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.

Following Gagne’s opening keynote six renowned professionals held keynote presentations during the four days of ECHA conference. Prof. Heidrun Stoeger, one of the most well-known professionals in European talent research, Prof. Jonathan Plucker, American researcher of creativity and education policy from Johns Hopkins University and Prof. Tracy L. Cross, an internationally renowned expert of social and emotional development of talents. David Cuartielles lectured about how technology can help gifted education, while Prof. Anne Looney explained how universities can support talent development. Prof. Karine Verschueren from KU Leuven spoke about classroom social relationships as contexts for child and adolescent development.

In addition to the keynotes, ECHA 2018 featured   20 workshops, 14 symposiums and 130 parallel sessions. Workshops, symposiums and parallel sessions focused on European and non-European talent development methods. The conference has provided a great deal of opportunity for professionals in talent development to present best practices and share the results of their researches. Thirty poster presentations were presented at Croke Park Conference Centre.

The operation of the European Talent Support Network (ETSN) was presented in the framework of a symposium for the first time. It was a pleasure for the presenters having a large number of conference delegates in the audience. The leader of the section was Prof. Albert Ziegler. The participants had the opportunity to get an overall picture of the history and operation of ETSN. The presentations provided necessary and sufficient information on how to join the network and how to establish a European Talent Centre.

During ECHA conference ETSN held its first General Assembly, with representatives of the European Talent Centres and several European Talent Points. Prof. Albert Ziegler has reported on ETSN’s achievements so far, and ongoing joint projects. Before the conference ETSN sent its second international newsletter.

Parallel to the official conference programme, CTY Ireland also hosted the second Summit of the Youth Platform of ETSN. The Summit gathered 45 delegates from 10 different countries and gave the attendees a chance to discuss gifted education across Europe.  The members of the platform continued their work in a workshop which was documented by Ádám Pálvölgyi, member of the YouTube Channel Project. The delegates of the summit had the chance to attend the opening and closing ceremony of ECHA conference as well.

Members of the European Council for High Ability usually hold their General Assembly at biennial ECHA conferences. This year’s main topics included the voting for 3 members of the Qualification Committee (Lianne Hoogeveen, Margaret Sutherland and Anne Vorhmann), the adoption of the organizational and operational rules of the European Talent Support Network, the adoption of the budget of the previous year, and acceptance of the rules of applying to the qualification of an ECHA Training.

In relation to the conference and its activities more information is available on the official website of the conference. In the history of ECHA conferences, this was the first time a mobile application was made for the participants making easier to be informed about the programme and logistics. Guests were invited to attend cultural events in EPIC: The Irish Emigration Museum and the Gala Dinner in Dublin City University.

In summary, delegates were able to attend a very successful conference. The organizers have succeeded in creating an interesting and varied program for the professionals working in the field of gifted education. Undoubtedly, the importance of the conference lies in the fact that a great deal of opportunity was given to present international good practices.

The following International ECHA Conference will be held in Porto in 2020. More information is available in relation to the following conference on the official website of ECHA. In order to provide more opportunities for networking and learning from each other ECHA will organize a Thematic Conference for the first time in Dubrovnik in Croatia in 2019.