Center for International Education
Photo: Anne Horak Photo: Beverly Shaklee Photo: Kimberley Daly

How can we identify students with high potential?
What are some characteristics teachers can look for in students?
How do we recognize students who might missed by traditional identification measures in American public schools?

These questions and more are the focus of a group of GMU CEHD professors. Drs. Anne Horak, Beverly Shaklee, and Kimberley Daly among others, have been working with schools in different districts across three different states through Project ExCEL-Ignite (E-Ignite).

Project E-Ignite is a scale-up of another successful grant, Project ExCEL (S206A140022). Project ExCEL was five-year grant (2014-2019) funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Jacob K. Javits Program to increase identification of potentially gifted students during middle school. E-Ignite (S206A190025) is also funded by the Jacob K. Javits Program and extends the work of Project ExCEL to new states, districts, and schools. Both grants use problem-based learning (PBL) as the foundation of their work and are guided by The ExCEL Model, a systemic process for implementing the evidence and outcomes of the research in a coherent, viable, and cost-effective program.

Figure 1
The ExCEL Model

Project E-Ignite is funded for $2,986,876 over five years (2019-2024). During the 2020 – 2021 academic year, the E-Ignite Project Team completed a redesign of their professional learning program from a face-to-face format to an online format, maintained contact with partnering school districts, worked on other project dissemination, revised research measures necessary for project implementation, and developed new problem-based learning units.

Currently, Project E-Ignite has partnerships with Virginia Beach City Public Schools, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (FL), and Charleston County School District (SC). The project will move into implementation this fall. Teachers from three to five different schools in each district will receive professional learning about equity gaps, problem-based learning, and attributes of giftedness through the Problem of Practice Professional Learning Experiences (POPPLE). These sessions will equip teachers with the knowledge and resources needed to identify students and implement PBL units.

Project E-Ignite also employs graduate research assistants and undergraduate OSCAR students at Mason. They are an integral part of the team as they assist in collecting and analyzing data, creating research measures, developing curriculum, and supporting project implementation. E-Ignite team members are also frequent presenters at conferences including the National Association of Gifted Children (NAGC) Annual Conference and the National Curriculum Network Conference and are currently working on three presentations for the NAGC 2021 conference in November.