Celebrating 25 years as leaders in Gifted Education

8 Aug 2016

Celebrating gifted education

This year, the Gifted Education Research and Resource Centre (GERRIC) celebrates 25 years of commitment to the provision of gifted education in Australia. In this time, thousands of gifted children have passed through the doors of GERRIC, sparking their innovative minds through a range of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workshops, expanding their creative horizons through art-based courses, and seeking to problem-solve their way through tough ethical and societal dilemmas in a variety of humanities workshops. Founded by Miraca Gross in 1991, GERRIC has led the way, on a national level, providing gifted children with access to intellectually stimulating and challenging enrichment programs run by veteran teachers and university academics. GERRIC also sought to support the families of gifted students by offering a list of counselling services, access to parent courses, public lectures, and master classes by experts in the field of gifted education.

In the last five years, the School of Education has endeavoured to ensure that the extensive work and research undertaken by Miraca, now an Emeritus Professor of UNSW and GERRIC in the field of gifted education, continues to develop and strengthen, and be accessible to this often-overlooked group of students. Through the School of Education, GERRIC continues to make contributions to the education of gifted children and young people, and to the development of Gifted Education for current teachers and teachers studying an education degree.

High-quality research and teaching academics

The School is fortunate to have appointed academic staff with strong research and educational experience. With the strong research work undertaken by Dr Jae Yup Jared Jung, Dr Jennifer Jolly and Dr Susen Smith, Senior Lecturers in gifted education, this discipline area continues to move from strength to strength, attracting the very best in gifted education nationally and internationally.

Dr Jae Yup Jared Jung is a senior lecturer and GERRIC Senior Research Fellow in the School of Education. His research focus areas include the decision–making of adolescents (including gifted adolescents), in areas including careers, university entrance, friendships, which factor in motivational and cultural perspectives. He holds a DECRA from the Australian Research Council (2013-2016) and is the editor of the Australasian Journal of Gifted Education In 2015, Dr Jung received the Mensa Award for Excellence in Research for his article Jung, J.Y. (2013). The cognitive processes associated with occupational/career indecision: ‘A model for gifted adolescents. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 36, 433-460’.

Dr Jennifer Jolly is a senior lecturer in gifted education at the University of New South Wales. Her research interests include the history of gifted education, motivation and gifted children, and parents of gifted children. Her work has been published in numerous publications, including, Gifted Child Quarterly, Journal for the Education for the Gifted, Roeper Review, and Gifted Child Today.

Dr Susen Smith is a Senior Lecturer and GERRIC Senior Research Fellow. She has three decades of leadership, teaching and research experience from Pre-K to Tertiary. Her research interests include differentiating pedagogy for students with gifts, including underachievers, using dynamic cognitive and affective taxonomies.

GERRIC Student Programs

Combined with this strong research foundation, in the last five years, the School of Education has continued to focus on the provision of the highly popular GERRIC Student Programs, which still take place bi-annually, during the January and July school holidays. The programs attract gifted children from around Australia, with growing interest from parents of gifted children internationally, including New Zealand, the US, Asia and as far afield as the Ukraine, which indicates the scope and reach of the programs’ reputation. Approximately 400 students have attended each student program run since 2011, with the most recent program offering 19 workshops including:

  • The Games People Play: Video Game Design and games Technology
  • Developing Interactive Web Animations
  • Everyday Economics for Smarties
  • Speak Out: The Art of Successfully Arguing
  • The Science of Earth’s Changing Climate
  • Cinematic Sounds: Music and Soundscape Composition for Film.

The School works with high-calibre presenters for its workshops, including experienced primary and high school teachers, and university academics, who have years of experience teaching and a high-level of knowledge in giftedness, to create workshops that are intellectually stimulating, thought-provoking, and challenging for gifted students who are seeking rigorous enrichment in subject areas of interest.

Our School recognises the benefit that the practical experience and exposure to the classroom can have for our teacher education students. Consequently, students studying an Education degree at UNSW who are interested in developing their teaching skills, have the opportunity to volunteer over the course of the GERRIC student programs, assisting and working closely with the presenters in the classroom and get first-hand experience with gifted students. Over the years, hundreds of student assistants have contributed their skills and knowledge of pedagogy, learnt through their education degree, to the GERRIC Student Programs.

Scholarships are awarded to students in financial need so they too can engage in these enriching programs. The Professor Miraca Gross Scholarship provides one place in both the Junior Scientia and Scientia Challenge programs in both January and July. The Lauren Kipic Memorial Scholarship provides one place in each program in January and the Tim Huang Scholarship provides one place in each program in July. We continue to maintain close connections with local schools, offering places to gifted students at Matraville High School, as part of the Matraville Education Partnership. Students are given the opportunity to attend a workshop in the Scientia Challenge (Grade 7-10), in workshops that focus on computing, biology, globalisation, and music.

"I would like to say a big thank you for the Animation class you ran last week at UNSW. Not only did my son clearly enjoy the class, but he was made to feel very welcome (he can be painfully shy and at times can keep to himself in such classes). During the evenings after the class, he would talk not-stop about his day and what he learned, which underscored to me how much he enjoyed his time. It was a great, well prepared class, and as a parent, I thank you for all your efforts." 
Robert Savellis – Parent, July 2016 GERRIC Student Programs
"This is the second time we have accessed GERRIC and will do so again for our youngest daughter. We live in remote NQ and to be able to access the course was a privilege. Parent of student who attended the Brain in Health and Disease workshop July 2014
I enjoyed the experience of working both with the students and also seeing the techniques used by Melinda as a teacher. It was a hugely valuable experience to me as a pre-service educator."  Taylor Tracy, Student Assistant in Embracing the Avant-Garde Jan 2015
"I would really recommend GERRIC as at this place, you are not learning with a class and teacher. Everyone in the room has the same passion and the presenter specialises in this field. I believe it is a rare, unique and valuable opportunity to have at this age". Student of the Everyday Economics Course July 2015

GERRIC Parent Courses

In addition to striving to meet the educational needs of gifted children, The School of Education understands the significance of offering courses, master classes and lectures designed to help parents navigate the often difficult waters of gifted education and catering for the academic and soci-affective needs of their child.

For the last two years, GERRIC has concurrently run the Parent Course with the GERRIC Student Programs to give parents the opportunity to let their child attend the programs while they learn about how best to meet the needs of their gifted child.

GERRIC also offers Specialised and Advanced Parent courses, which help parents explore particular topics in more depth.

"It was fantastic to meet people in a similar situation to yourself and to know that other people are going through or have gone through the same things." GERRIC Parent Course attendee- September 2014
"[I gained] The ability to be a better parent for my gifted children and advocate for them in a more effective manner". GERRIC Parent course attendee- October 2014
"[I gained] Empowering information, guidance, tools, techniques, perspectives, contacts, wisdom". GERRIC Advanced Parent Course – October 2014

Mini-COGE and Professional Learning – in-services

Preparing pre-service teachers with the relevant Gifted Education knowledge to enter a classroom is one of the priorities of UNSW’s School of Education. Students must undertake the compulsory course EDST4096: Gifted and Talented Students as part of the Bachelor of Education course. This is significant, as teachers often do not having the unique knowledge, or understanding of the idiosyncrasies of gifted and talented students to enter the classroom and feel comfortable teaching this cohort of students.

Building on this significant need, GERRIC has offered the Mini-COGE (Mini Certificate of Gifted Education) as a professional learning course for teachers and school leaders, nationally and internationally, since 2011. Run by GERRIC presenters, Bronwyn McLeod, Ruth Phillips, Dr Lye Chan Long, and Dr Peta Hay, the 16-hour course has been delivered to schools as in-services, or on-campus at UNSW or at the UNSW Education Partnership School, Matraville High School.

In the last five years the demand for the Mini-COGE has risen significantly, with more schools recognising the importance and significance of developing ways to identify, enhance and nurture the needs of gifted learners. Since October 2011, we have run in-services for 112 schools to approximately 2800 teachers. Our expert tutors have also delivered courses nationally in metropolitan NSW, WA, VIC, ACT, QLD, and in regional areas, as well as internationally in Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai. We have also run 15 Mini-COGE programs at UNSW since 2014 and have trained 435 teachers from NSW and across Australia.

"I enjoyed having the time to work with the faculty altogether and discuss ideas. It meant we had a structure for programming that we were united on. Working collaboratively with my Faculty collegaues to develop differentiated units of work. Attending sessions run by academics from UNSW and completing a certificate course that has rigour and is a recognised teacher qualification". Mini-COGE at Winifred West Schools In-service attendees – September 2014
"The group size was good and there was sufficient diversity in terms of age groups cared for to broaden participants' perspective beyond the student group they service. this also brought out the common thread of extending each child from where they are (low, middle or gifted).! Bronwyn was inspiring!!" Mini-COGE United World College of South East Asia attendee - September 2014

Master Classes

Teachers who have already completed at least 16-hours of professional development in gifted education, for example, the Mini-COGE or an equivalent component of a university course, can attend our master classes. The Master Classes are run by Australian and international experts in the field of gifted education and provide educators with access to current and relevant pedagogy and gifted education knowledge, which aims to stimulate and broaden teacher knowledge.

Past Master Classes have included: Professor C. June Maker – Engaging students in real problem solving; Professor Susan Assouline – Academic acceleration; Professor Karen B. Rogers – Are the Australian National Standards in Mathematics and English “enough” for bright learners? Extending standards using Kaplan’s 11 strategies; Professor Joyce Van Tassel-Baska – Problem based learning and gifted students.

Free Public Lectures

Free public lectures are presented by academics in the field and have previously focused on areas including: Underachievement and disengagement; Strategies for home and school to help manage gifted children with additional needs; Identifying and using resources from the world wide web; Motivational approaches for gifted and talented students; Career decisions of gifted students; Dual exceptionalities; Home School collaborations; Gifted students and selective high schools.

Conferences

Further showcasing the great work being done in Gifted Education, UNSW is hosting the following conferences:

AAEGT National Gifted Conference - Beyond the Boundaries in Gifted Education

22nd Biennial World Conference - Global Perspectives in Gifted Education

Gifted education has been, and continues to be, a dedicated focus of academics in the UNSW School of Education. We look forward to expanding on this heritage and culture, expanding the in-depth quality research produced in this area, and increasing the diversity and outreach of presentations to teachers, parents and students in the field of gifted education.