As part of my MA in Guidance Counselling in University of Limerick I completed a 20,000 word research project. The title of my research project was “The role of the Guidance Counsellor in supporting Gifted Students in Post-Primary Schools in Ireland”. I chose to do research on this topic because as a practicing post-primary teacher I believe that this cohort of students is largely ignored in our education system. My research involved distributing a questionnaire to both guidance counsellors and gifted students. I asked both about their perception of giftedness and the support received from the school community with special remit to the support provided by guidance counsellors.
The main findings were:
- 21% of the gifted students surveyed were unsatisfied academically in their schools and 18% found attending school as a very negative experience. On the positive side 82% found their experience to be either positive or very positive.
- The CTYI programme in DCU was viewed in a very positive light by gifted students. Of those who had attended 100% reported they had gained academically, 94% socially and 72% emotionally.
- 54% of guidance counsellors believe that gifted students need specific types of intervention and 75% viewed giftedness as a special educational need, however only 19% of guidance counsellors have received training in this area.
- 14% of gifted students viewed guidance counsellors as a ‘strong support’ in the school they attend. It is possible that this low level of support is as a result of a lack of knowledge and understanding of giftedness on the part of guidance professionals.
- 53% of gifted students were ‘very comfortable’ with being labelled as gifted whilst 21% were ‘very uncomfortable’ with this label.
- 63% of gifted students who attended a meeting with their guidance counsellor benefitted from the discussion however, recent budgetary cutbacks (2012) in the area of guidance counselling have resulted in a 25% reduction of one-to-one guidance sessions.
- The guidance counsellor needs the time to support gifted students on the issue of ‘multipotentiality’ as 30% of gifted students reported getting stressed when they thought about their future careers. ‘Isolation’ from peers was cited by 41% of gifted students surveyed as being a major issue as was ‘disengagement’, which was experienced by 51% of respondents due to lack of stimulation in the classroom. Guidance counsellors have the skills to support gifted students on these social & emotional and educational issues but the problem is that there is limited time to meet with students on an individual level.
- From my research I believe that all teacher training colleges should provide a module on teaching gifted students. Also each school needs to develop a policy on giftedness in their schools. From my research only 19% of guidance counsellors had a policy in their school.
Policy change is required from the Department of Education beginning with recognising giftedness as a ‘special educational need’. Each school needs to develop a policy on giftedness. Training is required to educate the school community on the needs of gifted students.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who participated in my research by filling out the questionnaire. Without your honest feedback such valuable findings would not have been documented. A special word of thanks to Catherine Riordan and Karen McCarthy for their constant support in the conducting of this research.
Tracy Gibson MA in Guidance Counselling