Arden welcomes students with a range of academic abilities. Every year we educate a significant proportion of students who possess exceptional learning potential. Consequently, our teaching staff has developed a range of provisions to ensure that learning is targeted to provide an appropriate level of challenge for each student.
Transforming the gifted child into the talented adult
At Arden we see giftedness as the possession of exceptional natural abilities while we define talent as the systematic development of these skills into outstanding performance in one or more fields. This is the model of giftedness developed by Canadian educator Francois Gagne. Central to this model is facilitating the transformation of the gifted child into the talented adult.
Many students come to Arden identified as academically gifted, or are identified as gifted by staff, parents and peers throughout their time with us. Our goal is to transform students with high academic potential into talented individuals able to use their abilities to create, problem solve, contribute and serve others in their community.
While all students at Arden are trained to think about and take responsibility for their learning, this is especially important for gifted students where effort can seem to be unrelated to results. Gifted students need opportunities to be challenged, to find tasks difficult and to make mistakes if they are to transform childhood giftedness into exceptional adult abilities.
We know that gifted students frequently have increased sensitivities (called “over-excitabilities”) to physical, emotional and ethical situations. Our classroom teachers are aware of these special needs and work with these students to acknowledge and support their experiences, as well as assist in managing their emotions in the mainstream classroom setting.
The objective tools we use to identify students as gifted include Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices, Australian Research Council General Ability Tests, Slosson Intelligence Test results, progression through graded readers, external competitions and tests, and school standardised tests.
Parent input, teacher observation and work samples also form part of the identification process. Discussions between Junior classroom teachers and the Gifted and Talented Coordinator are ongoing throughout the year.
Specific provisions considered for gifted and talented students
As gifted students spend the majority of their learning time in the mainstream classroom, we focus most of our interventions here. We cluster students of like ability to support in-class learning and regularly test and group our students according to their competence in mathematics, reading and spelling. Teachers differentiate the curriculum to provide learning activities suitable for all students.
Depending on the interests and abilities of the students, Arden provides specialist lessons via small group withdrawal during mainstream class time. Withdrawal classes give students the opportunity to spend part of the week with like-minded students and also allows for the exploration of topics at a greater depth or intensity than available within the mainstream class.
Highly gifted students
Occasionally a student presents with abilities exceptional enough that classroom differentiation is inadequate for their needs. Where the exceptional ability is in one domain, the student may participate in lessons in a higher grade for that subject. Alternatively the student may be considered for whole grade acceleration.
Enrichment activities for all
Many enrichment activities are open to all Arden students. These include Orchestra, Band, Chess, private music tuition, Year 6 Godparents, Lego Robotics, Tournament of the Minds Competition, Maths Olympiad, ICAS, Arden Idol, Communicators’ Award, French Club, Debating, New Horizons, Write a Book in a Day and the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Competition.
Networking with other schools
Arden is part of a local network called Northside Gifted. In this network schools work together to provide support and education for teachers as well as enrichment opportunities for gifted students, including specialist workshop days and a bi-annual Kids Conference. The network also provides master classes for teachers and teacher and parent workshops.