Researchers welcome funding for gifted children

Venkat Raman

The new Labour Government’s announcement that it will restore funding for gifted education will have a positive impact on the functioning of schools, Massey University researchers have said.

Gifted Learning Expert Associate Professor Tracy Riley said that the previous government had stopped funding for specialist programmes such as Talent Development Initiatives, which proved effective in meeting holistic student needs.

“Cuts were also made to professional development, with the disestablishment of advisors to schools, and research funding,” she said.

Despite the cuts, Dr Riley, who is an elected member of the Board of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children and Dean, Research at Massey University, continued to teach, research and lead advocacy for gifted learners, driven by her strong belief in their right to learning and belonging.

Positive experiences

Dr Riley said that a study involving children in the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education showed that while most gifted children felt that they engaged with like-minded peers in the programme, only 32% reported the same experience in their classroom groups.

Studies by her students, including Educational Psychology Intern Lindsay Yeo revealed similar outcomes.

Leo cited the experience of secondary school boys who had been accelerated to study at Massey University while still in high school.

“The boys expressed positive experiences, including a strong sense of belonging, banter amongst like-minded peers, and positive self-esteem, despite commonly held myths of damaging students by pushing them out of their peer group for learning.”

The critical factor

According to Dr Riley, other studies of schoolwide programmes and in-class learning undertaken by Massey students like doctoral candidate, Carrie vander Zwaag, and recent educational psychology graduate, Angela Warmke, showed that the most critical factor is the teacher.

“Carrie’s research project with a team of secondary teachers shows that working alongside one another to plan and share successful differentiated and responsive teaching helps ensure relevance for all students, including the gifted.”

Supporting Awards

She is hopeful that the changes in policy announced by the new government would include support for study awards for more student researchers including postgraduate students specialising in gifted education in the Ministry-funded Specialist Teaching programme, as well as “consultation with the gifted community to ensure funding is used for programmes for gifted students, ongoing research and pre- and in-service teacher education.”

Photo: Associate Professor Tracy Riley (Picture by Massey News)

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