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From Policy to Practice: How are Schools Catering for Gifted and Talented Students?

In 2005, the Ministry of Education in New Zealand released 'The Schooling Strategy, Making a Bigger Difference for all Students' (Ministry of Education, 2005). This is intended as a framework for ongoing effort and improvement in education for the five years from 2005 to 2010. One of the strategic priorities in this document, is to promote evidence-based practice. With evidence-based practice, teachers combine evidence from a number of sources to inform their professional judgements and practice. This includes research evidence about effective pedagogy. Teachers, it states, need to be supported to 'base their practice on principles of what works from research evidence and adapting it to their classroom context' (p.39). In looking at the practices of schools in catering for gifted and talented students, therefore, it is appropriate, to look at the findings of research. This research is useful in underpinning 'best practice'. This study reviews the literature concerning the education of gifted and talented children from both national and international perspectives. It then looks at current New Zealand practice, based on four case-study primary schools. There are very encouraging signs that these schools are well into the journey of catering for their gifted and talented students. Each school in this study has responded to the challenge of provision as best it can, within constraints of individual school situations. Each school also sees the development of this provision as an ongoing process. From Term 1, 2005, all state and state integrated schools must be able to show how they are meeting the needs of their gifted and talented learners. The main findings of this study suggest that even before the amendment to this National Administration Guideline (NAG) 1(iii)c, there were some promising and effective provisions for gifted and talented children within schools. These included school-wide and withdrawal provisions. However, since the change to the NAG and the involvement of schools in gifted and talented professional development courses, there has been increased awareness of the need for classroom teachers to differentiate their programmes in order to more effectively cater for this group of learners. New Zealand primary school classrooms with a learner centred philosophy appear to be well suited to programme differentiation. There is increasingly an emphasis within general teaching practice on individualizing programmes based on assessment data which clearly shows where the child is at, and what the next learning step will be. Current professional development contracts promoting practices such as inquiry learning, curriculum integration and thinking skills seem to have particular promise for this group of learners. It is very evident, however, that a lack of time and energy is a significant barrier for classroom teachers wishing to provide for the specific needs of gifted and talented learners. It is also suggested that some schools, in particular low decile and small rural schools, may be unfairly disadvantaged in their ability to provide for gifted and talented learners. The challenge for schools now, it is suggested, is to continue the journey towards a school-wide commitment to best practice in providing for this group of learners. Special consideration for this group of learners should be integrated into the context of all pre-service training and in-service professional development, as part of a differentiated programme for all learners. A vital component of this is ongoing practical support for teachers based on their expressed need, to enable them to effectively translate theory into practice, and thus implement and embed any appropriate approach, based on research findings, effectively.
Type of thesis
Ferguson, M. (2007). From Policy to Practice: How are Schools Catering for Gifted and Talented Students? (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2371
The University of Waikato
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