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Children and Families Research Centre

Gifted children and early childhood education

Hodge Kerry

Teachers with a university qualification in early childhood and working in preschool and childcare settings in NSW were invited to participate in a survey, and a follow-up interview if willing, that investigated their beliefs, practices and experiences regarding intellectually gifted children and their parents. Approaches were made through employer and professional organisations or directly to settings via websites. To increase participation an online version of the survey (full, and a short version containing key questions) was developed. Twelve teachers were interviewed and those data are being analysed

Contact Kerry: or visit her staff page at the Institute of Early Childhood website

Findings (for survey data from 82 teachers in a range of communities and settings, which is a response rate below 10%):

  • Very few teachers reported any pre-service training in gifted education, while about half reported brief professional development; a few reported more extensive input
  • More than 40% of teachers felt uncertain about both identifying giftedness in young children and providing appropriately; teachers were more confident that they provided well for gifted children than they were confident in identifying which children might be gifted
  • 86% of teachers respondents had taught at least one child they thought was gifted, describing both academic and behavioural signs of advanced development (half knew a gifted person outside their work setting)
  • Most teachers worked with children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and expected to find gifted children in any community, rejecting the notion that gifted children are just the product of enrichment by middle class families
  • While most teachers provided free play and led large group and small group experiences for all children, 70% thought that gifted children needed some curriculum changes and that other children often benefited - most of these provided an extension group at times (22% daily), and most of those who did not nevertheless considered an extension group to be appropriate and feasible
  • Of the 52% of teachers who thought a separate half-day program for gifted children was appropriate, only 14% thought it feasible to do so (there was less support for the appropriateness and feasibility of a full-day gifted program); perceived impediments were lack of funds for additional staff, inadequate staff knowledge regarding giftedness, and lack of space; perceived benefits were children's opportunity to interact with children of similar intellectual ability
  • Although more than 60% of teachers thought parents frequently over-estimated their child's ability, when the teachers themselves considered the child to be gifted 75% felt confident in relating to the parents and 65% had suggested to a parent that his or her child might be gifted
  • One third of teachers reported strongly disagreeing with a parent's approach to educating their gifted child, and two thirds were unable to provide reading materials or confidently refer parents for more information on giftedness
  • Although there is research evidence that entry to school a year early can be a successful intervention for some gifted children, only 25% of teachers thought it wise; this may reflect teacher's willingness to extend academic interests before school and their perception that gifted children showed social and emotional difficulties in their early childhood settings (and perhaps a lack of awareness that these difficulties can be a result of a poor fit with typically-developing age peers)
  • Overall teachers indicated good will towards gifted children and their parents but reported a lack of knowledge and confidence and a desire to learn more

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)
Macquarie New Staff Grant (MQNS)


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