by Rachel Sims
Dr. Mihyeon Kim’s introduction to gifted education started many years ago through a conversation with her son’s preschool teacher. Her son’s advanced abilities – even at such an early age – had garnered special attention, and the director of the center worked with Kim to find an appropriate Pre-K program to fit her son’s gifted needs.
Kim has learned a lot since her initial introduction to gifted education nearly 15 years ago. She now serves as the Director of Pre-collegiate Learner Programs, specializing in Enrichment Programs and Focusing on the Future programs at the Center for Gifted Education at William & Mary. As a research and development hub, the Center was established in 1988 by Dr. Joyce VanTassel-Baska to provide “services to educators, policy makers, graduate students, researchers, and parents in support of the needs of gifted and talented individuals.”
Kim’s role also oversees international programs for children and teachers, and she has spent a considerable amount of her career working in the international context. Previous teacher trainings included groups from Saudi Arabia and South Korea, with the goal to serve professionals seeking further expertise in gifted education. The content is customized to the international audience, and Kim’s experience working with Korean educators and students opens doors for strong partnerships between gifted education professionals in South Korea and the US. One previous enrichment program included a five-day, advanced placement STEM curriculum developed for gifted Korean middle schoolers. Due to the positive results, the partnership between Korean educators and the Center for Gifted Education continued on for several more years.
Recently, the Center for Gifted Education facilitated a week-long international teacher training program at William & Mary for visiting Korean teachers. Initially stemming from a short three-hour workshop Kim conducted in 2016, the Busan Metropolitan City Institute for Gifted Education and Promotion in Korea asked for a longer intensive training specifically focused on the William & Mary Integrated Curriculum Model (ICM), one of the most internationally well-known curriculum development models for gifted education. Developed by the W&M Center for Gifted Education’s own VanTassel-Baska, the empirically-based ICM is used throughout the world to assist in the creation of curriculum, instruction, and assessment for highly gifted students. The model provides a useful way of structuring curriculum for advanced students, encouraging higher level thinking and helping students understand different concepts on a deeper level and in a more creative way.
As content for programs is customized to the international audience, Kim utilized her knowledge of Korean culture and the education system to create a globally-informed training program for the visiting teachers. While South Korea employs a deeply competitive educational environment, interest in gifted learning is relatively new. According to Kim, many education systems around the world tend to center around an “acceleration” concept with gifted students: advanced students receive speedier material presentation, but not necessarily richer and more varied content. The William & Mary ICM focuses on enrichment, depth, and breadth so that students can learn more effectively and connect how knowledge is applied in the real world.
Conducted in English and translated to Korean, the 2017 summer program helped 87 visiting Korean teachers learn how to teach advanced students using the Integrated Curriculum Model, designed for advanced learning emphasizing complex thinking through differentiation and creativity. The week-long workshop also included a panel discussion related to various topics on gifted education in the US. Through global opportunities for cross-cultural learning and collaboration like this one, the expertise of William & Mary’s Center for Gifted Education continues to cross borders and contribute to developing gifted education around the world.