Maryann Hebda, a PhD student in the Department of Educational Psychology focusing on Gifted and Talented Education, received first place in the Non-Doctoral Completed Research Award from the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) at the fall 2020 Research Gala, part of the NAGC annual conference.
Hebda began her PhD program last summer and was encouraged by Dr. Todd Kettler, associate professor of Educational Psychology, to begin research and academic writing prior to starting the program. Her paper, titled Comparing Identification of Gifted and Talented Students in Two States with Different Policy Mandates to Identify, examined public record data to compare populations within gifted and talented programs between two states with different student-identification mandates.
Because she was living in the Kansas City area at the time, Hebda compared Kansas and Missouri. “You can move five miles across state lines, still within the Kansas City metro area, and the state has completely different educational policy,” Hebda said. Hebda wanted to know whether policy affected the overall number of GT students enrolled and the number of traditionally underrepresented subgroups. While one state mandates identification and services, the other offers only guidelines to districts.
Even so, Hebda’s analysis revealed that the state with policy mandates for gifted education had a lower percentage of all students enrolled in programs for identified gifted students. Regarding the enrollment of students from traditionally underrepresented groups in gifted programs, these student populations were still underrepresented in both states at varying levels, implying that policy is not the only factor affecting the enrollment of students in these subgroups.
“This just shows that educational policy is one factor in a very complex issue,” Hebda said.
Hebda said the experience was a great head start on doctoral studies, as she immersed herself in statistical information, as well as state statutes and Department of Education documents. The experience of presenting the research at NAGC was also valuable, she said. The awardees were announced live in a virtual ceremony and then gave an explanation of their research. “It was my first experience with an on-the-spot elevator pitch,” she said. “It was sink or swim, and I didn’t sink.”
Kettler said that NAGC is the premier organization for educators of the gifted and talented and the conference is the largest gifted and talented professional conference in the U.S.
Hebda earned a bachelor’s degree at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Special Education and Elementary Education and a master’s in Special Education, Gifted, Talented, and Creative Concentration at Emporia State University in Kansas. She has been a special education resource teacher and gifted education facilitator in Kansas and Nebraska schools before starting the Baylor doctoral program.
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