What is Giftedness?
There is no universal definition. Some professionals define “gifted” as an intelligence test score above 130, two or more standard deviations above the norm, or the top 2.5%. Others define “gifted” based on scholastic achievement: a gifted child works 2 or more grade levels above his or her age. Still others see giftedness as prodigious accomplishment: adult-level work while chronologically a child. But these are far from the only definitions. Former U. S. Commissioner of Education Sidney P. Marland, Jr., in his August 1971 report to Congress, stated:
Gifted and talented children are those identified by professionally qualified persons who by virtue of outstanding abilities are capable of high performance. These are children who require differentiated educational programs and/or services beyond those normally provided by the regular school program in order to realize their contribution to self and society.
The NSW DEC, CEO and a number of independent schools adopt the Gagné Differentiated Model of Gifted and Talented (DMGT) when identifying and considering the needs of our gifted and talented students. Professor Gagné, emphasises that ‘Giftedness is the possession of natural abilities or aptitudes at levels significantly beyond what might be expected for one’s age, in any domain of human ability’. According to Gagné, giftedness occurs in 10% of children across 6 natural domains. In 2012, the Australian Bureau of Statistics published data detailing that there were approximately 1.1million children in primary and secondary schools in NSW (combined). Within NSW, we are therefore looking at over 110, 000 children who are gifted. The needs of these children vary greatly; even within that 10% there is great diversity.
What is the difference between Gifted and Talented?
Giftedness does not necessarily equate to talent. Giftedness is untrained natural abilities, whereas talents as specific skills are learned capabilities. I believe that the Gagné model emphasises differing natural giftedness and achieving talent, and clearly outlines catalysts affecting giftedness manifesting into talent. Given the focus on talent resurging both nationally and internationally, how many gifted children will be overlooked and underserved because we fail to understand and apply ‘Gagne thinking’ in favour of achievement identifiers of giftedness? Gifted students are found in all communities and in almost every classroom in Australia. However, without suitable educational experiences and specialised intervention, these students’ gifts may never be transformed into talents.
Isn’t being gifted elitist?
Gifted children think differently; they process differently, their brain is wired differently. This does not make them more special than anyone else; giftedness is not elitist. It is not gender-specific, nor bound to one cultural group or socio-economic status. Giftedness is not free from a learning disability. It does not guarantee happiness nor success; it is not a golden lottery ticket. Gifted children are rarely prodigies or geniuses. All children are gifts, all children have gifts, but not all children are gifted. Children who are gifted need to have their needs met at school on a full-time basis – not just at chess club every second Wednesday or at weekend or holiday ‘gifted’ workshops. Gifted students are gifted all day, every day. Since gifted students are a heterogeneous group, each requires specifically targeted adjustments to their educational program. There is no universal solution appropriate for all gifted students.
Won’t all gifted children be fine on their own?
Children who are gifted face being misunderstood, loneliness, and disengagement when their learning needs are not met. In his keynote address at the 2015 National Gifted Conference, Geoff Masters, Chief Executive of the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), presented extensive data looking at our growing bank of Naplan results. In each year of school in Australia, the most advanced 10 per cent of students are five to six years ahead of the least advanced 10 per cent of students. As a society, our vision should be to guide and educate all children by meeting each one at their own level. Masters determines that ‘The learning needs of the highest-performing students in our schools are often not well addressed due to the failure to recognise true variability in students’ levels of capability and achievement’.
Is Gifted NSW just a parent group?
No. Whilst the Gifted NSW Committee do bring important parental experience to the leadership of the association, all Committee members are professionals within their own field, thus collaborating to make a strong team with diverse, yet supporting professions.
In addition, Gifted NSW also continues to support our educators, whom we acknowledge often experience a challenging time in their diverse classrooms. Of the 37 universities in Australia who offer education at a tertiary level, only 3 have a compulsory, stand-alone gifted education unit within their undergraduate programs. Those universities are UOW, UNSW and UNE. To support our educators and provide necessary professional development in gifted education, we need to collaborate as a nation, explicitly incorporating gifted in our curriculum, teaching standards, under-graduate studies and on-going post-graduate professional development.
Gifted NSW is welcoming to all who feel they may benefit from our events, without entry criteria. Some events will by necessity require age restrictions, and events will open for registration to members before becoming available to non-members.
Gifted NSW recognises the diversity of all children, especially gifted and GLD children. Gifted NSW representatives do not provide recommendations regarding schools, programs or professionals unless these are comments from personal experience and not considered representative of the association. Families are encouraged to seek advice and information from a range of sources, and especially to consider the evidence base of any program or approach they may be considering, but to also understand that ultimately the decisions are very individual ones and what is right for one child may not suit another.