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Survey to investigate gifted education

Monday, August 6, 2012

Survey to investigate gifted education

A survey sent to every New Zealand school today will investigate how well schools cater for gifted children – and compare results with research conducted a decade ago.

Massey University Associate Professor Tracy Riley and Dr Brenda Bricknell from Waikato University are leading the independent survey.

In 2003 Dr Riley, a gifted education specialist, led a study commissioned by the Ministry of Education to examine how schools identify and provide for gifted children.

The original survey was sent to every school in New Zealand – 48 per cent responded. Dr Riley says results found a wide variation in practices from schools with no policy to those providing a range of programmes.

Now almost 10 years later an updated survey will today be emailed to the more than 2500 primary, intermediate, secondary and special schools in the country. “We have replicated the study to see how things have moved on,” Dr Riley says.

The study’s definition of gifted and talented children recognises those who excel intellectually, at creative, visual and performing arts, and in sport, cultural activities and in leadership. “These learners show exceptionality in these areas related to other learners at the same age, they pick up at a faster rate and at a deeper knowledge than you would anticipate.”

The online survey asks schools about how they define gifted pupils, their policy and the programmes available for different areas of giftedness. New questions will ask what the school believes its strengths and barriers are for gifted education, and what professional development has been accessed.

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Results will be released early next year and inform policy and practice in New Zealand, and identify areas of excellence and where more research is needed, Dr Riley says. The results will also inform her teaching at Massey, which offers the only postgraduate qualification in gifted and talented education in the country.

“I hope what we find is that more schools are identifying more kids as gifted and providing more programmes for them,” she says. “And for schools it’s helpful to know what other schools are doing, and what can be done.”

Next year the World Council of Gifted and Talented Children’s 20th Biennial Conference will be held in Auckland, and Dr Riley says a decade on, it was timely to find out what is happening in New Zealand schools so this can be shared with an international audience. The survey’s release also coincides with International Week of the Gifted, which starts today and runs till August 12.

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