Pathbreaking psychologist and researcher, Professor Joan Freeman, died on July 2, 2023. She was 88.
Along with 9 other psychologists and educators, Prof. Freeman was instrumental in founding the European Council on High Ability https://echa-site.eu/. The organization grew to have an international impact, reporting on research and practices around the globe and advocating for children and youth with intellectual and academic gifts and talents. She was active in the organization into her 80s as Founding President and as a spokesperson. In addition, from 2010 she became active in the formation of the European Talent Support Network within ECHA.
Prof. Freeman was a pioneer of the longitudinal research approach to studying gifted children and their families. In the course of her career, she served as a consultant to universities in several countries, including the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the University of Prague, Arabian Gulf University, Yale University, the University of Alberta, and the University of Stockholm. Prof. Freeman was in regular demand as a speaker around the world.
In 2007 she won a lifetime achievement award from the British Psychological Society. The award is given to psychologists with an outstanding record of personal achievements who have also made significant contributions to the advancement of psychological knowledge. In 2014, Mensa International awarded her a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Prof. Freeman was born Sally Joan Casket, in 1935. She grew up in Manchester, apart from five years as a child evacuee in Canada during the war. She received her PhD in 1980 from the University of Manchester and became a Chartered Psychologist in 1988, licensed to practice by the British Psychological Society. She was awarded a visiting professorship at the University of Middlesex in 1991. During 1989-2020, living in London, Prof. Freeman served as a consultant to several agencies and universities while maintaining an active research agenda and a private practice working with children. She was the author or editor of 17 books and over 150 peer-reviewed publications.
Prof. Freeman was married to Prof. Hugh Freeman, M.D., editor of the British Journal of Psychiatry, who died on May 4, 2011. She is survived by two sons and one daughter. Her son Tony Freeman passed away shortly before his mother.
In an obituary for the website of the European Talent Center – Budapest, Csilla Fuszek, director at European Talent Center – Budapest, said, “Joan was interested in everything. She was a lively and wise thinker; she could marvel at life again and again, and she had a kind of primal curiosity about people and all new things. At conferences, everything Joan presented reflected what she loved the most: intellectual inspiration, a lively argument, good company, the joy and excitement of creation. It is no coincidence that Joan became the founding president of ECHA. It is also no coincidence that she became a role model for many colleagues, an inspirational force not only because of her excellent research but also because of her character, one with strong views yet responsive to challenges. This is how everyone should grow old! we used to say.”
She leaves many friends and colleagues around the world who enjoyed her company, her wit, her passion for psychology, and her zest for adventure.
A joint programme of the European Talent Support Network (ETSN) is the European Youth Summit, held in parallel with the ECHA conferences, preferably annually. The Summits have been taking place since 2016 and provide an opportunity for the youth to discuss their ideas on talent support or their own talent field, to build friendships around common interests and to learn about the cultural specificities of the host country/city.
After Vienna, Budapest, Dublin, Dubrovnik and Porto, the 6th meeting took place in The Hague in 2022. The Hague was in many ways interesting or even different from previous meetings. Compared to the previous ones, the youth programme met the ECHA conference programme in several areas. In addition to the plenary sessions, they had the opportunity to attend free-choice presentations based on their own interests, where they were introduced to the latest research related to talent support. This has never been done before. In addition, there was a number of programme elements dedicated specifically to them but, again, mostly 2-3 workshops or discussions ran in parallel. This made the days together unique for everyone. Of course, the young people attended the cultural and evening activities together.
In principle, the ETSN European Talent Centres and Talent Points could delegate students aged 14-30 to the Summit. However, for many years now, the age group most interested in the event and most likely to attend it has been students aged 16-22. In addition to an interest in the theme, an advanced knowledge of English, an interest in other cultures and networking, and openness are essential for participation. Normally, no more than 50 young people can attend the Summit’, which has been supported in recent years by ETSN’s Saudi Talent Centre, Mawhiba (King Abdulaziz and his Companions’ Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity), to ensure participation by as many students as possible. Nearly 30 students attended this year, the smaller headcount being due to uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Hungarian students were represented by a team of 5. We would like to share some of their impressions and valuable reflections on talent support, while their full reports are available on the EUTK website in English: https://talentcentrebudapest.eu/hu/news-events Their reflections mirror the diversity, depth and sensitivity of their experiences:
„The topic I found most interesting was the education of so-called “twice exceptional” students. I have never heard about the correlation between exceptional ability and mental disorders (for example, the combination of high intelligence and autism) at such depth before. The pursuit of “ideal education” has determined my thinking and goals since high school, and I am particularly interested in the more specific areas of education, absolutely necessary to provide adequate education to all students. This is of course challenging, but the examples and success stories of twice-exceptional students that we heard in the lectures were absolutely motivating. If I am ever involved in improving education, I would love to throw myself into projects that have similar results.”
Pusztai Rebeka, university student, Budapest/Utrech, Hungary, Netherlands
„Learners receive by and large the same quantity, but not the same quality, of education. Here quality is intended less in its traditional sense, and more as in caring for the needs of the learner. “Quality” here means “what is needed by the learner”: given the inherently different needs of learners, it is exceptionally difficult to provide equal quality in this sense. Certain steps such as reducing class size can help, but the problem is far from being solved.
Thirdly, the autonomy issue. Most students do not like to feel/be different from the others, especially if this it is due to adaptation to some special educational need. On the other hand, learners who are exceptional in one field may achieve better results due to the help of special educational methodology.”
Molnár Zalán secondary school student, Miskolc, Hungary
„My time spent at the conference was a series of deep learning experiences about diverse and motivating topics. I found the presentation about the Mully Children’s Family (MCF) the most impressive and fascinating keynote. MCF is a revolutionary organization in Kenya with programs to promote and nurture gifts and talents of children/youth in marginalized and poverty-stricken communities. I felt touched by this initiative, because providing quality education to all is a particularly important topic for me. This is the reason why I work for the international organization Athena on a program that provides free quality education globally, based on the same principles that MCF has. In Athena, students can participate in online courses and skill-enhancing programs. Unlike other international programs, we provide lessons and resources to the participants to master the subjects of humanities that are not covered in their curricula. Learning about MCF’s special methods was most instructive for me and it has contributed to the further development of Athena. I had the opportunity to personally meet Ndondo Mutua Mully, who has a key role in the organization, and to find out more about MCF and how I could contribute to this impressive initiative.”
Tóth Mira, secondary schhol student, Budapest, Hungary
„I had the best time of my life in The Hague during the ETSN Youth Summit organised as part of the 18th ECHA Conference. I had been preparing for this conference practically all summer, and I can say that the experience far exceeded all my expectations for sure!
I gained much knowledge about talents and abilities during the talks and presentations. The first keynote speech already contained plenty of new information; this was also the presentation that intrigued me the most out of the 15+ lectures/presentations/workshops/inspirational talks I attended during the conference. The speaker, Matt Zakreski, PhD, talked about the importance of failure. I can confidently claim that no lecture has ever captured my attention as much as this one. As a perfectionist fearing failure, I could completely identify with everything presented in the lecture; I felt as if every sentence would have been addressed personally to me. Perhaps the thought that stuck with me the most from this presentation was that “There are only three ways to Truly Fail: Never trying, Giving up and Not improving”.
Adorjáni Jonathán, secondary school student, Marosvásárhely, Romania
„Over all, many educational systems may need deep rooted structural renewal. Entering the conference I hoped I would get to know what tools there are that we can immediately give teachers and students to empower and motivate them. With all this in mind I was extremely happy to be notified that the ECHA international conference was opening its doors to who I like to call the primary consumers of education: the youth. Similarly to us, many young learners around the world were granted the possibility of taking part in the conference. We had much fun together, actively engaging in afternoon group building activities and listening to presenters. I was very glad to see that there was a wide variety of countries taking part in the youth program.
Similar diversity could be seen in the presenters at the conference. During the course of our three days in the Hague we attended numerous presentations, with presenters working in or researching education and learning. I believe everybodies palette was satisfied by the extensive range of topics being covered. My personal favorite presenters would have to be Prof. Niamh Stack, Dr Susan Baum, and Prof Frank C. Worrell.”
The 18th International Conference of the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) was held in the Hague, the Netherlands between 31 August and 3 September, 2022. Its title was ‘Empowering every talent together. Creative ways to enable personal growth’, which – together with the beautiful, colourful butterfly-shaped logo – drew our attention to the personal strengths and individual developmental pathways of the gifted. Within this 21st-century topic the conference put a special emphasis on the stimulating environments of talent development, nurturing creativity and optimal development, but also put diversity and social responsibility into the focus. The conference venue also helped the cc. 800 participants to identify with the topic: the Hague is the administrative and royal capital of the Netherlands and it hosts the International Court of Justice, while the World Forum conference center is a deservedly famous symbol of internationality and intercultural diversity.
The first keynote speaker of the conference, Dr. Matt Zakreski, psychologist and expert of neurodiversity, created the basic dynamism of the conference with his lively and personal speech, in which he presented the psychological aspects of dealing with failure and opportunities to build resiliency. The second keynote speaker of the day, Ndondo Mutua Mulli (Board Director, Mully Children’s Family Operations Director) presented how their institution in Kenya aims to engage every child and youth to thrive and shine, both with the help of talent support and social work. On the 2nd full day of the conference Prof. Alexander Minnaert brought the challenges of twice exceptional students close to us in his presentation and shared the inclusive aspects of student support with the participants. Later on the day, we listened to Prof. Niamh Stack’s captivating presentation about why and how we need to build bridges between different disciplines, e.g. between psychology, pedagogy and neuroscience in order to better apply theoretical knowledge in everyday practice. On the 3rd day we listened to the lecture of Dr. Susan Baum, who has spent over four decades studying twice exceptional youngsters and what happens when advanced abilities collide with disabilities. During her session she shared lots of personal stories and suggested five key ways to meet these students’ needs.
In addition to the keynote presentations, participants also contributed to the diversity of the conference by sharing their own practical and research experiences. In addition to the classic paper, poster presentations and symposia, the organizers also introduced two less frequently used genres in the conference. One was the dynamic flash presentation, which is a presentation by young/starting researchers of 10 minutes followed by 20 minutes discussion, which was a perfect way to initiate a deeper professional discourse about a new topic. The other innovative type of presentation was the so-called inspirational talk, which is a TED-like talk with the intention to inspire the audience, for example by storytelling and/or sharing future perspectives. These new types of presentations made the course of the conference lively and varied, and also promoted the introduction, elaboration and understanding of new topics within giftedness.
In addition to the main conference, there were other parallel events that partially overlapped with the conference: there was a pre-conference with several interesting workshops related to eg. strengths, stress-management or spiritual giftedness, a parents’ meeting dedicated to parenting topics, a special Dutch program for participants from the Netherlands, and the Youth Platform of the ETSN (European Talent Support Network) also had an event. during which talented young people could deal with educational, psychological or self-knowledge topics that interested them.
There was no shortage of social activities either: in addition to the welcome reception in Madurodam and the conference dinner held at the beautiful seaside location, we had the opportunity to take part in a boat tour among the canals around The Hague, and several of us admired the museum and galleries of the city, including Vermeer’s famous painting of the Girl with a pearl earring.
I am sure that the experiences gathered here contribute not only to professional development, but also to the expansion of the social network within the ECHA community.
We asked Prof. János Győri about his interest in the Hungarian math education particularly in the so called special math classes, a few months ago his book on the same topic was published by MATEHETSZ:https://tehetseg.hu/konyv/tehetsegek-egyutt
Csilla Fuszek: What made you interested in special maths programs and in particular the special maths classes of Fazekas Grammar School in the first place? What researches did you conduct on this topic and were there any similar ones? What is your opinion of this form of talent support?
Prof. János Győri: I have dealt with the issues of giftedness and in particular the education and methods of pedagogical development of talented children for more than a quarter of a century. The nature and development of mathematical talent has always been one of the most interesting topics in talent research and literature and also in public discourse. This may have several reasons: first, the clear social importance of mathematics acknowledged for thousands of years; second, the somewhat mysterious origin of this ability for many and, third, this being a domain that can be identified early and developed well – contrary to quite a number of other talent domains. I myself have never been good at maths, and I have felt bad about it. This is how I became interested in what I could understand, if not of maths, at least of mathematical talent – which I have never even been close to –, and how I could promote the talent development activity of others and the relevant development of talented children in this field through my own pedagogical understanding. I was interested in the special maths faculty of Fazekas Grammar School in particular and the first class of this kind also for other reasons. On the one hand, contrary to others, I have never considered this school a “racing stable”, but a pedagogical workshop of very high quality also in international comparison. I was interested in how that related to the maths faculty, how a talent class of this kind contributed to the school being such an excellent institution. On the other hand, “spec. maths” is a typical example of co-educating gifted children – the subject matter of so many domestic and international supportive, and at least as many critical, analyses and opinions. I was interested in what the stakeholders, the talented children themselves, would say about this if asked directly. Finally, in the context of my research, I interviewed the talented adults these talented children became, due to my special interest in the very first Hungarian/Fazekas class of this kind. This has had two reasons. One was my knowledge that at least a dozen outstanding mathematicians, members of the academicians, international prize winners, creators of internationally recognized and used mathematical theorems, and even outstanding members of the mathematical talent support staff of the past 50 years, started their careers there. The other reason why I started to research the talent issues of this class exactly 50 years after their GCSE was that I wondered how a special class of maths talents could be started in the middle of socialism, the Kádár regime – whereas, at least apparently, at a first glance, this diametrically opposed to the prevailing egalitarian society-building philosophy governed by the principle of equality. This was my key interest in my capacity of researcher and, obviously, I had to focus on the very first class to understand this issue. Furthermore, the special maths faculty became one of the most successful forms of Hungarian talent support, rolled out as early as the school year following 1962 in several Budapest and, later on, a dozen of Hungarian schools, active to this day and raising one generation after the other of mathematically talented young Hungarians. So, I was genuinely interested in the beginning of the story, the very first such class. All things considered, however, I was most interested in what the class was like from the inside: how it worked in the (talent) pedagogical sense, what typical social relations and what values prevailed there and how the best in mathematics and the others related to each other – during my research interviews, I asked the members of the first spec. maths Fazekas class, almost 70 years old at the time, to recall these aspects in the first place.
I have hardly conducted any similar research and the same is true of others, internationally: the English-language literature refers to the description of no more than one or two similar Chinese researches where talent support program participants were interviewed about their talent co-education experience in retrospect, 2-3 decades later.
I myself came to two conclusions as a result of the research.
One is that the co-education of talents is not only positive, but also inevitable for optimum development. To use a simple and not even academic simile: who would assume the optimum form of the development of Formula-1 drivers would be to make them practice with the “laymen” most of us are at an early age? Or that the best way for Pavarotti to develop his singing skills would have been to have no similar talents around him? To have no talent workshops? This, however, does not mean that the co-education of talents is equally important and good in every domain, at every age, for each and every child. I have also interviewed former students who quit this spec. maths (“supermaths”) class during the program about their experience. As could be expected, it was not positive and, naturally, this aspect requires as much pedagogical attention as the pedagogy of those for whom co-education with talented students is the most developing, most stimulating medium.
Another, not independent, finding is that it is pedagogically incorrect to create such a co-education environment without having an adequate system of consultants and/or psychologist or at least special assistant teachers in the background. This is a rather challenging situation for excellent or good students and teachers alike, where it is better if the stakeholders can always rely on a professional backup team to provide expert assistance if need be.
Yet another thing I understood thanks to this research is that such highly intensive co-education situations will only have a positive effect also in the long run if the exceptionally talented and the less outstanding, but high-performer children find the forms of cooperation, with the help of their teachers, where they can mutually strengthen and acknowledge each other. In addition to many other conditions, this requires that the highly talented, yet not excellent students feel that the community concerned develops and strengthens them to the maximum extent possible, and it is the best stimulating/developing growth environment for them. It is incredibly hard to create an environment where the highly talented, but not excellent, students can be present and can develop like that – but the nationally outstanding academic staff of the first spec. maths class accomplished this task, thanks in the first place to their history/geography teacher form master, Gyula Komlós.
Other main findings of the research could be listed endlessly, but suffice it to mention one more here: I became convinced that, for certain talented children, in certain fields of knowledge (and maths is obviously one of these), co-educating talents after establishing certain pedagogical circumstances is a most efficient form of talent support. These talent-nurturing forms, however, must be renewed again and again, as the world, the fields of knowledge, the societies and the absorbing markets as well as the circumstances keep changing. It is beyond the scope of my research to compare this form of talent support and the current opportunities, demands and needs, but my impression is that special maths education would require some creative and innovative upgrading to have another equally successful 50 years in Hungary and globally.
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TMNP (India) https://www.tribalmensa.org operates exclusively for the underprivileged sections of the society. It aims for talent identification and nurturing for students coming from remote tribal communities, slum areas and underprivileged socio-economic strata who lack adequate educational and financial opportunities. This visit to talent points in Europe (Hungary and Netherlands) was aimed at understanding how different talent centers and talent points operate. The main objective of this visit was to share learning experiences from other talent centers from a functional and operational view point and to discuss possibilities of future collaborative research.
Visit to Prof Albert Ziegler Working Group; Nürenburg
At Nürenburg University we visited the working Prof Ziegler’s working group. We visited their talent research center and met his PhD students and fellow researchers. It was informative to visit the counselling facility and to interact with the staff there. We gained insights about Prof Ziegler’s 10 resource program and its facilitation by a tool (questionnaire) used at the counselling center. We discussed possibilities of collaborative research pertaining the Panchakosha Model (Nurturing Program) and our data sample with Prof Ziegler’s doctoral students. Dr Desai gave a lecture introducing TMNPs work to the working group. Later, we were shown the technical laboratory and the studio which hosts training workshops and activities for gifted students. At lunch, we had an interesting discussion about future collaborative works and possibilities to work on research from TMNP data set with Prof Ziegler.
Visit to Radboud: Prof Lianne Hoogveen’s working group
We were warmly welcomed by Prof Hoogveen and her working group at Radboud University in the Netherlands. We were shown around the campus and were invited to join a meeting which discussed about application of RITHA program at different educational institutions around Europe. Conversations with members from other educational institutions about giftedness identification and nurturing were enriching. It was interesting to see the wide spread application of RITHA program and was motivating to see their work with talent identification and teachers training. On the next day we were given the opportunity to visit a public Gymnasium (school for the gifted) and interacted with the supervisor of the school. He very kindly explained us about the identification and selection criterion of the school and the way teaching programs run. It was interesting to see how students are taught to take responsibility by letting them choose their curriculum and devising an allied research project. We also discussed the working differences of public schools and private schools which cater for children who are gifted as well as children with special needs. On the following day, we visited Prof Hoogveen’s working group. We had a chance to interact with many of her research colleagues and discuss research ideas pertaining TMNPs student database. At dinner, we met the Prof Monique and Prof Lianne, and discussed about possibilities of getting RITHA program to India. We discussed possibilities of how the program could be tailored to Indian needs and for being suited for teachers working in tribal settings.
Hungary; Visit to Talent points and Centers:
Dr Desai and Dr Shetti visited different Talent Points from Hungary for an exchange of ideas and to see how other Talent Points operate. The visit was arranged by the colleagues of the European Talent Centre, which Centre is part of the European Talent Support Network.
The visits to the Talent Points was coordinated by Csilla Fuszek, the director of the ETSN.
The first visit was to György Bessenyei Secondary School and Dormitory – Kisvárda.
Here, there was a detailed interaction with the director of the school Bíró Gábor, who very kindly spared a lot of time and insights about the school administration. György Bessenyei Secondary School provides high-quality education for gifted students who have varied set of talents and coming from different backgrounds. The school also caters for students coming from underprivileged backgrounds (especially to the Roma community). The school and its staff have brought about a very significant reform in education standard with staff evaluation process wherein educating the educator is addressed. This has rendered in a very high-quality standard education of this institution. Periodic staff evaluation has made education a very iterative and evolving process. Dr Desai also took a lecture about Indian philosophy and Dr Shetti spoke about environmental topics with high school students. The school staff very warmly showed the school, the campus and students training facilities and dormitory. Director Bíró Gábor is doing extensive work to address students from Roma community (an underprivileged ethnic minority all over Hungary) for making education easily available and motivating parents from Roma families to educate their children. It was a very enriching experience to visit this school and dormitory.
The second visit was to Nóra Ritók –Igazgyöngy Alapítvány (Realperl Foundation)- Berettyóújfalu:
Nóra Ritók, the founder of Real Pearl foundation works for the betterment of the underprivileged Roma community in Hajdú-Bihar County. Using art as a medium to create bridges between ethnic minorities and mainstream communities Nora uses art (painting) through an after-school academy to bring children from Roma communities together. Dr Desai and Dr Shetti visited her NGO and one of her work sites in Hajdú-Bihar county. Her approach of art and creativity to break socio-cultural barriers has brought about a remarkable reform in the local Roma community. With her pioneering work, Nóra has started self-help groups in the community which now produce local handicrafts which include paintings, sauces and locally produced food products. With this initiative, she has been successful for motivating parents to educate children and find a livelihood. Local with products are available at her NGO and on their online portal. Many paintings done by children and women from this community have received international awards. This experience was very key to understand how work with talent and giftedness in underprivileged communities has resulted in new coping and thriving mechanisms for societal uplifting. This was a very nice model to see how non–academic education and creativity can bring about change in society.
The 3rd visit to a school in Hejőkeresztúr:
170 km east of Budapest is the village of Hejőkeresztúr. Dr Desai and Dr Shetti from TMNP with Csilla Fuszek visited a school for underprivileged gifted students in Hejőkeresztúr. The special pedagogical program of the school was started by Dr K. Nagy Emese. As a director she was the pioneer in the institution to introduce the so called Complex Instruction Program (CIP) with the aim of educating students coming from low income families – many times from Roma communities- in the area. Besides the CIP, by using other various educational approaches students from this school rendered national and international excellence. Looking at the progress, students from higher socio-economic status were also attracted to this school. Started as a single school program by Dr K. Nagy Emese, this school is now a benchmark for other schools for gifted students in Hungary. Her relentless efforts have caught the attention of the Hungarian education system and is now taken as a protocol for other intuitions. The educational program follows the baseline of complex instruction program designed initially in the US and then modified K. Nagy Emese and her colleagues. We saw examples of the instruction program by attending a Math class and History class. The approach had collective and individual work for students in a classroom. This enabled every student to identify his or her own role in group work as well as stimulated him to focus on individual work. The teaching pattern was very a novel approach which seemed to make learning experience much interactive and stimulating as compared to normal lecturing in class.
The entire trip was a very enriching experience, with interesting discussions with academicians like Prof Ziegler and Prof Hoogveen who are working at the front for sensitization to giftedness to interactions with institutional heads like Dr Bíró Gábor and Dr K. Nagy Emese to social reformers like Nora Ritok who are working with underprivileged sections of the society. There are many common as aspects and differences in education system that we could observe from an Indian context. Certainly there was a great learning experience we had from this trip. We see that future collaborative work with academicians and NGOs alike would pave a constructive way for Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program.
EGIFT SUMMER SCHOOL 2018 successfully concluded. Altogether 49 participants, mostly experienced professionals in GE from 8 EU countries, spent a week together sharing and discussing their educational practices with gifted students. The focus of the event was to deepen and expand the knowledge on why and how to optimize approaches for cultivation of young people talents (Centre for Research and Promotion of Giftedness at Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana). You might add also pictures attached.