Professional learning, knowledge and practice and the identification of gifted students in New Zealand primary schools

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Newton, Catherine
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Educational Leadership and Management
Unitec Institute of Technology
Youngs, Howard
Fitzgerald, Tanya
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
New Zealand primary schools
gifted children
Newton, C. (2009). Professional learning, knowledge and practice and the identification of gifted students in New Zealand primary schools. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Leadership and Management). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
New Zealand schools have been mandated with the responsibility of identifying and providing for gifted students. Identification of gifted students requires a theoretical knowledge base and the translation of theory to practice. This study set out to investigate a group of New Zealand primary school teachers and their professional learning experiences and needs in relation to the identification of gifted students. Interviews and focus groups were conducted in three New Zealand primary schools in the greater Auckland area. The findings showed that there was a lack of effective professional learning and a consequent gap between theory and practice that impacted detrimentally on the identification of gifted students in primary schools. Primary school teachers and senior management require professional learning and development support to address that gap. In addition there is a gap in pre-service teacher education as courses related to gifted students are optional electives rather than integrated into training education. This means that trainee teachers are entering the professional work force with little or none of the knowledge and skills required to identify gifted students. A further complication is that the professional learning and development courses reported as being conducted by external facilitators or ‘experts’ and the resources provided by the Ministry of Education do not always provide the framework or contexts necessary to ensure long term professional learning and growth for teachers and substantive positive impacts on gifted student outcomes. The study concludes that the catalyst that will address the gap between theory, teacher and school practice is professional learning. A professional learning programme is required for training teachers, primary school teachers and principals that integrate the professional knowledge with professional practice. This will ensure that professional capacity will be enhanced long term. Finally, further research into the knowledge base of primary school teachers when identifying gifted students is required to confirm or challenge the research findings, further inform school and system leaders about teachers’ professional learning needs and prompt an evaluation of identification practices for gifted students in New Zealand primary schools.
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