Introduction

This report presents ERO’s findings from an evaluation of the quality of schools’ provision for gifted and talented students. It includes information about how well schools support gifted and talented students in achieving to their potential. The report also discusses schools’ areas of strength and the challenges they face in providing for gifted and talented students.

Strategic links

National Administration Guideline 1 (NAG) 1 (iii)(c) requires boards of trustees, through their principals and staff, to use good quality assessment information to identify students who have special needs (including gifted and talented), and to develop and implement teaching and learning strategies to meet the needs of these students. Schools were notified about the inclusion of gifted and talented students in this NAG in December 2003, and have been required to implement provision for gifted and talented students since Term 1, 2005.

The Government has established national priorities under the following themes:

  • economic transformation;
  • families, young and old; and
  • national identity. [1]

The provision of programmes for gifted and talented students contributes to these priorities and goals. Effective gifted and talented programmes help students to be healthy, innovative, creative and confident learners who achieve to their potential. These programmes recognise giftedness and talent in specific academic subjects, thinking, arts, sports, culture, creativity, spirituality, and leadership. Through these programmes students are encouraged to take pride in who they are and in their abilities, and to use these attributes in contributing to New Zealand society.

The Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2008-2013 [2] notes, amongst its priorities, the importance of embedding the principles of personalising learning into the education system. Personalised learning is about making learning relevant and meaningful to the learner and has a strong focus on students achieving to their potential and being successful. In particular, three factors influence provision for gifted and talented students:

  • students will know how to take control of their own learning;
  • parents and whānau will be partners in their children’s learning; and
  • teachers will have high expectations for each student, know how they learn, and adjust their teaching to meet learning needs. [3]

ERO’s previous evaluation of provision for gifted and talented students

In 1998, ERO published Working with Students with Special Abilities. This report gave teachers and parents examples of good practice and school initiatives for gifted and talented education (GATE). The report also outlined factors and issues critical for successful provision for these students.

Critical factors

  • school-wide understanding and acceptance of individual difference;
  • commitment and leadership from senior management;
  • board of trustees’ support;
  • knowledgeable and skilled teaching staff;
  • written and implemented policy, processes, and procedures;
  • range of provision to meet individual student needs;
  • sensitivity to cultural differences; and
  • self review of provision.

Issues

  • identification methods;
  • teaching approach to be taken, for example extension, enrichment, acceleration, withdrawal;
  • resourcing of provision;
  • continuity of provision;
  • cultural considerations; and
  • teacher professional development.

These factors and issues remain as important features in the successful provision for gifted and talented students.

Background to Gifted and Talented Education in New Zealand

The Ministry of Education (the Ministry) has instigated several initiatives to provide for gifted and talented students.

  • In 1998, following the publication of ERO’s evaluation report Working with Students with Special Abilities, the Ministry established an Advisory Group on Gifted Education to identify needs and investigate ways of addressing these.
  • This resulted in the publication in 2000 of Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting Their Needs in New Zealand Schools. [4] This booklet gave schools and teachers information to help them identify and support gifted and talented students to achieve to their full potential.
  • A gifted and talented community was added to Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) [5] in 2000 with case studies and online resources for schools, teachers, and parents.
  • School Support Services [6] established an advisory group in 2001 to provide professional development to schools. This group has since been expanded.
  • In 2001, the Ministry established the Working Party on Gifted Education to provide advice on a policy and funding framework for gifted education, and recommended the specific inclusion of gifted and talented students in NAG 1 (iii) [subsequently NAG 1 (iii)(c)].
  • In 2002, the Minister of Education released Initiatives for Gifted and Talented Learners, [7] which addressed the recommendation of the Working Party on Gifted Education. These initiatives included:
    • the clear identification of gifted and talented students in the NAGs;
    • a contestable funding pool for the development of innovative educational programmes targeted at gifted and talented students;
    • professional development initiatives, including additional Gifted Education Advisors and a National Coordinator, professional development for educational professionals other than teachers, and pre-service gifted education training;
    • a handbook for parents;
    • Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) initiatives to support gifted education; and
    • research on existing provision for gifted and talented students.
  • After the inclusion of gifted and talented students in NAG 1 (iii)(c) in December 2003, the Ministry produced Gifted and Talented Education in New Zealand Schools in 2004. [8] This was a summary of the current status of identification of and provision for gifted and talented students in New Zealand schools. The report concluded that there was:
    • a growing awareness of the need for provision for gifted and talented students;
    • a need for professional development, better access to resources and support, funding, time and cultural understanding;
    • a heavy reliance on teacher identification and standardised testing;
    • a lack of planned culturally appropriate programmes; and
    • minimal involvement by parents, caregivers, and whānau.
  • In April 2008 the Ministry published Nurturing Gifted and Talented Children, A Parent-Teacher Partnership, [9] which gives parents helpful information about giftedness and talent, and suggests ways parents and teachers can work in partnership to support the learning of gifted and talented children.

Characteristics of effective provision

The current starting point for many New Zealand schools in their provision for gifted and talented students is the Ministry of Education’s publication, Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting Their Needs in New Zealand Schools. This resource provides guidance on developing a school-wide approach for defining and identifying gifted and talented students, as well as developing programmes and evaluating them.

Policy development

An effective GATE policy is developed in consultation with the school community, identifying the rationale, definitions, a coordinator/team responsible, goals and objectives, professional development, style of provision and delivery, and an action plan to coordinate development.

Professional Development

In an effective gifted and talented programme, teachers are aware of:

  • concepts of giftedness and talent and the associated behaviours;
  • identification methods;
  • programme options and curriculum differentiation;
  • teaching methods and resources; and
  • special populations within gifted and talented, for example class, culture/ethnicity, and disability.

Definitions and characteristics

Effective gifted and talented programme definitions:

  • are multi-categorical;
  • are multi-cultural;
  • recognise multiple intelligences; and
  • recognise potential and demonstrated giftedness and talent.

Teachers are able to appropriately identify gifted and talented students. They are aware of and recognise the diversity of characteristics and behaviours for gifted and talented students, including ways of learning, creative thinking, motivation, social leadership, and self-determination.

Identification processes

An effective identification process has the following characteristics:

  • it is consistent with the school’s definition and programmes;
  • it is school‑wide, undertaken early, and ongoing;
  • it is communicated openly between parents, students, teachers and the board of trustees;
  • it has a multi-method approach; and
  • it makes provisions to identify special groups, including Māori, students from other cultures/ethnicities, students with learning difficulties or disabilities, underachievers, and those from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Programme development

Effective teaching methods and practice aim to support gifted and talented students to achieve their potential. There are four primary areas of differentiation:

  • content – concepts, information, ideas and facts;
  • process – presentation, activities, teaching methods;
  • product – tangible and intangible results of learning;
  • environment – mobility, creativity, risk taking, challenge.

Effective schools and teachers consider the appropriateness and value of:

  • the learning environment;
  • enrichment and acceleration;
  • the regular classroom programme and external programmes;
  • cultural considerations; and
  • the development of the curriculum.

Evaluation

Effective evaluation of gifted and talented programmes is systematic and comprehensive. It is both formative and summative and findings are used to inform the ongoing nature of the programme.

ERO’s evaluation framework

ERO evaluated the quality of provision for gifted and talented students in 315 schools reviewed in Terms 3 and 4, 2007. Of the schools reviewed, 261 were primary schools, and 54 were secondary schools.

ERO gathered and analysed information from schools in response to the following evaluation questions: [10]

  • How well does the school leadership support the achievement of gifted and talented students?
  • How inclusive and appropriate are the school’s processes for defining and identifying giftedness and talent?
  • How effective is the school’s provision for gifted and talented students?
  • How well does the school review the effectiveness of their provision for gifted and talented students?
  • To what extent do gifted and talented programmes promote positive outcomes for gifted and talented students?

Review officers made evaluative judgements based on the evidence found for indicators of good quality provision for gifted and talented students for each of these key evaluation questions.