Working with gifted and talented children both excites and fascinates me. My journey in this area is an interesting one. I once worked with a very knowledgeable and talented teacher who was an expert in this field. After many conversations about student learning and my own children, she started to pop books across my desk to read. To be polite, I engaged, intending to flick through or skim-read, but once I started, a fire was lit. The more I read, the more I wanted needed to know. So, I started reading and then trying things in my classroom. I was then seeking professional development which at the time was not readily available in Western Australia (thankfully, that is now a different story with wonderful teachers like Kylie Bice working with schools). So many, many years on, I was fortunate enough to be trusted by our Principal and Associate Principal of Middle School at the time to set up a program here at JSR.
I’ll take a step back for a moment and discuss a question that I remember having early on in my learning; “is there a difference between the terms ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’?” Surely, they all mean the same thing, right? Well, actually, they don’t. Gagne is the academic referred to most often here in Australia, and he describes these terms differently in his DMGT Model. I have included a link below to a paper that discusses this in more detail. But, essentially, ‘giftedness’ refers to natural abilities or gifts and usually is only the top 10% of the population, whereas ‘talent’ refers to honed skills or abilities; these are the prize winners or those “smart kids”. So, a student can be either gifted, talented, or neither. This does not relate just to academic abilities but can be in many areas, including creativity.
So, what does this mean for students? Or parents? Well, that’s more difficult. Identifying talented students is much easier than the gifted students who have not yet honed their gifts to talents. There are many ways gifted students can be identified using assessments such as a WISC, Stanford Binet or Johnson-Woodcock assessment. Some schools will use a variety of testing measures to identify these students, often with a mixture of gifted and talented students, but what about students with neurodiversity who are also gifted?
School-based tests can sometimes miss some of these students, whereas the assessments run by external professionals such as psychologists can adjust for such differences in children. This is why at JSR, we will accept students with an external assessment identifying giftedness into our program even if the testing does not always tell the same story.
Working with gifted students can be rewarding, frustrating, and interesting. There are some students who, until they have arrived in our program, have not been challenged, simply cruising through school up to this point. This provides an opportunity for students to learn new skills of what to do when they can’t do something the first time. Trust me, many of them, don’t like the feeling as it is new and uncomfortable, but so important to develop. Learning how to navigate those feelings and emotions is vital for later schooling and tertiary study and once our students enter the workforce. Some children respond with “this is boring”, or they complete the bare minimum; some students will speak to their parents about withdrawing from the program. This is all communication that these children need support to navigate this new learning that is going on in their brain. Opting out won’t help them to develop these skills over time.
Our program strives to provide an opportunity for students to participate in some competitions. However, our learning is more focussed on providing opportunities for students to step outside of their comfort zone. Engaging in different projects such as design thinking, problem-solving, global challenge projects, and exploring areas of interest such as space to develop metacognition processes, understanding of how to be resilient in learning and hopefully have some fun.
Below are some links that might be of assistance for those wanting to learn more.
Link to article about Gagne’s DMGT Model: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1359813042000314682
Gifted WA: https://giftedwa.org.au/
Growing up Greatness: https://www.growingupgreatness.com/
Editors Notes: Brooke has been an invaluable member of staff during her time at JSR. Her passion for teaching, her insight into supporting students who are gifted or talented, her understanding of how to best challenge students to reach their full potential has been inspiring, insightful and amazing to see.
We are so grateful for the legacy you have left here at JSR as you move on to share your knowledge and understanding with others.