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Gifted Education International

Education of gifted students in Europe

Andrzej E. Sekowski and Beata Lubianka Gifted Education International published online 14 June 2013 DOI: 10.1177/0261429413486579

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Education of gifted students in Europe

Gifted Education International

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ª The Author(s) 2013 Reprints and permission:

DOI: 10.1177/0261429413486579 gei.sagepub.com Andrzej E. S ekowski˛ Beata Łubianka Department of

Andrzej E. S ekowski˛ Beata Łubianka

Department of Psychology of Individual Differences, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland

and

Abstract The present article contains a review of the literature devoted to gifted education in Europe. Forms of supporting the development of gifted students provided in European schools are presented with reference to the problems of diagnosing exceptional abilities, the existence and forms of educational measures for gifted students and forms of in-service training for teachers of such students. The individual European countries have not developed a uniform system of educational provision for supporting gifted students. This variety, however, gives educationalists, psychologists, teachers and parents involved on a daily basis in the process of educating gifted students an opportunity to avail themselves of the rich practical experience.

Keywords Development, education, educational measures, gifted student

The historical perspective of Europe’s social and cultural development is inherently associated with the activity of the thinkers, artists, scientists, inventors and travellers living in its different countries, whose talent, abilities, discoveries and achievements have to this day induced reflection and inspired people. In these times, individuals can invest in their developmental potential by following in the footsteps of Aristotle, Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, Nicolaus Copernicus, Isaac Newton, Vasco da Gama, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Frederic Chopin, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, William Shakespeare, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Niels Bohr, Albert

Corresponding author:

Andrzej E. S˛ekowski, Department of Psychology of Individual Differences, The John Paul Ii Catholic University Of Lublin, Aleje Racławickie 14, 20-950 Lublin, Poland. Email: sekowski@kul.pl

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Einstein or John Paul II. Recognition and development of a person’s cognitive or artistic abilities is an educational challenge. This challenge highlights the importance of the constant and undiminished interest in the problems of the psychology of giftedness, intelligence and creativity. Gifted education is associated with the analyses conducted in Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century by Binet, Simon, Stern and Spearman, which show that the problems of intelligence, giftedness and school achievement were a subject of discussion already in the early days of psychology as a science (S˛ekowski et al., 2009). Today, as emphasised by Gallagher (2002) and Davis (2009), owing to the experience of the past years, education of the gifted is acquiring a new significance. It is written into the individual and social need to actualise and fully exploit the possibilities of gifted per- sons. Theoretical analysis of the problems related to giftedness usually goes hand in hand with proposals of practical solutions that could be implemented as part of school-based and non-school-based activities to support and stimulate work in aid of the gifted (see Balchin et al., 2009; Bonnie and Cramond, 2009; Colangelo and Davis, 2003; Davis et al., 2010; Parker et al., 2010). The forms of work with gifted students vary from one European country to another. Characterisation of gifted education in Europe is a topic of constant interest in both psy- chological and pedagogical scientific literature (see Dyrda, 2012; Eyre, 2009; Freeman, 1992; Herrmann and Nevo, 2011; Limont, 2010; Mo¨nks et al., 1992; Persson et al., 2000; ekowski, 1992, 1997; Tirri, 2007; Tirri and Ubani, 2007; Urban and S˛ekowski, 1993; Ziegler and Phillipson, 2012), as well as reports commissioned by research centres (Mo¨nks and Pflu¨ger, 2005) and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency of the European Union (EURYDICE, 2007). When analysing those publications, one can observe a transition over time from theoretical work focusing on giftedness itself and its role and place in education, through empirical studies of gifted students, to reports on the state of gifted education in the indi- vidual countries. In the literature mentioned, the specific character of gifted education in Europe is considered mainly from the point of view of problems related to the existence and type of educational activities, both those undertaken within the whole educational system of a given country and those addressed specifically to the gifted student. Important research topics related to gifted education also include the problem of defining giftedness, methods of diagnosing exceptional abilities, characterisation of the function- ing of gifted persons, the search for determinants of school achievement, attitudes towards the gifted, training for teachers of gifted persons, research methods for the study of the gifted and the activity of organisations of specialists interested in the exchange of knowledge and experience of work with gifted students (Heller and Schofield, 2000; Shaughnessy and Persson, 2009). An analysis of the publications also shows that, over recent years, educational work with gifted students has been done along different lines in different European countries. However, over the course of time, the differences, which had been caused by the political division into Western and Eastern European countries, have been disappearing (S˛ekowski, 1992). Especially today, at the time of globalisation and membership of most European countries in the European Union, fewer and fewer discrepancies are observed in this respect. At present, the specific character of the educational measures used in the

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teaching of gifted students is more strongly related to the theoretical assumptions of educational programmes or systems of instruction and the creativity of their authors than the geographical position of a given country. Additionally, the special educational needs of gifted students have been officially recognised and laid out in the recommendations of the Council of Europe (Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe, 1994). This document encourages individual countries to create, within the framework of their edu- cational policies, special educational measures to cater for children and adolescents with exceptional potential and emphasises the necessity to provide them with assistance and support in their development. An important role in integrating the activities of specialists from European countries around improving the forms of support for the gifted is played by institutions, such as the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) and, chiefly among Southern European coun- tries, the European Committee for the Education of Children and Adolescents who are Intellectually Advanced, Gifted and Talented (Eurotalent). The primary objective of those institutions is to enable scientists, teachers, psychologists, specialists in education and parents from the whole of Europe to share their knowledge and experience of working with gifted individuals and to promote initiatives connected with the education of gifted children and youth. One practical form of meeting this objective is to organise pan- European conferences, often with participation of specialists from the USA, Canada and Australia, as well as to arrange workshops and courses for upgrading the qualifications necessary for working with gifted students (see COST Strategic Workshop, 2007; Heller and Schofield, 2000; Mo¨nks and Pflu¨ger, 2005; Tirri and Ubani, 2007; van Boxtel, 1992).

The problems of diagnosing gifted students in education

Education of gifted persons depends in an important way on the integration of psycho- logical and pedagogical knowledge. Conceptions of giftedness, as well as the practice of educational work with gifted students, show that determination of the level of giftedness is a process in which different indices of giftedness should be considered in a comple- mentary manner. Adoption of a method for assessing the level of general and special abilities among children and adolescents does not only represent a challenge for psychol- ogists but also has its practical consequences. It is connected with the use of terminology in both scientific literature and official documents of a given European country and also with the problem of introducing formal criteria for identifying individuals with special educational needs. With the many different methods used in diagnosing giftedness, so far no uniform system has been worked out, by either theoreticians or practitioners, that could be used to unequivocally identify the level of ability in a given individual. It is worth noting that the ability to properly diagnose giftedness and the knowledge of the specific nature of the functioning of persons with above-average abilities are essential conditions for developing optimum forms of both instructional and educational activities (Limont, 2010). Models of giftedness, which simultaneously grow out of the theory of the psychology of individual differences, giftedness research and educational experience, serve teachers, tutors, specialists in education and parents in their everyday practice of work with gifted students. Knowledge of the determinants of school achievement fosters ever better

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understanding and support of gifted students in their endeavours to meet their goals, increasing at the same time the effectiveness of learning and teaching as well as shaping desirable educational goals (S˛ekowski, 2001). In Europe, two models have been created to promote the educational success of gifted students: Heller’s Munich Model of Giftedness and Talent (Heller, 2009; Heller et al., 2005) and Mo¨nks’ multidimensional model of giftedness (Mo¨nks and Katzko, 2005). Heller’s model of giftedness describes the relationships that occur between giftedness and achievement, pointing to the multifaceted nature of the determinants of school achievement. The author has based it on the assumption that every student is gifted and that, with appropriate stimulation, every gift may transform into a talent. The model points to a mutual interaction between the factors conditioning talent, non-cognitive personality characteristics, environmental conditions and performance areas. Talent fac- tors include, among others, intellectual and creative abilities, social competence, practi- cal intelligence and artistic abilities. Non-cognitive factors include some personality dimensions: coping with stress, achievement motivation, locus of control and learning strategies. Heller also lists dimensions with sources outside of the person, i.e. environ- mental factors related to family climate, the methods and quality of school instruction and critical events in the life of a given individual. The model has been a basis for the development of diagnostic instruments and special educational programmes for schools. Mo¨nks’ multidimensional model of giftedness (Mo¨nks and Katzko, 2005) expands on Renzulli’s conception of giftedness (2005). Renzulli, by identifying giftedness as an interaction among three sets of characteristics – above-average abilities, task commit- ment and creativity – puts special emphasis on the importance of the individual features of a person. Above-average abilities can be understood as general and specific abilities. General abilities can be measured using tests of general intelligence. Specific abilities, on the other hand, relate to specific, often very narrow, areas and are associated with par- ticular activities, e.g. chemical, mathematical, humanist, biological, musical or artistic abilities. The second group of features, referred to as task commitment, is related to the motivational sphere, which is composed of perseverance, endurance, hard work, willing- ness to make sacrifices, self-confidence and belief in one’s potential, conscientiousness and fascination with one’s activity. Task involvement is also associated with goal seeking and the structure of goals that human beings set themselves, and thereby with preferred values, which motivate people to meet a given goal. The third element – crea- tivity – refers both to behaviour and to products or ways of reaching particular solutions. It manifests itself in the fluency and originality of thought, cognitive curiosity, inquiring nature and aesthetic sensitivity in proposing new ways of solving tasks and problems. Mo¨nks expands Renzulli’s model by treating the interactions of the three factors mentioned above as part of the conditions of the social environment, which plays an important role in the development of abilities. Mo¨nks’ model relates to personalities of gifted students in accordance with the conception of their cognitive functioning in the context of the environment and their own activity. In Mo¨nks’s opinion, one’s environ- ment, mainly the family, school and peers, has a significant impact on the development of particular personality traits and can thereby stimulate the development of giftedness. Environmental conditions not only affect the current actualisation of abilities but also the future channelling and support of high achievement. On this basis, it can be concluded

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that favourable influence of the developmental environment, an individual’s own activity and his or her potential intellectual abilities provide optimal psychological conditions for the development of giftedness. When posing the question of how to diagnose the level of abilities among young people, specialists from European countries usually reach similar conclusions (see Herrmann and Nevo, 2011; Mo¨nks and Pflu¨ger, 2005; Persson et al., 2000). The level of intelligence is no longer the sole criterion of giftedness. Despite criticism, all of the fol- lowing criteria can be variously adopted for the identification of gifted students: a high intelligence quotient index measured using tests of intelligence; a high level of creative ability measured using creativity tests (a psychological criterion); and the equivalent psycho-pedagogical criterion of a high level of school and out-of-school achievement. Thus, gifted individuals are persons who may be characterised by a high intelligence quo- tient, and/or a high level of general or special abilities and/or who distinguish themselves with high achievements at school and in competitive examinations (S˛ekowski, 2001). The EURYDICE (2007) report states that the criteria for classification of giftedness in school children and adolescents most widely used in European countries include performance in aptitude tests or tests of potential ability (15 countries) and school per- formance/attainment tests (12 countries). These tests constitute one step in the compre- hensive assessment of the potential of a given student. Additionally, both psychologists and specialists in education pay attention in their work with gifted students to the differ- ent aspects of the students’ individual development. Among those, the most frequently mentioned is intellectual development associated with cognitive ability, including linguistic skills and mathematical ability. Attention is also paid to artistic achievement in various domains of creative expression: dance, music and the visual arts. Also impor- tant are psychomotor predispositions, which can be used in sport or a technical discipline. An analysis of the developmental aspects taken into consideration in the assessment of the level of giftedness shows that, in a majority of countries, apart from verbal and logical–mathematical or artistic abilities, aspects of emotional and social intelligence are more and more often taken into account in the diagnosis and develop- ment of giftedness. These aspects include empathy, leadership abilities, and the ability to recognise and cope with one’s own and others’ emotions. Apart from the psychological and psychopedagogic methods of diagnosing gifted- ness used in many European countries, teacher, parent, peer and self-nominations are used as helpful complementary criteria. Teacher nominations involve identifying stu- dents who excel in school performance and including them in an enrichment pro- gramme. An opinion given by a teacher with many years of service and pedagogical experience is believed to be a very good criterion for the identification of gifted stu- dents in a class. Despite the fact that the qualifications and experience of individual teachers are diverse and their opinions may sometimes be too lenient or overly critical, they are generally considered to be reliable. The opinions are formed from a temporal perspective, not only on the basis of an analysis of students’ school performance but also on the basis of observations of their behaviour and traits (Painter, 1993). Teacher nominations are quite broadly used in schools in Austria, Switzerland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Latvia, Hungary and the United Kingdom. As for parent nominations, they are associated, on the one hand,

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with a subjective evaluation of children’s possibilities, which sometimes diverges from teachers’ opinions and, on the other hand, they provide valuable information about the children’s interests, the cognitive and artistic activities they undertake, their motiva- tion to act and their goals, needs and problems. Parents are asked for their help in iden- tifying abilities in the school systems of such European countries as Switzerland, Germany, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Slovenia. A much under- valued source of information about students’ abilities is peer opinion. Peers can quickly and adequately indicate which of their classmates is the best in a given field. Another form of determining students’ abilities is through their own declaration of their educational needs as related to their abilities. Self-nomination allows students to unlock their potential by taking part in, mostly, non-school-based educational, sci- entific, artistic and creative trips and programmes, which are well suited to their inter- ests and needs. The willingness to participate in those activities points to the students’ high achievement motivation. Self-nominations are used for identifying student ability in the school systems of Austria, Germany, Finland, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Lat- via, Poland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (see Limont, 2010; Mo¨nks and Pflu¨ger, 2005). An analysis of the terminology used in Europe’s individual countries and regions with reference to gifted children and adolescents shows that the terms most frequently employed in official documents are ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’ (EURYDICE, 2007). Only one of those terms – ‘a gifted student’ – is used in Malta, Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Portugal and Ireland, whereas both terms are commonly used in Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, the United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium and Bulgaria. It is worth noting, though, that in the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), the two terms are associated with different types of giftedness: the term ‘gifted’ refers to the ability to learn, i.e. ‘intellectual’ or ‘academic’ ability, whereas ‘talented’ relates more to artistic and sporting abilities. Apart from the already mentioned terms, in some European coun- tries and regions, gifted students are referred to with descriptive phrases, such as ‘young persons of high potential ability’ (the French Community of Belgium), ‘intellectually precocious children’ (France), ‘pupils with high intellectual abilities’ (Spain) or ‘pupils capable of high attainment’ (Romania). It is also worth adding that in the French community of Belgium and in Spain the term ‘gifted’ is falling into disuse, and the pre- ferred new terms are intended to focus attention on the degree to which the students are able to assimilate new knowledge and the significance of the environment in developing various types of ability. A distinct approach to the use of the terms ‘gifted’ and ‘able’ is adopted in the Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden and Norway). In those countries, no specific terms are used to denote gifted children and young people. This follows from the educational policy of those countries, which recommends that all forms of student classification, especially in terms of ability, should be avoided. Of central interest to the education of the Nordic countries is the potential for development of all young people. The different defining terms used in Europe to denote gifted persons entail the application of corresponding criteria specifying the level of ability. According to the EURYDICE (2007) report, most European countries and regions in which the two terms, ‘gifted’ and ‘talented’, are used with reference to children and young people with

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exceptional potential have adopted a set of corresponding criteria. In European countries, two criteria are most frequently taken into account in diagnosing the abilities of children and adolescents. The first is a psychological criterion associated with performance in aptitude tests or tests of potential ability in various aspects of development, e.g. physical, cognitive and artistic. This criterion is used in countries such as Belgium (the German- speaking community), the Czech Republic, Germany, Liechtenstein and Spain. A sec- ond, psycho-pedagogic criterion is associated with performance in school and in attain- ment tests and results of subject-related contests and olympiads. This criterion is used in Latvia, Poland and the United Kingdom (Scotland). Most frequently, however, the two criteria are employed together as complementary measures. This is the case in Austria, Slovenia, the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Bulgaria, Ireland, Portugal, France, Romania, Lithuania and Hungary. Generally, in countries which have adopted specific identification criteria, young people who are to be classified as gifted and be eligible for special educational provision are expected from the outset to have dis- played good performance either in the form of school attainment or in aptitude tests. To build educational systems supporting the potential of gifted students, countries need appropriate educational acts. Karnes and Stephens (2009) and Limont (2010) emphasise the fact that regulations related to supporting the development of gifted persons should have a legal basis in the form of appropriate terminological provisions as well as classification criteria and special educational measures. Formal provisions are integral to mainstream education and are an object of separate activities allowing or initiating implementation of specific educational programmes by teachers, parents, psychologists or educationalists in their work with the gifted. Legal regulations related to gifted education are found in both the national constitu- tions of European countries and their educational acts (Dyrda, 2012; Mo¨nks and Pflu¨ger, 2005). Because of their diversity, attempts are made, especially in the countries of the European Union, to regulate the question of gifted education. One example of this is the publication of the directives included in the Recommendation on Education for Gifted Children (Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, 1994) and in the Resolution: Action Plan for the Gifted and Talented – an essential part of the Lisbon Strategy (COST Strategic Workshop, 2007). The fact that a definition of a gifted student is included in a country’s legislation does not mean that those students are included in the group of persons with special educa- tional needs. Regulations identifying gifted children as belonging to the group of persons with special educational needs can be found, e.g. in the school systems of France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg, Esto- nia, Slovenia and Scotland. In Poland, as well as other countries such as Austria, Denmark, the United Kingdom (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Norway, Finland, Hungary, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania, there are no such regulations – yet. However, the lack of appropriate regulations regarding the inclusion of gifted students in the group of students with special educational needs does not exclude practical application within the framework of other regulations regarding a given European country’s system of education, of certain forms of work with gifted students aimed at activating and supporting their educational needs. An example of such a practice, in force in the Polish system of education, is The Order of the Minister of National Education and Sport of 19 December 2001 concerning

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conditions and methods of granting permissions for Individual Education Plans (IEP) or Accelerated Learning Programs (ALP) and organization of IEP and ALP (S˛ekowski and Płudowska, 2012).

Educational measures for the gifted – occurrence and types

The goal of educational systems of European countries is to create conditions for the development of the potential of all students and to provide them with educational support in accordance with their needs. Additionally, the individual countries of Europe intro- duce into their school curricula more and more measures aimed at improving the existing methods of teaching the gifted. An analysis of the forms and methods of working with gifted students used in European countries shows that they are highly diversified at every level of education, and thus provide a flexible choice from among the many proposals. As emphasis is laid on the individual nature of students’ abilities, as well as their needs and possibilities, more freedom is allowed in the choice of teaching content, and the methods and means of teaching and learning are made more diverse. The education of gifted persons is aimed not only at developing potential abilities and skills, motivating individuals towards achievement and preparing them to follow the road of success, but also at promoting optimal and harmonious cognitive, personal, social and emotional development (S˛ekowski, 2001). Special educational measures for gifted students are commonly employed in all European countries. In the individual states, gifted and talented young people can be included in the group of students with special educational needs. However, the lack of such a situation in the educational policy of a given country does not preclude special measures being devised for gifted students and does not mean that their educational needs are ignored. As can be expected, the largest number of special educational mea- sures for this group of students are offered by those countries which use classification criteria for identifying the level of giftedness of young people. Most of the existing educational measures for gifted children and adolescents assume one of two forms. The first involves measures implemented within schools as part of mainstream education. These primarily include various types of education activities undertaken on the initiative of the school and its teachers as a way of meeting the individual needs of students regarding the support of the development of their talents. The second includes non-school-based activities that are provided alongside the school-based measures (Mo¨nks and Pflu¨ger, 2005). The EURYDICE (2007) report lists four types of special educational measures most frequently used in European countries. These arrangements are usually combined together and complement one another. They include more advanced or more varied activities within mainstream class, differentiated provision or differentiated curriculum, non-school-based activities and so-called ‘fast tracking’, i.e. the possibility of complet- ing mainstream education over a shorter time period. Almost all countries that have introduced special measures to cater for the educational needs of gifted children and ado- lescents base their solutions on a uniform educational model that offers support at both the primary and secondary levels of education.

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More advanced and varied activities involve the use of diverse teaching methods to provide a more in-depth and broader treatment of the thematic elements of a given school subject. These activities are more frequently offered in secondary schools (19 European countries, including Belgium, the Czech Republic, Spain, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Finland, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria and Romania) than in primary schools (13 European countries). The concept of more advanced and varied activities covers the teaching forms and methods used by practitioners in their everyday work with gifted students, which are part of the con- temporary knowledge of the psychology of teaching and learning (Mietzel, 2002). Examples of the most frequently employed forms of work include individual and group activities with diversified levels of difficulty of homework and classroom work. This type of arrangement consists in increasing requirements by assigning more difficult tasks to gifted students and creating situations in which they can choose tasks and additional assignments in accordance with their interests. Another form of work with the gifted is to give them a special role in the class, that of an assistant to the teacher or a leader. Gifted students can also be encouraged to prepare presentations, carry out their own long-term projects and get involved in volunteer work. The methods employed in working with gifted students are mainly problem-related methods, including activating methods. They encourage students to independently seek information, help them improve their ability to organise and use in practice the knowledge they have acquired and allow them to assess the state of their knowledge. Owing to them, students can solve problems in a creative way and develop their passions. These methods are also important in shaping the social and emotional skills associated with getting to know oneself and managing one’s own development, presenting one’s views and efficiently communicating with other people in various life situations. More advanced and varied activities are usually accompanied by other forms of support of gifted students. A second type of special educational measure is differentiated provision. It offers the possibility of adjusting the speed at which the teaching programme is implemented to students’ needs, while also giving them additional time to develop their ability in a specific field of sport, the arts, personal creativity or a preferred school subject. While schools follow the mainstream curriculum, additional specially developed topics for investigation are introduced as part of differentiated provision. The establishment in the individual European countries of classes or schools for students with exceptional abil- ities is a popular way of supporting gifted students within the framework of integrated and specialised education at both primary and general secondary levels. In primary schools, gifted children can learn in separate groups according to the type and level of their ability. At the secondary level, gifted young people are offered the possibility of attending specialised schools (secondary schools specialising in the arts and music) or classes following an extended curriculum in specific subjects. One example of such a teaching system is the Academic Secondary School Complex in Torun´, Poland, run under the patronage of Nicolaus Copernicus University (Limont, 2010). The school implements an enriched and accelerated teaching model by which students can expand their knowledge in accordance with their interests and gifts by choosing one of three learning profiles: the liberal arts, natural sciences and mathe- matics. Additionally, young people can participate in laboratory research, artistic

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workshops, lectures and seminars conducted by the academic staff of the university. The school also runs a programme in which gifted students are encouraged to open up to social problems by getting involved in volunteer work or charity actions. A network of specialised schools for the gifted has also been created in Slovakia. The project APROGEN (Alternative PROgram for Gifted EducatioN in Slovakia) aims to identify intellectually gifted students and support their development within the framework of a three-stage educational cycle. The programme emphasises the development of the personality and motivation of students, as well as shaping their social and emotional competencies (Laznibatova, 2005). Special educational programmes for gifted and talented students are also implemen- ted in England in the form of additional G&T (Gifted and Talented) topics for study. Finnish students, in turn, are offered a wide selection of activities to choose from. Beside the basic subjects, that is native language, mathematics and history, they can choose subjects for elective classes and, with the tutor’s approval, they can compose their own individual weekly lesson plans. In Denmark, one objective of the currently introduced educational reform is liquidation of classrooms and classes and introduction of open instruction for students with specialised ability regardless of their age and stage of instruction. Another interesting idea is the establishment of international classes that offer trips to various countries and foreign language, entrepreneurship and business lessons as part of their teaching programme (Limont, 2010). Also worth noting is the rich tradition of activities conducted for years in Russia and the Ukraine in the area of educating specialists in natural sciences (Grigorenko, 2000). Schools in those countries offer enriched curricula in mathematics, information technology and physics-plus- natural sciences, prepared according to the individual needs of students and based on the accelerated teaching model. Students’ knowledge is verified by their participation in national and foreign university research programmes and competitive examinations. It is also worth noting that many gifted persons benefit from educational programmes offered within the framework of the European Union’s educational policy. These pro- grammes support the students’ readiness to acquire knowledge and raise their level of education. Their basic objective is to create, through education, ‘a Europe without borders and barriers’ (UKIE, 2003). The activities of the European Community in the area discussed primarily include foreign exchange programmes, such as Socrates (and its building blocks: Comenius, Erasmus, Lingua and Minerva), Leonardo da Vinci, Youth and Tempus. These programmes, differing in their thematic scope, provide chil- dren, adolescents, university students and teachers with the opportunity to acquaint themselves with new approaches and methods in learning and teaching (UKIE, 2003). Gifted students also participate in various types of non-school-based activities, which can be provided in the form of clubs (e.g. artistic, sports, literary, mathematical or historical) or may involve participation in regional and national competitive examina- tions. Non-school-based activities also include summer schools and courses (in which students can develop their knowledge of and skills in photography, architecture, astron- omy, natural science and foreign languages), classes at art activity centres or participa- tion in academic research in cooperation with university staff members. Worth mentioning in this context is the initiative of the Danish Ministry of Education as organisers of the ‘Science Camp for the Gifted’ and the activity of centres supporting

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gifted education, mainly in the form of summer schools. Examples of such centres include the Centre for Innovation in Education in France and the University Centres at the University of Navarra in Spain and the University of Dublin in Ireland created on the model of the Center for Talented Youth (CTY) at the Johns Hopkins University in the USA. The centres are mainly involved in teaching, examining abilities and provid- ing care to gifted children. They also conduct an international search for individuals with outstanding academic abilities, who are then offered educational programmes designed to develop their cognitive abilities, encourage them to be active and develop their social competencies (Limont, 2010). In most countries, there is a legally guaranteed arrangement called ‘fast tracking’, i.e. the possibility of completing the mainstream educational path more rapidly at both the primary and the secondary levels. A gifted student, apart from attending regular classes, can, in parallel, benefit from private schooling or take an examination in front of a state examining board. An example of those flexible measures is the opportunity that many European countries offer an earlier entry to school, bypassing classes and home-based schooling. Apart from the above-mentioned commonly used educational measures, European countries also depend on a school-support network of organisations for gifted young people. Their task is to initiate and monitor local and national activities aimed at devel- oping students’ abilities and interests, provide information related to diagnosing ability and forms of work with the gifted, offer counselling and organise skills improvement courses for parents and teachers of gifted individuals, provide teaching aids and fund various types of scholarships for merit or outstanding achievement in school subjects or sport. One of their tasks is to advise on issues related to the development of schools specialising in gifted education so that promotion of talents can become an integral part of a given school’s mission and activity profile. The following organisations can be mentioned as examples: the Association of Talent and Giftedness, the Centre for Support of Special Abilities and the Centre for Development of Gifted Children operating in the Czech Republic; the Polish Children’s Fund and the Society of Creative Schools in Poland; the Austrian Research and Support Centre for the Gifted and Talented in Austria; the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and the National Association for Able Children in Education (NACE) in the United Kingdom; and information centres for exceptionally gifted young people run in the Netherlands by the Dutch Institute for Curriculum Development. Currently, various measures are implemented in European countries for educating and supporting exceptionally gifted students. However, one question that provokes discus- sion is whether gifted individuals should be educated among equally gifted peers (spe- cialised education) or whether they should be taught within the system of mainstream education and attend schools with peers of average abilities (integrated education) (S˛ekowski, 2001). Those in favour of specialised teaching emphasise the specific char- acter of the educational needs of gifted students and the necessity to adjust the teaching forms and methods and the pace of work to the intellectual needs and optimum develop- ment and self-fulfilment of those individuals. In their opinion, education of gifted stu- dents in integrated classes with persons of average abilities may slow down the development of talented children, without preventing social and emotional difficulties.

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The integrative approach in gifted education is focused on social development and the role of interaction with averagely gifted peers as well as accenting the risks following from special education. Experiences of persons working with the gifted point to the fact that both approaches can be creatively combined into a whole for effective teaching (Limont, 2010). It is important that gifted education should not only address the educational needs of gifted students but also promote the development of successful intelligence (Sternberg, 1997). The fact that a person possesses given abilities is only a point of departure; they are a necessary but insufficient condition for a person’s potential to fully manifest itself. Exceptional achievement is only possible because of a person’s own activity, involve- ment of the motivational sphere, use of personality assets and support from the commu- nity. A student’s motivational sphere is one in which the hierarchy of values plays an important role in the development of school achievement. A person’s preferred values motivate them to meet goals clustered around their own educational path, which are connected with the disinterested need to acquire knowledge and the belief in its useful- ness in carrying out the person’s life agenda. These goals may often be difficult to achieve and require time, sacrifice and perseverance. More often than not, the values a person considers important co-determine the direction and consistency of their actions (Haydon, 2006; S˛ekowski and Łubianka, 2009). Integration of analytical, creative and practical intelligence with the development of social skills and life wisdom is fundamen- tal to the pursuit of a mature personality; it also promotes work satisfaction and, in a broader perspective, positively affects the sense of the quality of life (S˛ekowski and Knopik, 2011).

The teacher of a gifted student – education and in-service training

Teachers of gifted students are an integral element of the process of creating and imple- menting specific forms of work with gifted students. It is usually they who, in coopera- tion with a psychologist or a school education specialist and parents, recognise exceptional abilities in their students, monitor the choice and implementation of appro- priate educational measures for gifted young people and stimulate development of the potential of those in their care. That is why, as pointed out by Limont (2010), high requirements are placed on teachers and tutors of gifted students. They are expected not only to recognise the instructional and educational needs of their students and implement programmes supporting their cognitive and creative potential, but also to have an intimate knowledge of their teaching subject and of the essence of giftedness and gifted education. More and more emphasis is also placed on the significance of special teach- ing, interpersonal and personality-related competencies. The teacher of a gifted student is perceived as a master and mentor. The significance of the attitude and role of teachers in the education of gifted children and adolescents is also described by Croft (2003) and David (2011). However, perhaps it could be argued that, in addition to developing teacher expertise in identifying students with high potential, we should also emphasise the importance of presenting students with a rich, challenging curriculum in which the student makes his or her own choices, and thus allows students to identify their own strengths and interests – the provision of a curriculum of opportunity.

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Teachers working with gifted students are engaged in both their cognitive and personal development. They can motivate their students towards achievement, inspire them to creatively solve problems, discern in them a unique structure of their talent and patiently support their development, at the same time showing professionalism in their educational activities and a mature personality. The above-mentioned tasks that a teacher is faced with are only some of the numerous challenges in educating the gifted. Thus, it is understandable that not all teachers are successful in the early days of their work with gifted students. Plunkett and Kronborg (2011) thus rightly point out the need to constantly learn how to be a teacher of gifted young people. Whatever the educational policy adopted by the individual European countries, it is worth casting a closer look at how teachers in those countries are trained, initially and in service, to work with gifted students. As the EURYDICE (2007) report shows, the topics of giftedness and the forms of supporting gifted students are included on a mandatory basis in teacher education curricula in France, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus, the Nordic countries and Denmark. In the remaining countries, the issue is either covered on an optional basis or not mentioned at all in official recommendations. Nevertheless, the importance of this problem more and more often causes the individual countries to prepare and introduce into their teacher education systems programmes devoted to the methods of teaching gifted young people, as is the case in Lithuania and Ireland. Future teachers can acquaint themselves with issues related to the abilities and functioning of gifted students as one separate subject (in Germany, Austria, Latvia and Slovakia) or as content incorporated in other subjects – as part of courses on differentiated teaching or special educational needs (e.g. in France, Italy, Spain, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and the Nordic countries). In-service teacher training in many European countries is obligatory and forms part of the job promotion procedure. However, teachers usually choose their training topic by themselves, in accordance with their own needs and interests or requirements of the school for which they work. Mo¨nks and Pflu¨ger (2005) report that teachers of all educa- tional levels who want to raise their qualifications in teaching gifted persons can avail themselves of a varied (both time- and subject-wise) selection of in-service provision:

courses, training programmes, workshops and university study programmes. This offer is addressed to school specialists in psychology and education, especially in those coun- tries in which the interdisciplinary approach plays an important role in the process of diagnosing abilities. The topics covered by in-service training programmes most often include conceptions of giftedness, methods of identifying gifted young people, develop- ment of creative thinking, characterisation of the psychological functioning of the gifted including their educational needs, and introduction of special educational measures for outstanding students. The length of the courses ranges from one or several days to full-length postgraduate programmes. Worthy of attention in this field is the activity of the European Council for High Abil- ity (ECHA), which organises specialist training courses in several countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Spain and Hungary) for teachers of gifted students leading to the qualification and certificate of Specialist in Gifted Education, which is recognised across Europe. Additionally, teachers, tutors and specialists in education interested in broadening their knowledge of the functioning of the gifted and improving their skills in working

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with them may use specialist literature on the psychology of giftedness and creativity (see Balchin et al., 2009; Colangelo and Davis 2003; Heller et al., 1993; 2000; Mo¨nks et al., 1992; S˛ekowski, 2001; Shavinina, 2009; Sternberg and Davidson 2005; Tirri, 2007). Those publications, which are an effect of the research conducted by scientists from European research centres and exchange of international experience in working with the gifted, analyse the contemporary problems of giftedness. An important role in the promotion and actualisation of the knowledge related to the development of gifted individuals, the ways in which they can be supported and motivated towards achieve- ment, and implementation of educational programmes on the basis of newest research findings is played by psychological and pedagogical journals devoted to gifted education (see Heller and Schofield, 2000; Parker et al., 2010). In the European market, one such journal, entirely devoted to the problems of exceptional abilities, is High Ability Studies, published by the ECHA. Well-grounded knowledge of the specific ways in which gifted individuals function allows persons who cooperate with them to adapt educational strategies to their needs and possibilities and optimise programmes favouring stimulation of their talents. Additionally, as noted by Ledzin´ska (2010), such knowledge prevents the creation of myths, rooted in the folk understanding of giftedness and the gifted, while promoting solid exchange of teaching experience and, most of all, helping teachers to get to know and understand their students, which is a necessary condition in the processes of educa- tion and instruction.

Conclusion

The individual European countries have not developed a uniform system of educational provision for supporting gifted students. While in most countries giftedness is defined in terms of intelligence in its broad sense and there is no question as to the right of gifted students to develop their potential, differences can still be observed in the practical activ- ities employed to organise the education of this group of students. European educational policies, on the one hand, promote an integrative approach, which is adopted in countries following the principle that differentiated teaching should be provided to all students and, on the other hand, implement a selective approach in which gifted students are treated as a group with special educational needs. The educational potential of gifted students can be unlocked by giving them the opportunity to attend specialist schools or schools with specialised teaching profiles and participate in special educational programmes and non-school-based activities. Their potential can also be actualised because of the support of organisations working in aid of gifted children and adolescents. It is also important that educational systems should follow new trends in gifted educa- tion, implement innovative measures and encourage independent thinking and cognitive curiosity in students (Davis, 2009; Shavinina, 2009) while, at the same time, taking care of their harmonious cognitive, emotional and social development (S˛ekowski, 2001), as well as providing mentoring and counselling (Shaughnessy and Persson, 2009). By getting acquainted with the variety of educational measures for stimulating the develop- ment of gifted students that are employed in other countries, teachers, tutors and special- ists in psychology and education can make comparisons and use in practice the

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conclusions that follow from theoretical analyses. An insight into the schooling systems of other countries also gives them the opportunity to reflect on the choice of effective activities and to incorporate them in their own work, encouraging them, thereby, to mod- ernise their own schooling reality (David, 2012; Dyrda, 2012).

Funding

This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not- for-profit sectors.

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Author biographies

Andrzej E. Sekowski is Head of the Department of Psychology of Individual Differ- ences at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. He is author of about 300 pub- lications, among others the books Achievement of Gifted Students, Personality and Artistic Achievement of Music School Students. He has published in prestigious interna- tional scientific journals such as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Personality, Science, Assessment and Journal of Personality. He is Editor-in-chief of Przegl˛ad Psychologiczny (Psychological Review) (on the European Reference Index for the Humanities list), Associate Editor of the Journal of Individual Differences and Consultant Editor of the High Ability Studies. His scientific interests primarily concern giftedness, intelligence and creativity.

Beata Łubianka is assistant at the Department of the Psychology of Individual Differences at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. She defended her doctoral dissertation on the psychological analysis of value systems in young people of various school achievements. Her scientific interests are focused on the system of the value of gifted people and youthful idealism.

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