Advanced Independent Studies

What is an Advanced Independent Study?

Students who are identified as gifted/talented may choose to enroll in Advanced Independent Studies for high school credit. Each semester of study is .5 credits that can be either elective or core credit, depending on the focus of study and approval of a content-area teacher.  Depending on the selected model of study, students may choose to work independently, in pairs, or in small groups to complete a project.  Students may choose to register for Advanced Independent Studies during the school day or outside of the school day, depending on course loads, co-curricular activities, and student learning styles.  Periodic conferences will be scheduled with the G/T Specialist and/or the supervising content-area specialist in accordance with each student's project action plan.

Advanced Independent Studies are tailor-made by each student in conjunction with the G/T Specialist using one of the three models listed below. Each model reflects best practice in 21st century learning and gifted education, and with each model students will learn how to develop the sixteen Habits of Mind developed by Emeritus Professor of Education Art Costa and Dr. Bena Kallick.  These Habits of Mind build on the Leader in Me conceptual framework students learned in elementary and middle school:

  • Persisting
  • Managing Impulsivity
  • Listening With Understanding and Empathy
  • Thinking Flexibly
  • Thinking About Thinking (Metacognition)
  • Striving For Accuracy and Precision
  • Questioning and Posing Problems
  • Applying Past Knowledge to New Situations
  • Thinking and Communicating with Clarity and Precision
  • Gathering Data through All Senses
  • Creating, Imagining, and Innovating
  • Responding with Wonderment and Awe
  • Taking Responsible Risks
  • Finding Humor
  • Thinking Interdependently
  • Remaining Open to Continuous Learning

If a student is interested in developing an Independent Advanced Study, s/he needs to see the G/T Specialist (room 234) to begin the project development process.

Autonomous Learner Model

This model was developed by George Betts and Jolene Kercher in order to help gifted/talented students develop the self-directed learning skills necessary for both postsecondary success and lifelong learning. In this model, students drive their own learning process and the adults in the model are facilitators, helping students navigate the five dimensions of the Autonomous Learner Model (ALM).

1. Orientation: understanding giftedness, talent, intelligence, and creativity; understanding group process and engaging in group building activities; exploring the "self" and personal development; understanding personal responsibility involved in learning

2. Individual Development: inter/intrapersonal understanding; awareness of learning skills; use of technology; university/career awareness; organizational and productivity skills

3. Enrichment: high school and/or PSEO courses; explorations/investigations; cultural activities; community service; camps or retreats


4. Seminars: small group presentations of futuristic, problematic, controversial, general interest or advanced knowledge topics (may present to peers, teachers, parents, community members, etc.)

5. In-Depth Study: individual projects, group projects, mentorships/internships, presentations, assessment of self and others


Students selecting this model will develop a course of study based on the five ALM dimensions. Topics should be based on a passion or high interest area (such as a possible career), and can be flexible as the project develops. This model requires the most exploration of self and what it means to be gifted, which is an area of study may g/t students will find intriguing, affirming, and stimulating.

Enrichment Triad Model

According to Joseph S. Renzulli and Sally M. Reis, co-creators of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model (SEM) and the Enrichment Triad Model:

The Enrichment Triad Model was designed to encourage creative productivity on the part of young people by exposing them to various topics, areas of interest, and fields of study, and to further train them to apply advanced content, process-training skills, and methodology training to self-selected areas of interest. Accordingly, three types of enrichment are included in the Triad Model (see Fig.).

Type I enrichment is designed to expose students to a wide variety of disciplines, topics, occupations, hobbies, persons, places, and events that would not ordinarily be covered in the regular curriculum. In schools that use this model, an enrichment team consisting of parents, teachers, and students often organizes and plans Type I experiences by contacting speakers, arranging minicourses, demonstrations, or performances, or by ordering and distributing films, slides, videotapes, or other print or non-print media.

Type II enrichment consists of materials and methods designed to promote the development of thinking and feeling processes. Some Type II training is general, and is usually carried out both in classrooms and in enrichment programs. Training activities include the development of (1) creative thinking and problem solving, critical thinking, and affective processes; (2) a wide variety of specific learning how-to-learn skills; (3) skills in the appropriate use of advanced-level reference materials; and (4) written, oral, and visual communication skills. Other Type II enrichment is specific, as it cannot be planned in advance and usually involves advanced methodological instruction in an interest area selected by the student. For example, students who become interested in botany after a Type I experience might pursue additional training in this area by doing advanced reading in botany; compiling, planning and carrying out plant experiments; and seeking more advanced methods or training if they want to go further.

Type III enrichment involves students who become interested in pursuing a self-selected area and are willing to commit the time necessary for advanced content acquisition and process training in which they assume the role of a first-hand inquirer. The goals of Type III enrichment include:

  • providing opportunities for applying interests, knowledge, creative ideas and task commitment to a self-selected problem or area of study,
  • acquiring advanced level understanding of the knowledge (content) and methodology (process) that are used within particular disciplines, artistic areas of expression and interdisciplinary studies,
  • developing authentic products that are primarily directed toward bringing about a desired impact upon a specified audience,
  • developing self-directed learning skills in the areas of planning, organization, resource utilization, time management, decision making and self-evaluation,
  • developing task commitment, self-confidence, and feelings of creative accomplishment.

 Challenge Based Learning Model

Challenge Based Learning

Challenge Based Learning Movie

According to the Apple Challenge Based Learning website:

The Challenge Based Learning effort is part of a larger collaborative project initiated in 2008 called Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow—Today (ACOT2) to identify the essential design principles of the 21st century learning environment with a focus on high school. ACOT2 follows in the tradition of Apple Classrooms of Tomorrow (ACOT), a research and development collaboration among public schools, un
iversities, and research agencies that Apple initiated in 1985 and sustained through 1995 with outstanding results.

Challenge Based Learning is an engaging multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning that encourages students to leverage the technology they use in their daily lives to solve real-world problems. Challenge Based Learning is collaborative and hands-on, asking students to work with peers, teachers, and experts in their communities and around the world to ask good questions, develop deeper subject area knowledge, accept and solve challenges, take action, and share their experience.

Challenge Based Learning is built with the participatory nature of the Web 2.0 world in mind, and there are multiple opportunities for participants to share. By promoting participation and sharing, Challenge Based Learning can
develop organically and leverage the interests of students and teachers across the globe. As the world changes, new big ideas, essential questions, and challenges can be posed. The level of participation will vary based on time constraints, interest, and so on. Within the Challenge Based Learning process, teachers and students can participate at many different levels. We hope that you will leverage the wide variety of social networking resources currently available to share your solutions and new challenges. Tag your contributions with ACOT2 and Challenge Based Learning so they can be readily found.

The Big Idea: The big idea is a broad concept that can be explored in multiple ways, is engaging, and has importance to high school students and the larger society. Examples of big ideas are Identity, Sustainability, Creativity, Violence, Peace, and Power.

Essential Question: By design, the big idea allows for the generation of a wide variety of essential questions that should reflect the interests of the students and the needs of their community. Essential questions identify what is important to know about the big idea and refine and contextualize that idea.

The Challenge: From each essential question a challenge is articulated that asks students to create a specific answer or solution that can result in concrete, meaningful action.

Guiding Questions: Generated by the students, these questions represent the knowledge students need to discover to successfully meet the challenge.

Guiding Activities: These lessons, simulations, games, and other types of activities help students answer the guiding questions and set the foundation for them to develop innovative, insightful, and realistic solutions.

Guiding Resources: This focused set of resources can include podcasts, websites, videos, databases, experts, and so on that support the activities and assist students with developing a solution.

Solutions: Each challenge is stated broadly enough to allow for a variety of solutions. Each solution should be thoughtful, concrete, actionable, clearly articulated, and presented in a publishable multimedia format such as an enhanced podcast or short video.

Assessment: The solution can be assessed for its connection to the challenge, accuracy of the content, clarity of communication, applicability for implementation, and efficacy of the idea, among other things. In addition to the solution, the process that the individuals as well as teams went through in getting to a solution can also be assessed, capturing the development of key 21st century skills.

Publishing: The challenge process allows for multiple opportunities to document the experience and publish to a larger audience. Students are encouraged to publish their results online, soliciting feedback. The idea is to broaden the learning community and foster discussion about solutions to the challenges important to students.

Requirements and Resources

The MHS Independent Study application form is attached below.  Prospective students will need to download and print this form as per the school's policy for embarking on any independent study.  Students may work on the required information and signatures independently or with the assistance of the G/T Specialist.  While composing the brief overview of the Advanced Independent Study, please reference the Action Plan and Rubric attached below as they will help guide your thinking and are two of the five required components of an Advanced Independent Study through the G/T Program (a Word version of the G/T Advanced Studies Action Plan is available from the G/T Specialist upon request).

Advanced Studies Requirements

1. Project proposal, including a delineation of which model the student selected
2. Project action plan, including milestones and other markers of successful completion (please see Attachments below)
3. Project research, including scholarly articles, primary source documents, and a polished paper in MLA or APA format with an annotated bibliography
4. Project publication to a "live" audience (in the cloud, in a seminar, as a published book or manual, to a class, in a museum, etc.)
5. Project reflection and self-evaluation, including a focus on which Habits of Mind were developed during the Advanced Study process

Advanced Studies Resources

Symbaloo Webmix of resources for embarking on an Advanced Study

About this webmix : This webmix links to Gifted Education resources, plus tools that students can use for independent research, projects, and study. The matrix is built on verbs that reflect "doing" at high cognitive levels. Creator: Tamara Fisher


Iowa AEA Online

Iowa AEA Online is a virtual library that provides no-cost access to 12 high-quality, web-based resources for accredited public and non-public PreK-12 schools. Students and staff have access at school and at home. Iowa AEA Online is funded and supported by Iowa’s Area Education Agencies.


Click on the icon to access The Purdue Owl Online Writing Lab.  This resource is rich with writing resources and formatting guides for both MLA and APA.  The MHS library also has copies of the MLA and APA guides in their entirety.

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Andrea Stewart,
Nov 4, 2011, 8:49 AM
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Andrea Stewart,
Nov 4, 2011, 8:50 AM
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Andrea Stewart,
Nov 14, 2011, 10:37 AM