This summer, several members of the Grayson team zeroed out all our frequent flier miles to go to the World Council on Gifted and Talented Children’s biennial conference in Sydney, Australia.  Melissa Bilash, Kimm Doherty, Ally O’Rourke-Barrett, and I were thrilled to be invited to present to an international audience — a terrific treat in addition to the opportunity to learn and gather insights on gifted children from a range of experts from across the globe.

Like any good tourists, we brought home some souvenirs to share with the team — and with you!

4 important things we learned at the conference:

1. High-ability girls, who tend to hide their abilities to camouflage themselves better, do so much earlier than you might expect.  According to Janet Agostino, an Australian expert on gifted education, “gifted girls go underground by age 7.”  That is a powerful concept that reinforces how important it is that they be identified and their capabilities nurtured as early as possible!

2. “No strategy ‘lasts’ with the 2E child.  You will need a whole toolbox of strategies.” — from the closing keynote from GRAB member Dr. Karen Rogers, “Worth the effort: Finding and supporting twice-exceptional learners” Dr. Rogers’s densely-packed presentation offered this piece of wisdom, which is deceptively simple, but can be tremendously useful for both parents and teachers of 2e kids.  When the thing you’ve been doing successfully with your child stops working, it’s not necessarily your fault — it might be a function of your child’s natural development process and requires some flexibility on your part.  As they say in the world of computing, that ever-changing nature is a feature, not a bug.

3.  Dr. Dina Brulles, Director of Gifted Education for Paradise Valley School District in Arizona, explained that clustering gifted students together for classes has long been understood to be a best practice in education.  The surprising thing she found in her research actually answers the “opposite” question: removing the gifted children from a mixed-ability classroom does not harm those who remain; children’s performance in mathematics is unchanged when their gifted classmates are pulled out for accelerated instruction.  Yet another reason why gifted children being grouped together to learn is an excellent idea!

4. According to Martin Konecny, on faculty at Charles University in Prague, a critical element of teaching sophisticated chemistry and physics to gifted children is actually quite mundane: supplies matter.  His work confirms that science teachers need “sophisticated measurement equipment [to enable] complex measurements” by their gifted students.  Such teachers should stock their labs with much more elaborate tools than what one might find in a typical science classroom to accommodate “deeper learners” whose passion for science drives them to understand more about the topics under study.  Institutional investment in high-quality equipment is therefore a crucial part of forward-thinking curricular planning for high-ability students, not just window-dressing to make a lab look more professional.

In addition, I learned that twenty hours on an airplane is a really, really, REALLY long time.  But it helps that this is what you see on the other end:

gifted insights sydney

Please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or would like more information on any of these topics. I would be happy to point you in the right direction!

—Jill Williford Wurman

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