Gifted and talended pupils: How to recognise them and how to help them develop
In Norwegian secondary schools, there are gifted and talended pupils in all classes. This is part of the inclusive education in Norwegian public schools. However, criticism has been voiced that these students do not receive adapted education and that their teachers do not excercise ambitions on their behalf. Instead, poor pupils are particularly targeted, which often resuts in too low ambitions on behalf of all pupils in class.
Research and literature describing gifted and talented pupils either (a) concern exceptional students in other countries, e.g. the USA, or (b) exceptional students in Norway who are exceptional in terms of being markedly better than their peers in the same class.
In the present study, we attempt to generate knowledge from student teachers and their perception of who gifted and talended pupils are - within the "normal" abilities framed for example by the grade system where 1 is the lowest grade and 6 the best. Those we ask the student teachers to identify are those who would receive the highest grades, 5 and 6.
The study is framed within Vygotskian theory on the active student and the proximal zone of development (Vygotsky, 1987), in addition to theories on giftedness (Bruner, 1969; Piaget & Cook, 1952; Renzulli; 2002).
One aim has been to compare the information from the student teachers with these theories. A second aim has been to generate knowledge of how to prepare student teachers for teaching gifted and talented pupils, to have ambitions on their behalf and to teach them how to design their instruction in order to help these pupils develop as learners, in terms of adapted teaching.
The present study is conducted in the teacher education programmes at the University of Oslo, Norway. The participants are student teachers in their last term, collected over five terms with five different groups of students, ranging in size from 37 to 98 (2013-2015). The group sessions were audio recorded and transcribed. A total of 289 students participated, from all subjects. Immediately before data collection, the students had been in eight weeks of practice at local secondary schools.
They were asked to reflect on the pupils in the classes they had taught at the practice schools, and to identify pupils they would characterise as talented. This does not only include exceptional pupils, but also talented pupils within the "normal" class.The student teachers were asked to describe these pupils in terms of six aspects: (1) How would you characterise these pupils?, (2) What do these pupils master well?, (3) What makes these pupils feel safe in class?, (4) When are these pupils best - before, during, or after a learning activity?, (5) How can these pupils best develop as learners?, and (6) How can you help these students fulfill their potential?
We were two researchers present during these group sessions, one asking the questions, and the other writing the answers on the board for all students to see, and comment on. One question was asked at a time, with student teachers responding orally to one question before the next one was asked. All participants were allowed to express their opinion, and whenever the room went quiet, the researcher asked if anyone else wanted to respond, and waited for ten seconds of silence before moving on to the next question. Each group session lasted for 45-60 minutes. All notes on the board were photographed and made available for the student teachers afterwards for peer-debriefing as a validation approach.
The findings suggest three patterns; (1) the perceptions of what characterize gifted and talented pupils are rather similar across the five groups of student teachers, (2) their descriptions are in line with the pedagogical theories of development, while presenting different views than the theory on exceptionally gifted children, and (3) the student teachers find it most difficult to describe how they as future teachers can help these pupils develop. The notion of asking these pupils to help other pupils in the classroom is suggested as the main solution by all five groups of students.
As only the first analysis have been conducted this far, we expect to have more detailed findings to present at the conference, particularly related to finding 3. Implications for teacher education programmes will be suggested in detail.
Bandura, A., Barbaranelli, C., Caprara, G. V., & Pastorelli, C. (1996). Multifaceted impact of self‐efficacy beliefs on academic functioning. Child development, 67(3), 1206-1222.
Brown, S. W., Renzulli, J. S., Gubbins, E. J., Siegle, D., Zhang, W., & Chen, C.-H. (2005). Assumptions underlying the identification of gifted and talented students. Gifted Child Quarterly, 49(1), 68-79.
Bruner, J. S. (1969). The process of education: A searching discussion of school education opening new paths to learning and teaching: Harvard University Press.
Piaget, J., & Cook, M. T. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children.
Renzulli, J. S. (2002). Emerging conceptions of giftedness: Building a bridge to the new century. Exceptionality, 10(2), 67-75.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind and society: The development of higher mental processes: Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.