Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Individualized Enrichment for All

Time Machine!

Individualized Enrichment Program

By Richard Michelle-Pentelbury, M.A.

Recipient of the:
Alberta Curriculum Development Innovative Practices Award

“Our deepest fear is not that we are
inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we
are powerful beyond measure.  It is our
light, not our darkness that most
frightens us.  We ask ourselves, who am I
to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and
fabulous?  Actually, who are you not to
be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing
small doesn’t serve the world.  There is
nothing enlightened about shrinking so
that other people won’t feel insecure
around you.  As we are liberated from
our own fear, our presence automatically
liberates others.”

Nelson Mandela
President of South Africa
Inaugural Speech, 1994
(As quoted from Marianne Williamson, 1992)


Fred flinstone to luke skywalker, beam me up!

We all know more than we know we know. But generally, our mental files are disorganized, our system of storing information random, and therefore our interest in seemingly unrelated data tends to depend on the moment. That Dinosaurs existed for a 135 million years, separated from Cave Man by another 63 million, give or take a year or two, takes most students by surprise, Fred Flintstones notwithstanding. So we watch the film as divers excavate a Spanish Armada Galleon, and we see the sharks nosing the treasure, and we hear “1588”, and for the vast majority of students of all ages, almost nothing else comes readily to mind. Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, Galileo, The Crusades, Robin Hood, Marco Polo, and Joan of Arc appear to co-exist. And the vast majority struggle with placing the ‘Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Chinese Age of Print, Reformation, Renaissance, Iron Age, Industrial Revolution, and The Romantics’ into a chronological order. Information perceived as disparate or disjointed, to most of us, is mentally discarded. Our insecurity with ‘what we don’t know’ inhibits the acquisition of other knowledge.

However, once an individual has even one personally interesting thing that can assertively be placed on each time period of the whole Time Line, an evident excitement about adding to the mental file cabinet is readily witnessed. The Individualized Enrichment Program was born.

Across the last twenty years, with the author’s making presentations about the program to colleagues at conventions, as well as to students at large, individually or collectively, including sharing it with Adult Education Students at Night School for nine years, the ‘ah-ha’ factor has been significant and remarkable. The ‘common sense’ of it all has inspired student after student to wonder why it is not part of every school’s curriculum, and to wish that it had been. Colleagues who’ve implemented it have reported its efficacy, and its continuing success. Designed to accommodate the individual, its ‘independent’ nature is readily taken on by most students. Ideally, every student should be given this roadmap. Personal interests in a given subject, however diverse, as observed developing through the ages, makes for an ongoing interest in very many other things in other centuries that can be added to the mental (or actual) ‘scrap book’ of the independent learner. Our task is to provide the student with a methodology, an organizational framework for perpetual learning, and ‘a common sense’ basis for ongoing education. 

The Individualized Enrichment Program provides for every student a comprehensive ‘common sense’ basis of chronological knowledge for a lifetime’s interest. It is structured for the individual purposefully to exercise Differentiated Learning Styles continually ‘in the round’, to employ all conceivable mediums, and thereby to develop ‘holistically’. It provides for a perpetual basis upon which forever to add information. And it is designed to be an addendum to every curriculum in every discipline, without the teacher, per se, needing any additional or specialized knowledge. Implemented at any grade level, the program provides a continual basis for Subject enrichment as well as for the diversity of any individual’s ongoing interests.

As a learner comes to see the necessity of having a foundation for further learning, that learner soon finds a need to know more and more. All we have to do, as teachers, is beckon, and guide.
Or is that, ‘beam the learner aboard’?

1) Establishing this Program may make better use of the potential for students of independent learning habits. Its annual framework of proceeding with chronological knowledge in a logistical self-directed process provides for a focus on multi-level work habits and productivity, using every imaginable medium, rather than ‘just’ a continuing acquisition of ‘more’ knowledge, per se. The program’s course is intended to provide a lifetime basis of ongoing relevance for perpetual reference-based learning and interest.

 2) Originally designed by the author in 1983 as the Humanities Graduation Program at Oakley Centre for the Gifted, a five-year longitudinal study of the pupils involved proved its success. Also, it has been presented at conventions and been implemented on an ongoing basis with very many other independent students at several schools over the past two decades. In 2003 the program received the prestigious Alberta Curriculum Development Award for Innovative Practices. Last summer, following a visit to Canada by the Superintendent of Gifted Education for the Hartlepool School District, England, the author was invited to implement the program across six school districts, and the results culminated in a most successful presentation of the students’ results to the incumbent Minister of Parliament.

3) As an adjunct to a regular curriculum for students wanting such opportunity, minimal monitoring of this program by a teacher is required. (R)-evolving ‘contracts’ are suggested.


1) For Administrative purposes, students who are essentially self-motivated and who also are keen on enrichment learning, as proven by the student, as determined by teachers and administration, and thereafter sanctioned by parental permission, are candidates. As such, the program need not necessarily be labeled ‘for gifted.’ It is intended for all of us.

2) The Independent Learner student, all in-class work having been met, or able to be met, and at the teacher’s discretion, is ‘free’ to progress with the Enrichment Program.

3) The Program’s annual focus is to overview a broad based chronological development of history (in every conceivable genre), successively learning more and more, and to challenge the student to reflect such learning in the round. I.e., the student ideally is to practice differentiated learning styles in terms of application to task, to exercise cognitive, affective, concrete sequential, and abstract random domains with as many ingenious styles of presentation as creativity provides. The duration of any given task, depending on the student, should encourage practice with the unfamiliar, rather than dissuade. (E.g., make a song up about Vikings; play it on guitar.)

4) As such, the student ought to be encouraged to maintain a diary-portfolio of undertakings, studies, diversity of projects, readings, and insights throughout a lifetime.

5) An Academic Certificate of Recognition, enhancing a student’s resume, might be awarded, rather than a grade.

Conclusion:  As educators, limited in resources and time as we are by artificial pupil-teacher ratios and a disparate but prescribed exam-based curriculum, we still ought to be striving to provide a common-sense interest basis for a perpetual reference-based education. I trust that this program will do much to inspire the deserving students (and teachers) of all schools.

An Enrichment Program for The Individual Learner

Ten Months and Twenty Initial Chronological Stepping Stones
as a Possible Path of Progress:

Sept:  1   The Big Bang
          2  The Universe (My Very Exotic Mother Jerked Suddenly Under Neptune’s Pillow!)
          3  Periods & Ages (Cam Orders Silly Devon’s Car Perm, Tries Jury Creatures, Turns Quarters)
          4  First Civilizations (Mesopotamia, Hammurabi, and yes: the origins of Iraq!)
Oct:   5   Egyptians & Chinese
          6   Greeks
          7   Romans
          8   Vikings
Nov:   9    Saxons, Jutes, Aelfred, and Anglo Saxon
         10   1066 and all that!
Dec:  11 The Crusades
         12  Marco Polo and The East of the 1200’s
Jan:   13   Chaucer, Robin Hood, Prince John, and The Magna Carta
         14   The Printing Press and The Reformation and The Russians
Feb:  15  The Renaissance, The Elizabethans, and Shakespeare, and The Inca
Mar: 16  Revolution and Religion
Apr:  17   The Romantics
         18   The Industrial Revolution
May: 19   The Major Wars 
June: 20   The Technical Tide Rushes In, Our Iconoclastic Age, The Future.

Procedure, Projects, and Product:  Initially linear by nature, rather than mine-shafts of knowledge, ongoing learning ought to be reflected by a perpetual ‘exercise in the round’ of such challenging productivity as:
            Essays, Oral presentations,
            Posters, Paintings,
            Models, Multimedia (Computer)
            Dioramas, Collages,
            Songs, Poems, Dramas,
            Videos, Virtual Graphics
            Games, and anything else one’s creative mind develops for the benefit of oneself (and one’s portfolio!)

Individualized Enrichment Program

Self -Evaluation                                                    name:_______________________
This Enrichment Program, whereby the student undertakes a chronological research and overview of the development of our Universe and mankind from Big Bang to the present, is our program of self-motivated application to task. Such a chronological framework is intended to provide for a knowledge basis within which to append information and to inspire insight throughout a lifetime.

Your consistent application to task is vital to your Enrichment Activities, not just your talent. For each point below, please give yourself as fair a mark out of 10 as careful and honest thought about your average effort and behaviour would reflect:   

1) Self motivation          __________________________________________________________

2) Application to task     __________________________________________________________

3) Diversity of research   _________________________________________________________

4) Variety of resources    _________________________________________________________    

5) Independent work habits   ______________________________________________________

6) Respect of resource materials       ________________________________________________

7) Avoidance of distraction     _____________________________________________________

8) Degree of sustained interest             _______________________________________________

9) Consideration of others                                _________________________________________

10) Creativity                                                        __________________________________________

11) Doesn’t ‘waste time’ getting down to work_________________________________________

12) Stays on topic      _____________________________________________________________

13) Works to best of abilities      ____________________________________________________

14) Neatness (care) of products     ___________________________________________________

15) Diversity of products                       ___ ___________________________________________

16) Works at remembering academic content         ______________________________________

17) Keeps on trying when others distract              _______________________________________

18) Willingness to challenge oneself _________________________________________________

19) Supports academic content by home based reading          _______________________________

20) Interest in pursuing ongoing studies  ___________________________________________

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