‘Teachers who do not take risks are not doing gifted people any favours’
‘Teachers who do not take risks are not doing gifted people any favours’

‘Teachers who do not take risks are not doing gifted people any favours’

It was the of giftedness recently and that meant positive attention was devoted to this topic. Rightly so, says social scientist Lianne Hoogeveen of Radboud University, because there are still plenty misunderstandings about giftedness. “It is extremely important that teachers recognise children's talents and know how to handle them well.”

Giftedness is a difficult-to-grasp concept, first because there is no precise definition. In schools, it still causes misunderstandings and in business, people feel misunderstood or undervalued. “As a clinical psychologist, I spoke to someone who came up with lots of good ideas, but only met resistance from management and eventually left the company. They could have been a big asset to the company, but they did not know what to do with them”, says Lianne Hoogeveen, who, apart from being a psychologist, is also the head trainer at ECHA and RITHA, the professional training courses to become a Specialist in Gifted Education of the Radboud Centre for Social Sciences (RCSW) and scientist at the BSI.

Dead Poets Society

“It is crucial that teachers recognise the talents of children and know how to handle them well.” Recent studies by Hoogeveen and her colleagues are therefore aimed at recognising children's giftedness, for example, through drawings. Or the prevention of talent frustration. “Furthermore, we try to make teachers in our postgraduate courses more professional, so they can respond well to the specific needs of children, for instance, by setting up groups that meet their educational needs.”

In addition, it is important that any extra-curricular programmes are not exclusively made for ‘gifted children’. “Labelling children influences their behaviour. Gifted children may, for example, mimic less intelligent behaviour in order to not fall fowl of the group, while the label is also disadvantageous for ‘normal children’.” It is better to see, per subject, who can handle what additional challenge, says Hoogeveen. “To do that, teachers must have room to take risks and make mistakes. If teachers do not dare to take a risk, it will be disadvantageous for pupils with high capacities.” She refers to the film Dead Poets Society as an example of how things should be done with a teacher who, through unusual methods, succeeds in stimulating his students. However, as a reward for his efforts, he is fired. The fear of taking risks among teachers is therefore understandable; what consequences such actions will have for them?

Education is not everything

At the same time, tailor-made policies within schools are not a requirement for success, says Hoogeveen. “Someone like Joop van den Ende is very gifted, but has had little formal education.” And gifted people can also use their capacities negatively. “For example, I once had a conversation with someone for whom things were not going well at school, who had criminal acquaintances and who was convinced that they knew how to do those same things, but better.”

This unpredictability means that extra knowledge and insight into giftedness is still important, although the research field is moving in the right direction. The appointment of Professor occupying an endowed chair Anouke Bakx in May 2018 at Radboud University is a fresh boost. Furthermore, almost every school is concerned with giftedness and there is much more research funding available than before, Hoogeveen says optimistically. “Since the founding of the CBO by its pioneer Franz Mönks in 1988, huge strides have been made.”

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