Dr Lianne Hoogeveen, developmental psychologist and director of the Radboud Center for the Study of Giftedness (CBO) of the Radboud University in the Netherlands, presented on the 3rd of July 2017 the latest research developments in gifted education, including that by ECHA (European Council for High Ability) to more than 120 educators in Malta. The first objective was to explain to teachers what giftedness means and for them to identify gifted children in their classroom. Here are some of the elements discussed during this seminar organized by the Department of Curriculum Management within the Directorate for Quality & Standards in Education (MEDE) in collaboration with Scientix.
- Myths about gifted education
It is often difficult for teachers to identify these children who have the potential to be distinctly above average in one or more domains/areas of human performance, but who are also not part of a single group. They have different potentials, backgrounds and origins. In regards to education, the teachers play an important role and need to give extra attention to these students in order to allow them to develop themselves. However, gifted children are still often neglected, as they are not always properly identified. There are currently hundreds of definitions about giftedness, which makes it difficult for teachers to understand it as well as to identify gifted students. Considering this lack of common definition, many ideas about giftedness and myths have been created.
“Myths are created and continue to exist because they explain phenomena that are not easily understood or appear to validate ambiguous ideas with ambiguous evidence” (Kaplan, 2009)
During this seminar about gifted education, Lianne Hoogeveen engaged the teachers in discussing the various myths about gifted education, which some examples are below:
- “Gifted students are happy, popular and well-adjusted in school”
- “All children are “gifted””
- “This child can’t be “gifted” s(he) has a disability”
Despite the lack of a common definition for giftedness, there are different theories and models, with a difference in emphasis. The most recent model existing nowadays is a multidimensional dynamic vision: the achievements of a student depend on innate capacities, personal and environmental factors, as presented in the Differentiated Model of Gifted and Talented (DMGT- 2008).
How to identify gifted students?
Lianne Hoogeveen presented to the participants different existing theories and models in order for teachers to identify these students in their classroom and to adapt their teaching practices. As highlighted during the seminar, giftedness is not only intellectual.
She presented the model of Gagné (2008) above as a main model used in the European Talent Centre to demonstrate how the development process of the child is influenced by interpersonal, natural abilities, environmental factors and competencies and how the strategies of the teachers can vary depending on the child and the abilities shown in the class.
In line with this model, she presented 6 main profiles of gifted students:
- The autonomous student
- The successful student
- The creative student
- The student who goes underground
- Twice Multi exceptional student
- The student at risk (Drop-out)
These categories help to identify gifted students. However as highlighted during the seminar, in every cases, bright students can only develop themselves when they are challenged, starting at an early age in primary education. In this sense, STEM can be used in order to enrich their learning.
Curriculum choices for gifted children?
Depending on the country, different approaches exist toward these students:
- Compacting and enrichment
- Pull out programs
- Full time gifted education
As highlighted by the expert, there is not only one good method, and each one presents pros and cons. Nevertheless, in every country, the main objective is to promote an inclusive education throughout Europe.
How can teachers adapt the curriculum?
Teachers were presented with different methods and models that they can do, in general, in order to adapt the curriculum to gifted children and to facilitate and support their learning process.
One method is to enhance students’ motivation, which is regarded as ”a Catalyst in the process of achievement” (Gagné, 2007). This can be defined either externally or internally (Deci&Ryan 2000; McCoach & Siegle, 2003) and is in fact the “students’ energy and drive to engage, learn, work effectively and achieve…” (Martin, 2008).
One of the models presented during the conference was the Achievement-Orientation Model (del Siegle and D. Betsy McCoach)
Teachers can also refer to the Bloom’s Taxonomy in order to think more about their curriculum. Once the skills of knowledge, comprehension and application have been demonstrated by the child, they can further challenge the student using Higher Order Thinking skills such as analysing, evaluating and creating.
The habits of Mind
from Costa & Kallick, 2009 are also another way to think about the curriculum and about the tasks to give to students. To develop these habits of mind, the person needs to be challenged.
What kind of teachers do we want for gifted students?
“We should teach who we are rather than merely teach what we know” (Polmer, 1998)
According to educational experts a good teacher could be referred as someone who:
…“is autonomous and has a passion for learning” (Rogers, 1999)
…“encourages students to think, has pedagogical abilities and gives positive feedback and feed forward” (Hattie &Timperley, 2007)
…“has the six habits of highly inspiring honors teachers’(Wolfensberg, 2008); authenticity; courage; challenge, invests in the relationship, “to walk the talk’, ‘live the dream’
…Is a role model for her/his students (shavinina, 2009)
How to create a challenging environment within the school?
Some elements were mentioned in the discussions in order to positively influence the learning process of these students:
Excellent (trained) teachers: Dr Lianne Hoogeveen insisted in the importance of teacher training. In this regard, she presented the ECHA training “specialist in gifted education”. The aim of the training is to enlarge knowledge in the area of recognizing and supporting gifted children and adolescents. This training joins the field of psychology, pedagogy and education but has a scientific base and is geared to practical situations, in and outside school.
Possibilities for differentiation in education. This aspect requires the following :
Cooperation with parents: The parents’ attitudes on the role of the school also influence and the full cooperation between parents and teachers is essential in order to address the needs of the children.
A society that believes in (and is willing to do what is necessary for) excellent education for all students.
“All children deserve to learn something new every day” Dr Julian C. Stanley
Article written by: Noëlle Billon, Junior Project Officer at European Schoolnet.