"Talented" and "gifted" -
what's the difference? There is plenty of evidence that
gifted children should be differentially treated, either by
acceleration, enrichment, or ability grouping. But how you decide to define
giftedness will influence how you later identify gifted
children. Is there any real difference between being "talented" and
being truly "gifted"? Some schools consider the top 15%, 10% or
5% of their students to be gifted or talented. Does research support the lumping together of
Children in the top 3
percent of the population have atypical developmental patterns and
require differentiated instruction. Children in the top 10 percent of
the population are not statistically or developmentally different from
children in the top 15 percent, and it is not justifiable to single
them out for special treatment.
It is similar to the situation
where the moderately intellectually impaired, highly intellectually
impaired and profoundly intellectually impaired all have quite
different challenges and associated needs. So it is with the moderately
gifted, highly gifted and profoundly gifted. They should not be lumped together.
Advice will be varied and even contradictory depending
on the source: In New Zealand, schools outside of the main
centres will have difficulty seeking professional advice about gifted
children from psychologists or skilled and experienced academics.
There are no teaching resources
specifically aimed at gifted children from the Ministry of Education.
At the moment schools are on their own, being offered little in the way
of meaningful assistance in terms of extra staffing, funding or
training from the Ministry.
Yet the Education Review Office (ERO)
is looking for evidence that schools are indeed "adding value" to these
children. This seems like an unrealistic and unreasonable expectation
in light of the fact there is little research on gifted children in New
Zealand and limited resources to help a school identify and effectively
meet their needs.
A school must be creative and
self-reliant. Teachers must be careful not to blindly follow
definitions or assume children fit into stereotypes...even after advice
or professional development sessions from "experts". Always get to know
your children before deciding what YOU think is best for THEM...
Some teachers assume a gifted child will be "immature"
or have some other deficit to "balance" out the areas he/she is
talented in. Not all people work like that...some are frustratingly
good at lots of things and may make some of us feel inadequate or
threatened...after all, isn't the teacher supposed to be the source of
all knowledge? We must not assume we know best just because we are
adults or teachers.
On the other hand, if a school decides to
offer professional development to staff, and bring in a paid outside
expert, don't forget that some staff may already have excellent
experience in this area and can offer guidance for free. Be aware that
some "expert" advice is of poor quality or too simplistic. Some
"qualified" advisors (they have completed courses and/or papers) simply
regurgitate theory or stereotype children. Avoid these people if you
Will be able to highlight problems the child has with the level the
class is working at and relationships with other students. Particular
strengths and learning difficulties can be identified from observations
at home. Favourite past-times and topics can be recorded for use in
developing an individual programme for the student. Likely career
interests, academic or recreational interests may be justification for
setting particular learning objectives or achievement goals and methods
of learning. Goals may include developing practical skills (eg, the
arts or sport) or academic exam based courses (eg, languages, history,
Psychologists/Academics: May highlight problems the child is
likely to face in the near future and suggest particular strategies to
avoid or cope with these. The advantages and disadvantages of
particular methods of learning or assessment may be discussed.
Professional develoment for staff may be available.
Schools may wish to be part of a city-wide or regional programme and
share expertise and resources with each other. Organisations such as
the Nexus Research Group, various Colleges of Education, the
Association of Gifted Children, etc may be able to offer assistance in
implementing programmes in your school.
the balance right is a matter of trial and error for most
parents and the school. At the heart of all our efforts must be the
well-being of the child. Teachers, the Principal and parents may have
different ideas of what is best for the gifted student. Who is right?
Who will know best?
A good school will treat each child
as an individual and create a balanced programme that caters for:
If a parent perceives that a school
cannot "get it right" for their child the family may decide to withdraw
their child from the State system and teach them at home (parents: you
must apply for an exemption from the Ministry of Education).
A common myth among teachers is that
it is bad to let a gifted child "move up" a year level and be in a
class with children a year or two older. There is a belief that the
gifted student is better off staying with children the same age as
them, as if it is "normal" for people to seek out others of the same
age. This is not true since in society it is "normal" for us to live,
play and work with others of various ages. What should be the deciding
factor is how the student responds to classmates and the level of work.
Parents can let the school know how the child has responded from
behaviour and comments at home.
Partnerships with other schools or
organisations may benefit your school (and student) in many ways: