Tag Archives: gifted

Gifted Education in Ireland: Educators’ Beliefs and Practices

Dr. Jennifer Riedl Cross

Dr. Jennifer Riedl Cross at CTYI, DCU

Yesterday we had the pleasure of attending the launch of a comprehensive report into gifted education in Ireland. In a groundbreaking study, Dr. Jennifer Riedl Cross along with her colleagues Professor Tracy Cross, Dr. Colm O’Reilly and Sakhavat Mammadov conducted a wide-ranging survey of teachers and principals beliefs and attitudes in relation to their gifted students.

This is the first study of its kind in an Irish context and is an important step forward for those who support and advocate for gifted learners in Ireland. In order to ensure impartiality and objectivity, CTYI asked the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia to carry out the study.  A total of 470 teachers and 367 principals and other school staff took part by responding to the survey. The detail contained in the report sheds light on the experience of many of us and our children within the education system. For many years those of us who have been researching and advocating for gifted children have had our own anecdotal evidence of the attitudes to giftedness in our schools.

Now, for the first time, confirmation comes from those who teach and interact with gifted students on a daily basis in an educational setting. The study verified that our teachers’ attitudes towards gifted students are largely positive although some persistent beliefs not supported by research remain. Most believe that gifted learners need modification to the regular curriculum in order to be adequately challenged and many agree that they are more likely to achieve at higher levels if they are given opportunities to work with similarly matched peers. However, a large number of teachers consider it challenging to provide this without more resources, smaller class sizes and further training.

Among the most interesting aspects of the survey was the exploration of teachers’ own sense of efficacy in providing for their gifted students and their classroom practices. This part of the report is one to which we hope to return in more depth in a later post. CTYI have advised us that they will be happy to forward a copy to any interested parties. At more than 100 pages and a further 60 or so in appendices and additional information, we would urge anyone with an interest to do so.  For those who would prefer an electronic copy, we are informed that one will be available shortly and we will post a link here.

Gifted Education in Ireland Study 2014

CTY Ireland
Dublin City University
Dublin 9
Ireland

Tel: 01 700 5634
ctyi@dcu.ie

CTYI Conference 2014

Understanding Gifted ChildrenIn Ireland we do not formally recognise gifted students within our education system. Most teachers qualify having had little or no training in teaching gifted students and, unlike many other countries, we have no specialist teachers in the field. This weekend’s conference at CTYI, DCU provided a rare opportunity to learn from true experts as several such speakers were flown in from around the globe to share their wisdom and insights. As usual, the vast bulk of the audience was made up of parents who, while soaking up the information with great interest and enthusiasm, were wishing their children’s teachers were there to hear the same.

These speakers were highly regarded international academic experts but each and every one of them was down-to-earth, engaging, entertaining and more than happy to answer questions and to chat to anyone during coffee or over lunch. A huge thanks to CTYI for organising such an interesting and uplifting day.

We believe the presentations will be posted on the CTYI website soon and we may cover some of them individually in due course but, for now, here is a rundown on who and what you missed!

Student Perceptions of High-Achieving Classmates

Albert ZieglerProf Albert Ziegler is Professor of Educational Psychology and Chair for Educational Psychology and Research on Excellence at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. He has published approx. 300 books, chapters and articles in the fields of talent development, excellence, educational psychology and cognitive psychology. He is also Secretary-General of the International Research Association for Talent Development and Excellence (IRATDE)  Editor-in-Chief of Talent Development & Excellence.

Spatial Skills, Learning and Academic Achievement: A Scientific Perspective

Amy SheltonProf Amy Shelton   is Director of Research at CTY and Professor at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University. She has PhD in Cognitive Psychology from Vanderbilt University and  is a postdoctoral fellow of the Department of Psychology at Stanford University.

Working Together to Support Your Highly Able Child At School

Niamh StackDr Niamh Stack  is a Senior University Teacher in Developmental Pyschology in the School of Psychology at Glasgow Unversity and Development Officer for the Scottish Network for Able Pupils (SNAP), providing CPD to teachers focused on gifted development. She is actively engaged in research activities related to gifted and talented education.

 

Dr MargMargaret Sutherlandaret Sutherland   is a Senior Lecturer in Additional Support Needs and is Programme Leader for the Masters in Inclusive Education  and the Certificate/Diploma/Masters in Inclusive Education at Glasgow University.  She is also Director of the Scottish Network for Able Pupils (SNAP) and a member of the General Committee of the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) http://www.echa.info/about-echa . She has written several books and papers in the field of gifted education and given keynote talks at  national and international conferences.

 To Accelerate or No to Accelerate, Is That The Question?

Lianne HoogeveenDr Lianne Hoogeveen is a Developmental Psychologist and Head of the Centre for the Study of Giftedness at Raboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands.  She is involved in post-academic education for psychologists and teachers and in individual counseling of gifted children, youngsters and adults. She is a Board member of ECHA.

 The Role of Networking in the Life of Talented Kids

Csilla FuszekCsilla Fuszek Is Director of the European Talent Centre in Budapest, Hungary. With a background in teaching, Csilla Fuszek has focused and become specialized in the field of gifted and talented education. She has worked as a managing director of nationwide talent development programs aimed to promote equal opportunities to the disadvantaged and was the managing director of the Csányi Foundation which is one of the biggest civil education foundations focusing on talent support in Hungary. She has been a lecturer at Eötvös Loránd University since 2008 and since 2009 she has been working for the Association of Hungarian Talent Support Organizations. csilla.fuszek@talentcentrebudapest.eu

 Gifted Adolescents’ Resistance to Report Cyberbullying

Regina ConnollyProf Regina Connolly Director of the MSc in Electronic Commerce degree programme at Dublin City University Business School and has responsibility for postgraduate courses in Information Systems. Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Internet Commerce.

 Social and Emotional Lives of Gifted Children

Tracy CrossProf Tracy Cross Jody and Layton Smith Professor of Psychology and Gifted Education, Executive Director, Centre for Gifted Education, College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA  . He has published well over 150 articles and book chapters, and four books. He has been the editor of five journals in the field of gifted education (Gifted Child Quarterly, Roeper Review, Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, and Research Briefs), and is the current editor of the Journal for the Education of the Gifted.

 Perceptions and Practices: Gifted Education in Ireland

Jennifer CrossDr Jennifer Cross  is an Educational Psychologist and Research Assistant Professor at the College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA. Her research focuses on the social environment of schools and the development of attitudes, particularly those regarding social structures. She has presented at numerous local, national, and international conferences, and published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, including Roeper Review, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, and Journal of Early Childhood Literacy.

Fitting In Or Standing Out: The Dilemma of the Gifted

Fitting in or standing out

Theme for Wicklow/South Dublin GAS group meeting on Wednesday 22nd October

Fitting in or standing out is a perennial dilemma for the gifted, from early childhood to adulthood.  How many of us have been told that our kids have “social skills” problems? Indeed, how many of us have occasionally wondered about our own social skills?!

Young kids who can read and understand things in advance of their years, can have a hard time fitting in and making friends within their age group. For a start, their interests may be different to those of their friends, but their passion is such that they just want to talk about them all the time. An endless stream of facts about dinosaurs isn’t that appealing to a six year old who would rather play football. They may also be impatient when others don’t grasp things as quickly as they do and have the potential to be quite bossy and overbearing, especially if they are one of those who loves rules and complexity. At this age, it is a bit much to expect your gifted child to understand that he may be driving people away by just being himself, but it’s very hard as a parent, to watch your child constantly be isolated and rebuffed; the one who is never invited to the party. Sometimes, as parents, we can get drawn into thinking that there is something wrong with our child and we desperately try to fix things for them and to force friendships. It can be very isolating for us too, as most other parents don’t really understand the issues we are dealing with.

Later, just like any other teenager, they will feel a very strong need to conform. Their peer group from here on, takes on a much greater importance and, I’m afraid, your reign as the most important person in their eyes is about to come to an end rapidly! There is no escaping the fact that they are different to the majority, so they can’t be the same as everyone else and still be true to themselves. Some may well fly through these years with little trouble, particularly if we have managed to help them feel comfortable with themselves so far. However, many will purposely underachieve in order to fit in and be accepted, particularly girls. Others will embrace their “differentness” and may appear somewhat eccentric. All teenagers struggle to find their own identity but, for the gifted, it can be even harder. They tend to be very intense and to think things through in great depth and detail and can end up completely tied in knots. The dangers of going through this struggle alone and without an understanding ear cannot be overestimated.

What can parents do to help gifted children feel comfortable in their own skin and to find their place in the world? How can we best deal with the issues that are thrown up during their passage through the one-size-fits-all education system? How do we keep ourselves sane in the process?! These are the issues which the Wicklow/South Dublin Gifted Advocacy and Support group will be exploring at our next meeting:

Wednesday 22nd October 2014, 7.45pm

Glenview Hotel, Glen of the Downs

New members are always welcome, but we would appreciate it if you could let us know if you plan to come so that we have an idea of numbers. (gaswicklowdublin[at]gmail[dot]com) Details of the group can be found here.

For some reading in advance: 

Pat and the Professor versus Genes and the Gifted

Lada vs LamborghiniLast week’s science slot on Pat Kenny’s radio show on Newstalk featured a discussion between Pat and his regular guest Professor Luke O’Neill from Trinity College’s Biomedical Sciences Institute. The topic was genetic research into human intelligence, an interesting and potentially controversial subject. We had several problems with this slot which we intend to highlight over the next while, but in this post, we take issue with some of Pat Kenny’s comments about why bright children shouldn’t be given the same support as other children. This is one of the most pervasive myths about gifted children and one which we continue to try to dispel.

In the course of the discussion, Pat said: “So if kids with high intelligence are growing up in what you might call underprivileged surroundings, their brain power will probably pull them out of their difficulties or else turn them into master criminals but they’ll use their brains somehow. But those who don’t have that kind of brainpower will end up consorting with other people of not so much brain power and their lot will not get better.”

Professor O’Neill responded by saying “Well that’s the sad truth and this is a horrible truth, nobody likes to think of intelligence just being genetic you see, because that can give rise to all kinds of problems later, and there’s eugenics and things but that does seem to be the evidence.” He explains this by using the analogy of different car engines using the same petrol, engines representing the genetics and the petrol the environment – the performance of the cars will be different, the more efficient the engine the better the performance even if they all get the same petrol.

Pat goes on to suggest that “so…. you could let the smart fellas, if you like, look after themselves. All your resources should go into the less smart people to give them the opportunities in life that they can enjoy?”, a point agreed to by the Professor who later goes on to say that with the right funding in education “you can tailor the education to specific kids needs and that benefits that kid hugely”. Well that sounds like a great idea, tailoring education to meet each child’s needs. But wait, they mean to exclude gifted children, because their “engines” are already powerful enough, and we need to hold them back until the less powerful “engines” catch up?

The casual disregard for gifted learners or those with “high IQ” is feeding into a stereotype which we work hard to dismiss. We listened in astonishment as they seemed to say that the ideal education system is one in which individualised learning is available for all except the really clever ones who will be able to “look after themselves”. They appeared to be claiming that as the research now shows that “genes (for intelligence) will emerge”, we can justify exclusion of equal provision for these children within the education system in order to redress the balance in favour of less “brainy” children.  What a discriminatory suggestion! It is as preposterous as suggesting that children who struggle in an academic environment should be sidelined while those with more “brainpower” as Pat calls it, would be supported to reach their potential. I doubt many educators in Ireland would agree with either system, but Pat and the Professor really thought they were on to something based on incorrect interpretation of brain research and a large dose of wild extrapolation.

It is hugely disappointing that two well-regarded professionals, both from a scientific tradition, would peddle this populist nonsense and feed the stereotype that giftedness is enough of an advantage that these children should be almost artificially held back by withholding educational resources until other children have “caught up”. In fact, gifted children are at risk if their abilities are not recognised and supported like any other child’s. Gifted learners from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly in need of support for several reasons, among them issues such as  family and social problems, lack of expectation, lack of educational support or tradition in the home, or lack of financial resources to support extra activities such as CTYI. Research from the Centre for Academic Achievement in Dublin City University shows that putting a robust support system in place is of enormous benefit not just to the individual students, but for their families, schools and fellow pupils. Supporting highly able children from disadvantaged backgrounds opens up possibilities and potential that they are unlikely to find if left to “look after themselves” as Pat and Luke suggest. It is simply wrong of them to advocate such a thing based on a very shallow understanding of the research referenced on the show and no regard at all for pedagogy.

Every child, every single one, should be able to expect the support that they need to succeed. Gifted children need as much support as any other child to reach their potential, they will not simply make it on their own, and have even less chance if their needs are wilfully ignored. Dr. Colm O’Reilly, director of CTYI and Ireland’s leading expert in gifted education and research said in a RTE documentary in 2010: “We tend to have the attitude of ‘well, sure it’ll all work out in the end’. For a lot of them, it doesn’t work out in the end and they end up underachieving greatly, and what do we say then? ‘Well, they weren’t that smart to begin with’. I can’t agree with that. The reason they underachieve is because we never did anything for them in the first place, to allow them to fulfill their potential”.

As the Professor says, tailoring an education to an individual child is indeed of great benefit to that child. Would that we had the resources to do that in our schools, but they are stretched to almost breaking point by cutbacks these days. To suggest however, that some children should be effectively ignored in favour of others, is against all educational principles and is discriminatory and misguided. Pat and the Professor should research their topics before launching a broadside at gifted children and their futures.