1st Thematic ECHA Conference: Creativity Research and Innovation in Gifted Education: Social, Individual, and Educational Perspective

 

The ECHA (European Council for High Ability), and the Faculty of Education in Osijek, Croatia, are organising the 1st Thematic ECHA Conference to be held in the beautiful historic city of Dubrovnik, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, on the Croatian Adriatic coast, from 16th to 18th October 2019. The Faculty of Education in Osijek is offering this conference as the registered European Talent Point (ETP) in the developing European Talent Support Network (ETSN).

The specific theme of the conference is creativity. The scientific studies of creativity, its relationship with innovation, and the established field of giftedness studies, are of crucial importance to gifted education and talent support due to the explicitly stated national and international educational objectives specifying creativity as the 21st-century skill to be fully developed in everyone. In order to more adaptively respond to the needs of our communities to educate and support their members to display socially productive creative behaviors and innovation in all walks of life, the findings on creativity must be communicated with the public. This conference aims to provide valuable thematically focused research insights on creativity as the most important topic for the education

of the gifted.

It is emerging as a common insight that if

we are to preserve the biosphere we have to act now without delay. We have to create more efficiently, with much more modesty, and in full respect of all our resources, including human resources.

Three connected conference sub-themes aim to cover the broad social, individual, and educational perspective of creativity in order to provide insight and promote research, as well as best practice based innovations in gifted education. We are interested in your experiences and research regarding the initiation, implementation and continuation of creative, meaningful, and sustainable advancements in gifted education.

It is our great pleasure and honor to invite you to 1st Thematic ECHA Conference entitled Creativity Research and Innovation in Gifted Education: Social, Individual, and Educational Perspective. Welcome to Dubrovnik!

 

 

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Teaching and learning in an international context

Interview with Margaret Sutherland, Senior Lecturer of University of Glasgow

Who are the key elements in education?

I think children are, children everywhere, one of the key elements of education are teachers. The context, however, is very important when thinking about teachers: where they are and how they were trained.

What differs in each country in terms of teaching and learning and gifted education?

There are some things that we know about learning and teaching and these are common things across countries. We know how learners learn and so on. But then we also know that within countries there are very specific things that have to be done and very specific goals at a national level. So, the context is extremely important. Each country has its own national curriculum, different resources, policies, and legislation,  not to mention the cultural differences. In the case of gifted education, it is crucial to see and understand how the given country views highly able people. Is there a national program to support them? There might be, but equally, there might not be because education, and education for the gifted, is interwoven with a country’s philosophical and political views, its cultural history and its economic base. So responses have to take account of these things.

Is it important for the teachers to find a forum where they can share their experiences?

It is hugely important. We need to help teachers to work together because teaching can be very isolating. We need to learn how we can talk to each other, collaborate and  where we can   share our problems and experiences. When you come together and share, it makes you stronger and it can really help you.

Is there a forum to give assistance to teachers in Scotland? How does talent support work in practice in your country?

There are many ways teachers are supported in Scotland. For example, we have Education Scotland, a Scottish Government executive agency charged with supporting quality and improvement in Scottish education. We also have teacher led groups such as Pedagoo and TeachMeet – practice-sharing, not-for-profit movements run by teachers for teachers. Issues relating to learning and teaching are discussed in these forums.

The Scottish Network for Able Pupils) (SNAP) has specialised in teaching and learning for highly able pupils for over 20 years.  There are gaps between research, policy and practice, and we are trying to bring those things together to help teachers. SNAP has offered support and advice to the Scottish Education system in three main areas: publications, staff development and national conferences.

On a practical level SNAP aims to offer a network of support to schools and teachers through sharing ideas and practise, provides forums for debate and discussion, offers advice to schools and teachers on how to provide appropriate challenge for their highly able learners, acts as a critical friend for school-based innovation and  offers advice and information to policy makers.

What can teachers do in everyday practice? What are the layers of talent support?

Teachers should work collaboratively with others in order to give adequate assistance to highly able learners. Effectiveness of leadership within the school is also a crucial component. I mean the way school leaders decide to organize learning and how support is offered can be hugely influential in the level of support a learner received. Different ways are needed to support and organize the learning process for all. We are essentially asking for an individualized education and a universal system, this is what makes it difficult. If you look at for example, the principles of inclusive pedagogy, it is about how we support all, and  not how we support some.

Are there principles that you can use in different places or you must set up your own teaching strategy everywhere?

I think there are some principles around learning and learners, and we need to look at the literature around how learners learn. We also need to look at the literature about what makes a good and effective teacher. So, there are common things that we can take but we have to take into account the national curriculum, culture and learning environment.

You are one of the authors of the online program called EGIFT, which is designed mainly for teachers working in the field of gifted education. This educational material aims to teach and support professionals dealing with highly able people. What made it difficult to compile the teaching material?

Writing something for an international audience is challenging. I think we have to be very careful that we don’t let any particular voice or narrative dominate. There are countries that publish a lot in the field of gifted education, but others can find it difficult to adopt some ideas. Just as policy borrowing is problematic, practice borrowing can be just as difficult. For instance, some of the things that happen in America do so within a specific system and context. We might find it quite hard to implement things in the same way in the Scottish context. It is also challenging to write in such a way that could be accessible and understood wherever you are across the globe.

What are the advantages and perspectives of EGIFT?

The fact that it is online and free is good because it can be literally for anybody who is interested in gifted education and has internet access. Right now, we are heading towards the end of this project and we are focusing on getting to that point. Of course new ideas emerge and so hopefully we can update once it is embedded, if the funding provides opportunity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing the “BISTRIC” Center for Gifted Child Development in Zagreb, Croatia

Interview with Jasna Cvetkovic-Lay

http://www.bistric.info/index.php/home

The “BISTRIC” Center was established in 1995 with the aim of supporting the special needs of 4-10 year-old children with advanced abilities and standing by their parents and teachers.  It was founded by Jasna Cvetkovic-Lay, a psychologist, an ECHA specialist and now the program coordinator of the Center.

“Bistric” is an NGO that provides workshops and extra-curricular enrichment for gifted children, in-service teacher trainings in gifted education and counselling for parents, thus creating a direct professional help to adults and professionals around children in the educational system. They offer playgroups for 4-7 year-old children and activity-oriented workshops for primary school children (7-10 years) and they also provide activities for twice exceptional students based on the principles of project work, deepness, enrichment and raising interest. In the past years in addition to workshops and trainings the Centre was involved in several applied activities and projects supported by national and local educational institutions, they organized an international conference about national networks for gifted children in 2000. In 2016 the Center was officially registered as a European Talent Point and became part of the European Talent Support Network.

In a typical school year the staff of the Center (2 leaders and 4 mentors) carries out about a hundred workshops for 25-30 gifted children , and teacher training courses for about 50-80 participants.

They have published several handbooks and booklets with topics including how to conduct and create enrichment programs for gifted children aged between 4-10, and how to support them in a family and an educational setting.

 

  • Why did you found this institution more than 20 years ago? What were your personal reasons?

 

All of us are personally motivated to initiate something significant in our own lives or in our fields. It is the situation with me, too: I come from a creative family, with a mother who was a self-taught artist and a “natural talent”, and with an engineer-innovator father, and now I am married to a very creative and talented man, who is well-known in Croatia as a person who has changed and improved the whole domain of informatics and ICT education significantly (https://hr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branimir_Makanec). So, from the very beginning, I was sensitized to the field of creativity and talent, especially the one that manifests itself in concrete products. In addition, I work in a public preschool institution with very specifically educated and talented educators and preschool teachers, who recognize and encourage talent in children through various domain-specific programs.  At this point, Croatian schools are not sufficiently adapted to the special needs of gifted students so it is important to offer them quality extracurricular programs and continuously educate teachers in the field of gifted education.

 

  • What does its name “Bistric” mean?

 

It means a very smart (clever) young child (of preschool and early school age). On Croatian word “bistar” means smart/clever and “Bistrić” is diminutive targeting the young population.

 

  • Why is this age group so important in your opinion?

 

The preschool and early school years are very sensitive because of the neurological indicators of brain development and the flexibility of the child’s brain, as well as of the latency period when the child is free from the influence of hormones that significantly influence development and intellectual processes in the later years. Children of this age, especially gifted ones, are very receptive, enthusiastic, quick and easy learners, and develop quickly in the intellectual domains. In short, it is a pleasure to work with them.

  • What kind of workshops do you offer for children? How do you plan the topics and methodology?

 

We offer extracurricular enrichment programs aimed at encouraging creative, logical and scientific thinking and digital skills.  They consist of wide-ranging types of activities with specialized didactics and equipment included. Methodically, games and activities take place in small groups (up to 5 participants), with mentoring and working in pairs. Many activities focus on team cooperation aimed to develop social skills of the gifted, in addition to challenges in the field of the expressed abilities. Activities are planned in accordance with the principles of enrichment, deepening and encouragement of the most prominent abilities and talents and socializing with children of similar abilities and interests.

 

  • If there are more applicants than you can accept, how do you choose the participant children?

 

Many schools and kindergartens in Croatia have undergone some form of education in cooperation with our Center, so educators and teachers may offer this opportunity to children nominated as potentially gifted, but parents themselves can also submit backed with their own observations. All nominated children pass through an admission and reception process that includes written observations through checklists, psychological testing, as well as observation in enriched environment.

 

  • What are your biggest challenges nowadays?

 

Unfortunately, the economic crisis has also hit Croatia, which means that we have lots of gifted children whose parents are unemployed or have little income and can’t provide them with additional high-quality programs. Therefore, the Center launched a humanitarian project through which we find donors to enable such children to attend the program at our Center. Some of the donors are especially sensitive because once they themselves were gifted children and now are successful business people – most often in abroad.

 

  • You also wrote and edited several handbooks about the practical aspect of gifted education. Why do you think it is important to write about practice?

 

People who work in practice (preschool and elementary school teachers, educators) need a set of specific tips and procedures how to work with the gifted, and need to be familiar with a wide range of games and activities, with specialized methods and goals of application as well. Part of our in-service trainings for practitioners is carried out in a way that they work directly with gifted students in the workshops in our Center and then receive practical guidelines in brochures. Handbooks and brochures are part of our educational materials for in-service trainings.

 

  • If you look over past years’ experiences, do you recognize any tendencies, negative or positive changes in the field of gifted education in your city and in your country?

 

The changes on a state level are much slower than the experts in the field of gifted education would like them to be, but they are happening. For example, the public preschool institution and kindergarten in which I work, in January 2018 was officially appointed by the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education as an Expert Developmental Center for the gifted, after 30 years of my intensive work in the field! As I say, it is very slow but at least happened. Also, several public educational institutions and non-governmental organizations in Croatia have become part of the ETSN, and an official document at the state level has been drafted that should regulate work with gifted students. But it is still ahead of us to get the appropriate conditions for its application in educational practice.

 

  • How do you see the following years? What are your plans for the near future?

 

I see the future optimistically. When I started working with gifted pre-school children in 1993, at the First Experimental program of that kind in Croatia with the permission of our Ministry, I was an exception and very lonely. Now, a lot of colleagues are dealing with this topic, and many of them say that I have inspired them. Some are educated as ECHA Specialists also, while I have been the only one in Croatia since 2000.  What I plan in the future is to acquire a PhD in the field of Early Identification of Creative-productive giftedness, under the mentorship of dr. Mojca Juriševič from CRSN in Ljubljana.

 

 

  • What are the benefits of networking within the country (network of preschool experts) and internationally, and belonging to organizations like the ETSN?

 

These benefits are huge from exchanging experience and good practice to a greater impact on slow state institutions. As Csilla Fuszek and Peter Csermely constantly emphasize, this power of horizontal networking is much larger than we would expect. I am very pleased that our Center is part of this network.

 

 

 

 

Looking back at the EGIFT Summer School in Ljubljana

Thoughts by the Hungarian participants

“The presentations let me expand my knowledge and rethink the components of my talent support work integrated in some kind of a system, a framework. I found the lectures on the identification of and talent support to multiply extraordinary children the most useful…

At the workshops, I got acquainted with work going on at Ljubljana University, and I was glad to see that I could adapt several of the many novelties to my college work. I am thinking of creative cooking that we’ll try with the children during the Arany János Dormatory weekends. It was most interesting to see technological novelties that we’ll hopefully be able to test also at the college (e.g. 3D printer).

…it was most useful that the workshops provided us an image of talent nurturing practice in various countries, and we had an opportunity to discuss our experience… Thanks to the Ljubljana training, our college established contacts with two institutions and we expect long-term cooperation with them. One institution is Hamburg-based Nelson Mandela Schule; we’ll try to cooperate with them primarily in the field of talent support to disadvantaged children, the other is Anton Ukmar Primary School in Koper, we would like to exchange experience concerning environmental protection and to familiarise with the projects, best practices there. We have invited the representatives of both institutions to our college to get acquainted and do some professional work together and, later on, we would also welcome student groups from both institutions.

… it was nice to see that talent support is given a priority role also in other countries of Europe, and they apply the same holistic approach as our institution.” (Teacher Tímea Pap, Kodály Zoltán Kollégium, Pécs)

“…I expected the EGIFT training to confirm that our school was on the right track in the field of talent support, and I wanted to learn about new guidelines and, if possible, establish contacts with educational institutions of other nations. Most participants of the further training course were primary school teachers, and church schools were only represented by myself and a colleague, so my last wish was not fulfilled. …

I found most surprising the workshop where we were introduced to a training kitchen and had to make a dish that would figure on the menu of one of our national kitchens based on the given basic ingredients in 40 minutes. The wish to fulfil the task at hand as best we could soon overcame our surprise.  … I have a new class from September, and I have assessed already during freshers’ week that a significant part of my pupils, boys included, loved to bake and cook. Thinking further based on this information and supplementing it with some elements I saw in cooking contests on TV, I will announce a multi-round cooking competition to my class that will rely on their creativity and previous experience. Also, I make no secret of my intention to strengthen the class community, so children will have to work in groups. I hope that the program will bring to the foreground also students whose study results are not so strong, and it will turn out who in the class are suitable for leader, manager, organiser roles.” (Dorottya Farsang, Deputy School Director, Baár-Madas Reformed High School, Budapest)

 

 “…The lectures made us think, they relayed known and also new pieces of information. The workshops demonstrated how far we can go with students who are talented in a discipline and also motivated.

…I had many conversations with colleagues I got acquainted with there on how they treated their students. Of the workshops, I could really identify with the drama session and the literature lesson, with music and in particular rap music being an emphatic element in the latter.” (Éva Győrfi, teacher, Reformed Primary School, Berettyóújfalú)

“…For me, the most interesting aspect of the course was that talent support and various learning and other difficulties were continuously spoken about in parallel, since the groups concerned often overlap. It was instructive to compare the experience of participants from other countries with the Hungarian practice and the practice of my own school. …

… I found particularly interesting and progressive the presentation of Dr. Gregor Torkar on the natural science projects, and although I am in humanities myself, I found the report of Bostjan Kuzman on the camps organised for mathematics talents most exciting. As practicing teacher, I am most enthralled by the practical ideas, the best practices I can “steal”; nevertheless, I listened to the theoretical lectures of Dr. Mojca Jurisevic with great interest and I also found the recommended technical literature useful.

I liked the diversity and optional nature of the workshops. I would like to underline the workshop of Mojca Cepic showing a project on testing severely disadvantaged children in a very practice-oriented and down-to-earth way. I think this presentation impressed me most during the whole training course.” …

…it is important for me that I feel we at Lauder School are not in arrears in the field of talent support, we have many forward-pointing initiatives – the training course confirmed that we are on the right track. I managed to establish contacts with nice Hungarian and foreign colleagues, hopefully, we’ll proceed to technical cooperation.” (Kinga Máhr, Lauder Javne School, Budapest)

 

 

 

Working with Gifted Students in the 21st Century – ECHA conference in Dublin, Ireland from 8th August to 11th August

European Council for High Ability (ECHA) held its 16th biennial conference in Dublin this year. Well-known and recognized talent experts and professionals gathered from 42 different   countries   to discuss the topic of talent development in the 21th century.

Unlike previous practices the venue of the conference was at Croke Park in the stadium of GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) this year. The unusual location of the venue was symbolic reminding the visitors of significant events in Irish history. The home of Gaelic Games, Croke Park Stadium is the third largest stadium in Europe which has hosted many special events such as the Special Olympics in 2003 or the 50th International Eucharistic Congress in 2012. The Organization Committee led by Dr. Colm O’Reilly, director of the Centre for Talented Youth (CTYI) at DCU (Dublin City University) and the Scientific Committee chaired by Prof. Albert Ziegler were responsible for the preparation of ECHA 2018.

The conference opened with a keynote from Professor Francoys Gagne, followed by a reception in Croke Park’s Museum, where guests had a chance to experience Ireland’s national sports and culture. The Canadian professor, who has become a world-famous talent expert with his Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT), started his speech with a brief theoretical summary then went on speaking about the results of his researches and practical aspects of talent development. Continue reading “Working with Gifted Students in the 21st Century – ECHA conference in Dublin, Ireland from 8th August to 11th August”

Biennial Conference of the International Association for Talent Development and Excellence in TaiPei

The next Biennial Conference of the International Association for Talent Development and Excellence (IRATDE) will take place from 12 to 16 April 2019 in Taipei. The conference offers a world-class venue and world-class research on talent development and gifted education. The IRATDE warmly invites researchers from around the globe to submit abstracts for short talks and poster presentations. Submission deadline is 31 October 2018. See the conference website for details: www.iratdetaipei.org