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Independent Study

Independent Study Projects (ISP) for Gifted and Talented Students

                  in the Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1



Independent study is the most frequently recommended instructional strategy

in programs for gifted and talented students and is included in the majority of

introductory texts as a means of differentiating and individualizing instruction

(Clark, 2002; Colangelo and Davis, 2003; Davis and Rimm, 1998; Feldhusen,

Van Tassel Baska, & Seeley, 1989; Gallagher and Gallagher, 1994;

Parker, 1989; Swassing, 1985; Treffinger, 1986).


Gifted students like instructional strategies that emphasize independence such

as independent study and discussion. As a result, students will have the

understanding that:


·         Independent study is the process you apply when you research a new topic

      by yourself, or with others.

·         Students conduct self-directed research projects that are carefully planned

      with the teacher and are monitored frequently.

·         Independent study projects are an opportunity to complete real world investigations.

·         Through real world investigations the ISP provides students the opportunity to think,

      feel, and act like a practicing professional.

·         ISP is a planned research process that is facilitated by the teacher and focuses on

      lifelike problems that go beyond the regular classroom setting.


Independent Study Models:


·         Renzulli’s Enrichment Triad Model (1977a; Renzulli and Reis, 1997)

·         Three Stage Model (Feldhusen, Kolloff, 1986)

·         Self-Initiated Learning Model (Treffinger, 1975, 1978, 1986)

·         Autonomous Learner Model (Betts. Kercher, 1999)


Guidelines for ISP:


·         Don’t confuse aptitude with skill.

·         Identify independent study skills.

·         Adapt as the student changes.

·         Use different types of research. The internet should not be

      the only resource.

·         Make it a part of the regular program, not an addition.

·         Monitor progress and products.

·         Develop an appropriate evaluation. (Rubric for the unit)

·         Believe in the student’s ability and be a model.


The Process: For student Instruction


Step One: Introduce Independent Study

·         Define the process

·         Give student a plan to manage their work

·         Teach students the importance of meeting deadlines

·         Provide a calendar with due dates as the study progresses


Step Two: Teach selecting a topic

·         Provide ideas to help students select something to study

·         Questions for students that will help them narrow their study topic

·         Provide a list of resources students may use to narrow their search


Step Three: Organizing the study

·         Teach the students “mapping” skills

·         Organizational structures: descriptions, comparisons,

      cause and effect.

·         This area should lead to students asking questions.


Step Four: Students ask questions

·         Teach students about good study questions that may produce several

      possible answers.

·         Blooms Taxonomy is a good framework to use for students in the

      questions section of the process.

·         “Most Thinking Questions” can only be answered if the student creates

      and evaluates new information


Step Five: Choosing a study method

·         Students will explore study methods besides the library

      and the Internet


Step Six: Gathering information

·         Oral interviews, surveys, reading, observing, listening are all

      ways to gather information.

·         Internet, journals, and abstracts are a few more ways to

      gather information


Step Seven: Developing a product

·         Written reports are not the only way to present an independent study.

·         Graphs, bulletin boards, oral presentation, timelines, hands-on, visual,

      the arts, making artifacts, and on-line media are all possibilities.


Step Eight: Sharing information

·         Oral Presentation and display are both good processes for sharing.

·         Discussion with the students about public speaking and best practices

      for success.


Step Nine: Evaluating the study (Rubric)

·         Both summative and formative.

·         Was it well planned?

·         Was the research extensive?

·         Were a multitude of resources used?

·         Did I write probing study questions?



·         A rubric evaluates the performance of an assignment.

·         Teachers use a rubric as a scoring tool to assess what

      a student learns after a lesson or the completion of a project.

·         Look at the Rubric for this project.


                                                       Independent Study Project Rubric



Not There   Yet

Student did not understand the concept (s)


Student did not use appropriate strategies


Student did not complete the steps in order




Student has some understanding of the concept


Student shows some thinking skills


Student completed the steps with help



Good   Quality

Student understanding of the concept is evident


Student uses appropriate strategies to get results


Student shows thinking skills to arrive at conclusions




Student has complete understanding of the concept


Student used effective strategies to get positive results


Student completed assignments in a timely manner and

showed excellent work





Betts, G.T., & Kercher, J.K. (2001). The autonomous learner model: Optimizing

ability. Greeley, CO: ALPS.


Johnsen, S. K., Goree, K. K. (2009) “Teaching gifted students through independent

study”. In F. Karnes & S. Bean (Eds.) Strategies for teaching gifted students

(pp. 415-445). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.


Renzulli, J. S., & Reis, S. M. (1997). The school-wide enrichment model: A how to

guide for educational excellence (2nd ed.). Mansfield Center, CT: Creative

Learning Press.


                                              Websites (Colorado Department of Education)

Go to standards/instruction, the Colorado Standards, then Science.


History/Social Studies for K-12 Teachers-



Ivy’s Search Engine Resources for Kids- (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted)


The Math Forum-




400 North Elm Street | Cortez, CO 81321 | Phone: 970.565.7522