning in Norwegian Education

How to Come Up With an Engaging Phenomenon to Anchor a Unit (pdf)

Switching Gears into Transdisciplinary Learning

Georgia Science Teachers: Science GSE Phenomena Bank

Phenomenon Based Learning Rubric (pdf)

Work the Matters: The Teacher’s Guide to Project-Based Learning (pdf)

Phenomenon for NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards)

Using Phenomena in NGSS-Designed Lessons and Units (pdf)

Qualities of a Good Anchor Phenomenon for a Coherent Sequence of Science Lessons (pdf)

Phenomenon-based Learning: A Case Study

Jack Andraka: A Promising Test for Pancreatic Cancer … from a Teenager (TED talk)

Phenomena-Based Learning and Digital Content

Photo courtesy of Pixabay   CC0 Public Domain

Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.

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