Responsive Learning Environments - Ko te ahurei o te tamaiti ka ārahi i ā tātou mahi

The purpose of defining and identifying giftedness is to recognise individual and group abilities, qualities and interests. Gifted and talented education (GaTE) is about ensuring that gifted potential is realised, that gifted and talented learners discover their strengths and follow their passions, and that barriers to success are minimised.

Teaching and learning for gifted and talented learners can occur in the home, kura/school/ECE setting/ Kāhui Ako and community. Gifted and talented learners are potentially nurtured within personal, local, national and global contexts. The Ministry of Education’s (MoE, 2017) early childhood curriculum, Te Whāriki, states:

A curriculum must speak to our past, present and future. As global citizens in a rapidly changing and increasingly connected world, children need to be adaptive, creative and resilient. They need to ‘learn how to learn’ so that they can engage with new contexts, opportunities and challenges with optimism and resourcefulness (p. 7).

When key stakeholders in GaTE work collaboratively, there is equitable access to holistic, responsive and seamless learning pathways for gifted learners.

Removing the barriers

"He’s none of the things that the mainstream can control and the gifted programme has taken the controls off, and so it should. Education shouldn’t be about controlling talent, controlling our ability to aspire to the heavens, it should be about opening it up. And that’s the best of what a gifted programme can do, it opens it up, everything’s a possibility, nothing is a barrier. "

(Whānau interview). Russell (2013, p. 43).

Guiding documents

The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC), Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (TMoA) and Te Whāriki set the direction for student learning and provide guidance for kura/school/ECE settings/Kāhui Ako as they design and review their local curriculum. TMoA, for example, provides context for te reo me ona tikanga and ensures whānau, iwi and hapū are included in the schooling life of learners:

He poipoi i te reo me ngā tikanga o te whānau, te hapū, me te iwi (nurturing the language and culture of the family, the clan and the tribe) (TMoA, 2007, p.10).

Although these documents serve different groups, each of them starts with the MoE’s stated vision of young people developing the competencies they need for study, work and lifelong learning, so they may go on to realise their potential (The New Zealand Curriculum Online).

Te Whāriki is underpinned by a vision for children who are competent and confident learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society. Te Whāriki envisages kaiako in early learning settings working in partnership with parents, whānau and community to realise this vision (Ministry of Education, 2017, p. 6).

Kura/school/ECE settings/Kāhui Ako may create a graduate/learner profile for gifted and talented learners in their community. This profile should reflect the setting’s definition of gifted and talented learners and their vision for them, as well as the MoE’s vision for GaTE presented in Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting Their Needs in New Zealand Schools (MoE, 2012, p. 10). The process of developing a graduate/learner profile for gifted and talented learners needs to include all key stakeholders, as part of the inclusive approach that will continue to characterise the provision of GaTE in the kura/school community.

The MoE principles presented in Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting Their Needs in New Zealand Schools (MoE, 2012, p. 10) provide the foundations for curriculum decision making and guide every aspect of pedagogy and practice for GaTE, for example:

  • Treaty of Waitangi: ‘Māori principles and values are embodied in all aspects of the education of gifted and talented students’ (p. 10). In what ways are Māori culture, identity and language valued, promoted and evidenced in GaTE?
  • Inclusion: ‘There are gifted and talented students in every demographic of Aotearoa New Zealand and this is reflected in educational policy and practice’ (p. 10). In what ways do the demographics of learners identified as gifted in our kura/school/ECE settings reflect the demographics of our community?
  • High Expectations: ‘Provisions for gifted and talented students are differentiated in breadth, depth, and pace to ensure opportunities for personal excellence’ (p. 10). In what ways do we differentiate the curriculum to ensure high levels of challenge, achievement and progress for gifted learners?
  • Engagement: ‘Whānau and communities are supported to be engaged in the development of gifted and talented students’ (p. 10). In what ways do we invest in building positive relationships for learning?

Russell, V. (2013). A programme for gifted Māori in an English-medium secondary school. Unpublished Master’s Thesis, University of Auckland.