Gifted Learners

Tukuna kia rere

Self-review - Kia hoki kōmuri te titiro, kia kōkiri whakamua tonu

Ongoing self-review (internal evaluation) of a school’s identification of, and provisions for, gifted learners is essential to ensure accountability and improvement. Riley and Moltzen (2010) stress the importance of a dynamic relationship between development of provisions and self-review, with each ‘informing and shaping the other’ (p. 10). The same principles and values that underpin self-review in other aspects of schooling apply when reviewing provisions for gifted learners. The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC), Te Marautanga o Aotearoa (TMoA) and Te Whāriki (2017) call on kura/schools/ECE settings to create curricula that locate students firmly at the centre of teaching and learning. Self-review ensures that teaching and learning is achieving improved outcomes for all learners in these settings.

‘The primary purpose of effective internal evaluation is to achieve equity and excellence in outcomes for all learners’ (Education Review Office, 2015, p. 6.). In supporting these outcomes ‘Effective internal evaluation processes enable trustees, leaders, teachers, parents, families, whānau and the wider school community to understand:

  • how individual learners and groups of learners are performing in relation to valued outcomes
  • how improvement actions have impacted on learner outcomes and what difference is being made
  • what needs to change and what further action needs to be taken
  • the patterns and trends in outcomes over time
  • what kinds of practices are likely to make the most difference for diverse learners and in what contexts
  • the extent to which the improvements achieved are considered good enough in terms of the school’s vision, values, strategic direction, goals, and equity and excellence priorities.’ (Education Review Office, 2015, p. 6.).

Self-Review in Gifted Education

Ongoing self-review in gifted education should ask:

  • Does our kura/school/ECE setting’s practice meet best practice in gifted education?
  • Does our kura/school/ECE setting provide optimal learning and support for gifted learners?

To enable effective self-review, schools have developed written guidelines that include their definition of giftedness, identify the learners who best fit that definition, and articulate their aspirations for them. The collaborative inquiry cycle presented in Gifted and talented students: Meeting their needs in New Zealand schools (2012, p. 18), shows that at the start of each cycle of inquiry:

  • whānau have been consulted regarding aspirations for their learners
  • teachers and others in their community have identified what needs to improve to realise those aspirations.

The intended outcomes for learners need to be measureable and the feedback from the review should be used to develop ongoing improvement of provisions to meet the needs of gifted learners.

The initial review should focus on the overall effectiveness of the kura/school/ECE setting/Kāhui Ako approach to improving the outcomes for the gifted learners. To ensure there is ongoing improvement to each of the key components (concept, characteristics, identification, provision and self-review) and to the coherence between the components, each aspect of the kura/school/ECE setting’s provision needs to be reviewed as well. The inquiry questions and the summaries for each of the components in Gifted and talented students: Meeting their needs in New Zealand schools (2012) provide useful guides to support ongoing self-review.

  • Purposeful – leads to action for improvement
  • Meaningful – not reviewing for reviewing’s sake
  • Manageable – realistic in terms of time and human and financial resources
  • Systematic – programmed so that it doesn’t get overlooked
  • Reliable – based on relevant and valid evidence
  • Collaborative – involves key stakeholders

Cultural Self-review

Jill Bevan-Brown’s (2011) How well is your school providing for gifted minority students? in Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting Their Needs in New Zealand Schools (2012, p. 118) provides a checklist of questions for evaluating a kura/school’s provision for these students. This could be part of a broader kura/school review, as described by Jill Bevan-Brown (2003) in The cultural self-review, which provides a structure and process that teachers from early childhood centres through to secondary schools/wharekura can use to explore how well they cater for Māori learners, including those with special needs and abilities. A cultural input framework provides a set of principles for analysing programme components, including environment, personnel, policy, processes, content, resources, assessment and administration.

Frameworks for Self-review

The review process should be systematic, ongoing and comprehensive. The model of collaborative inquiry (Gifted and Talented Students: Meeting Their Needs in New Zealand Schools, 2012, p. 18) integrates self-review through all stages of the inquiry, while also indicating the need for regular formal reviews of the effect of the kura/school/ Kāhui Ako /ECE settings provision for gifted learners.

A collaborative approach increases the validity of self-review by providing a wide range of perspectives, including those of learners, teachers, parents and whānau members. This allows the self-review process to be co-constructed and the roles and responsibilities in their implementation to be shared.

Currently, kura/schools/ECE settings may be utilising the Spiral of Inquiry framework (Timperley, Kaser and Halbert, 2014) to support effective and ongoing self-review in gifted education. The Spiral of Inquiry represents a collaborative approach to ongoing self-review, aiming to create transformational change.

Methods of self-review

It is important that self-reviews:

  • measure learner outcomes, with a particular focus on progress (academic achievement, response to challenges, engagement, measures of self-efficacy, etc.)
  • measure the effectiveness of provisions
  • use a variety of qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods
  • involve key stakeholders, including learners and their whānau.

In 2008, the Education Review Office (ERO) used the questions below to review school gifted education practices. While developed for ERO reviews of schools, these questions could easily be applied to gifted education self-review processes:

  • How well does the leadership of the kura/school/ECE setting support the achievement of gifted students?
  • How inclusive and appropriate are the processes of the kura/school/ECE setting in defining and identifying giftedness?
  • How effective is the provision for gifted students in the kura/school/ECE setting?
  • How well does the kura/school/ECE setting review the effectiveness of their provision for gifted students?
  • To what extent do gifted and talented provisions promote positive outcomes for gifted students?

ERO provides key questions and indicators for evaluation, self-review, leadership, processes, programmes, outcomes and effectiveness in the following reports:

The robustness of the review is ensured by using a range of both quantitative and qualitative methodologies, including learner achievement data, observation, interviews and questionnaires. A full analysis of the impact of provisions, of change and of any future implications requires collation of the data and allocation of resources for the review.

Progress and achievement data

Progress and achievement data should form a large part of the baseline data for measuring change and progress when reviewing the effectiveness of a kura/school/ECE setting’s provision for these learners. These should include both formal methods (e.g., tracking the results of standardised tests and developing learner portfolios) and informal methods (e.g., teacher observation and the use of rating scales). While data on learner progress is always the touchstone of self-review, kura/school/ECE communities also need to understand how specific actions and decisions by teachers, leaders and others affect learners.

Focus groups

Focus groups are a useful method for reviewing the effectiveness of programmes, particularly as an efficient first step in the self-review process (even ahead of individual interviews or questionnaires). They provide a variety of responses that can be used to develop questions for structured interview schedules and questionnaires. Groups of seven or eight learners, parents and whānau members are ideal focus groups. Questions asked should be open and broad ranging, and honest and open discussion should be encouraged. Regular online surveys can also be used to gather data.

When key stakeholders are active participants in all aspects of gifted education, self-review becomes integral to the ongoing development of provisions. In this context, participatory relationships that are characterised by high levels of trust underpin processes for ongoing robust self-review.

The Education Review Office (2008) found that schools that had well-developed self-review of the effectiveness of their policy and provisions:

  • could show that gifted students were making progress and experiencing positive outcomes
  • were more likely to get the support of the board and parents for ongoing approaches to meet the needs of gifted learners.

View the thought-provoking: Self Review presentation

Self-review in the Early Years

The Ministry of Education (2016) has published a resource that supports self-review processes in early childhood settings, to guide and maintain the quality of the education provided to young children. This resource is embedded within the principles and strands of Te Whāriki. Self review guidelines for ECE