Greater need for schools to identify gifted children – study

Greater need for schools to identify gifted children – study

A new study has highlighted the need to identify young gifted children so that their needs may be better met by teachers and schools.

The study, which was led by Edith Cowan University education researcher, Eileen Slater, reports on Australian teachers' perceptions of the benefits and limitations associated with the use of a multiple assessment instrument process for identifying intellectually gifted 6- and 7-year-old children in the classroom.

The process included the use of the Gifted Characteristics Parent Questionnaire (GCPQ), the Gifted Characteristics Teacher Questionnaire (GCTQ), Achievement in the Early Years Test (AEY Test), and Raven's Coloured Progressive Matrices.

Thirteen teachers from six metropolitan schools in an Australian city completed a Post Implementation Questionnaire to obtain their views on the implementation of the classroom-based identification process for gifted children.

Data from five, multiple part open-ended questions were analysed using both thematic analysis techniques and content analysis.

The findings of the study indicated several teachers' perceived benefits, including the capacity for the process to focus teachers on the individual child as a learner, and for the information collected by the various instruments to inform and direct teaching.

The majority of teachers (85%) supported the formal testing format used in the AEY Test. Some limitations of the process related to equity of access for families with low English literacy levels and perceived subjectivity by both parents and teachers.

This study suggested that a classroom-based, whole of population process for identifying gifted children could be effectively administered by teachers, in their classrooms, in a time- and cost-effective way with direct application to teaching and learning programs.

Dr Slater told the Eastern Reporter that gifted and talented students made up about 10% of Australian school kids and there was little attention paid to them in the education system.

“It’s essential to our national prosperity that we cater for our best and brightest students especially given Australia’s continuing slide down international education rankings,” she said.

“Research shows that if we don’t cater for gifted and talented students they can disconnect from education because they aren’t being challenged or learning.”

Dr Slater said the purpose of education is “to ensure all individuals are catered for to reach their maximum potential and gifted students have as much right to that as anyone else.”

In her review of the Australian education policy on identifying gifted and talented students in the journal TalentEd, Dr Slater pointed out three ways to improve policies to best cater for gifted children.

The three ways were having indicators for high-achieving students in kindergarten or pre-primary, more tests and forming mandate criteria and detailed policies for schools.

“Students in the Western Australian government system are currently tested when they’re in year four and year six and research shows that gifted children have already started to disengage from their studies by that point,” Dr Slater said.

“Multiple sources of evidence for gifted students are vital to make sure we identify those students in need of specific educational intervention.

“Paper and pencil tests can form one part of identification but checklists for children’s gifted characteristics and discussion with parents are also valid ways to identify gifted and talented students.

“Schools and teachers must be held accountable through detailed policies which outline clearly the ways in which students should be identified and what action should be taken to provide for them.