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Developing the Future of Gifted Education

2021 Virtual World Conference
July 31 - August 1 & August 7 - 8


The 2021 Virtual World Conference will feature eight keynotes. Details about the speakers and presentations will be included below as they are available.

Improving education for gifted learners by bridging the gap between theory and practice

Anouke Bakx, Ph.D.

Teacher-research is an effective means of professional development for teachers. Such research is often short-term, anecdotal, and more oriented to practice than to theory. On the other hand, scientific research often does not provide insights that are directly usable in educational practice. By connecting teachers, scientists, and teacher educators, different perspectives and habits can be brought together in our good practice field labs on gifted education. In these labs, primary school teachers, scientists, and teacher educators work together on research, aiming to improve education for gifted learners. In three-year periods, two kinds of research cycles are conducted. A practice-based research cycle conducted by teachers and supported by scientists addresses context-specific research questions from one primary school. The second research cycle concerns scientific research. Input for the research questions is collected in the participating schools, the scientific research cycle is conducted by scientists, and all twenty schools from the lab participate. The participating teachers, teacher educators, and scientists cooperate intensively in all phases of both research cycles. This close cooperation of scientists and practitioners is a new way of professionalization and research, aimed at improving education for gifted learners. Scientists and teachers cooperating closely on research in good practice field labs bridge the gap between theory and practice, leading towards evidence-informed improvement of education for gifted learners. In this keynote, the model of the labs is presented as an example that can be used in other countries and contexts. Examples are presented of teacher research and scientific studies from the lab. In addition, it presents how insights from the studies are nationally shared with the entire field of gifted education.

Anouke Bakx - 2021 Virtual WCGTC World Conference Keynote SpeakerAnouke Bakx, PhD, is professor of Giftedness at Radboud University and associate professor at Fontys University of applied Sciences, where she is also academic director of the academic educational programme for teachers. Her area of expertise is teachers’ professional development in the field of gifted education. She is the initiator of the educational labs on gifted education and co-founder of the Scientific Centre of Expertise RATiO (Radboud Talent in Development).

Talent, Technology, and Transversal: A Three-Pronged Approach to Benefit Gifted Education

Mark Brown, Ph.D. and Colm O'Reilly, Ph.D.

Dublin City University (DCU) is home to the Irish Centre for Talented Youth (CTYI) and the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL). The NIDL is a world leader in developing new digital-enabled learning models, while CTYI is the largest and most extensive university-based program for gifted students in Europe. 

The COVID-19 crisis presented many challenges for parents and guardians of high-ability students, with many gifted programs cancelled. Despite their best efforts, homeschooling during 2020 resulted in significant numbers of gifted students not having their diverse needs adequately stimulated or challenged. However, the pandemic also created a unique opportunity for some programs to move from face-to-face delivery to a digital format.

Using the three-pronged approach of Talent, Technology, and Transversal, this talk will share insights from the 2020 DCU experience and examine how we can use digital learning to redesign and reimagine traditional delivery models to benefit gifted students. Coming from an institution with an enabling culture that encourages an ambitious and transformative mindset promoting creative solutions, this talk will demonstrate how CTYI moved a large gifted program for over 6,000 students fully online.

Using a Talent Development model, we will discuss how new digital technology, when anchored in lessons from the research literature, can help educators transverse new places and spaces for authentic and meaningful learning, creating valuable opportunities to develop transversal skills for gifted students. In the post-pandemic world, we argue this three-pronged approach paves the way for the future transformation of gifted education.

Mark Brown - 2021 Virtual WCGTC World Conference Keynote SpeakerProfessor Mark Brown is Ireland’s first Chair of Digital Learning and Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL). Mark returned 7-years ago to live in Ireland after his Great Grandparents set sail for New Zealand in 1876. He is proud of his Irish heritage and conference delegates may learn more about this 11% factor during the keynote. Mark is currently Treasurer of the European Distance and E-learning Network (EDEN) and serves on the Supervisory Board of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU). He is also an EDEN Fellow. Mark continues to maintain strong “down under” connections and is an Executive Committee member of the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia (ODLAA). In 2017, the Commonwealth of Learning recognised Mark as a world leader in digital education, and only months before the start of the COVID-19 crisis, in November 2019 he was Chair of the ICDE World Conference on Online Learning in Dublin. 

Colm O'Reilly - 2021 Virtual WCGTC World Conference Keynote SpeakerColm O’Reilly Ph.D is the Director of the Irish Centre for Talented Youth (CTYI) at Dublin City University. CTYI provides fast paced classes for academically talented students aged 6 – 16 years from all over Ireland and overseas. Colm has worked in the area of gifted and talented education for the last 20 years and has written articles and presented papers at numerous conferences around Europe and worldwide. His research interests include working with gifted students in out of school programmes and their academic and social development. He is currently the secretary of the European Council for High Ability and the treasurer for the European Talent Support Network. He serves on the advisory board for the Center for Gifted Education at the College of William and Mary and has just led an EU project to design an online programme for teachers of high ability students in regular classrooms.

The Use of Integrative, Qualitative+Quantitative Career Counselling to Identify Gifted Learners and Help Them Design Successful Lives

Jacobus Maree, Ph.D.
Sponsored By

The world today is changing fundamentally at lightning speed. The situation in the Global South is particularly dire and is made worse by spiraling unemployment rates following major changes in the global economy and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A strong response to these changes is needed from theoreticians, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers involved with gifted learners. This keynote first discusses the reality that, globally, millions of gifted learners have never been given a fair chance in life to construct themselves and their careers meaningfully. These learners (from across the diversity spectrum) may conceivably have made major contributions to humankind. The world may have lost the likes of a Mother Teresa, an Isaac Newton, an Albert Einstein, a Sigmund Freud, a Nelson Mandela, a Kofi Annan, or so many other luminaries.

Second, the keynote shows that by merging information obtained from quantitative approaches (test “scores”) with information obtained from qualitative approaches (“stories”), career counsellors can identify giftedness and help gifted students experience a sense of hope and purpose in their lives and contribute to societal advancement.

Third, the keynote discusses the theory underlying an innovative, integrative qualitative+quantitative approach to career counselling for gifted learners. Three key themes of pertinence for career counsellors recur throughout the presentation. First, that they should help gifted learners advise themselves instead of being “advised” by “experts.” Second, that they should listen for instead of to gifted learners’ “stories” to help them choose and construct their careers and themselves, become adaptable and employable, and design purposeful and hopeful lives. Third, that they should help gifted learners connect what they know about themselves consciously with what they are aware about themselves subconsciously.

Jacobus Maree - 2021 Virtual WCGTC World Conference Keynote SpeakerJacobus G. Maree is an educational psychologist and a professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Pretoria. He holds doctoral degrees in Education (Career counselling), Mathematics Education, and Psychology. A globally renowned keynote speaker, he has received multiple awards for his work and he is the highest-rated scientist in the history of the Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria. Prof. Maree has authored or co­authored 90+ peer­reviewed articles and 75 books/ book chapters on career counselling, research, and related topics since 2011. In the same period, he has also presented invited workshops at conferences in 40+ countries across the world. Over the past seven years, he has spent a lot of time abroad as a visiting professor at various universities. He was awarded a fellowship of the IAAP in 2014 and received the Psychological Society of South Africa’s Fellow Award (Lifetime Award in recognition of a person who has made exceptional contributions to Psychology in her/his life) in 2017.

The Talent Development in Achievement Domains (TAD) Framework – An Integrative Psychological Perspective on Potential and Performance

Franzis Preckel, Ph.D.

From a talent-development perspective, giftedness can be described as a person’s potential for developing above-average achievement in certain domains. However, what comprises this potential? What is the role of abilities, personality traits or acquired psycho-social skills, and their respective profiles? Could it be that the defining features of potential and achievement change within the course of development? These central questions to understand potential and its development will be discussed by integrating different views from research on giftedness, expertise, and talent development within the Talent Development in Achievement Domains (TAD) Framework. The TAD framework resembles a general talent development framework applicable to a wide range of achievement domains. The framework resulted from the common effort of eleven international researchers from different fields of psychology. It distinguishes four levels of talent development (aptitude, competence, expertise, transformational achievement), specifies level-dependent predictors and indicators of talent development, and outlines internal processes that lead to interest and success in a domain. Examples are given on how the TAD framework can be used for constructing talent-development models in specific domains. Practical implications for assessing and fostering potential will be highlighted.

Franzis Preckel - 2021 Virtual WCGTC World Conference Keynote SpeakerFranzis Preckel is full professor for giftedness research and education at the Department of Psychology of the University of Trier, Germany. She received her doctor’s degree from the University of Muenster, Germany, in 2002. Her areas of expertise include intelligence and giftedness, talent development, personality factors related to achievement, and psychological assessment including test construction. In 2017, Franzis received the path breaker award of the AERA special interest group on Research on Giftedness, Creativity, and Talent. She has served as co-editor of Gifted and Talented International and Diagnostica. Franzis has published her research in top ranked journals including Psychological Bulletin or Perspectives on Psychological Science.

Research on the Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Individuals: Moving the Field Forward

Anne N. Rinn, Ph.D.
Sponsored By

The last century has seen paradigmatic shifts in the way we view giftedness and talent. With these shifts, our understanding about the nature and needs of gifted or potentially gifted students has also changed. While we once equated giftedness with high IQ and a host of social and emotional difficulties, our notion of giftedness has broadened and so must our understanding of the social and emotional development of gifted individuals. Instead of favoring one paradigmatic approach to giftedness over the other, in this presentation I advocate for using both paradigmatic lenses to better understand the social, emotional, and psychosocial development and needs of gifted individuals. Indeed, healthy social and emotional development sets the stage for the development of the psychosocial skills necessary for the development of talent.

I present guiding questions for researchers to consider as we move forward in our understanding of the social and emotional development of gifted individuals:

  • What do we know and what should be researching? What does the future hold for research on the social and emotional development of gifted individuals?
  • To what extent does your paradigmatic lens shape the way you research and consider the social and emotional needs of gifted individuals?
  • In what way can we use a systems approach to better understand the way individuals interact with their environment and the impact the environment has on talent development?
  • How can the notion of intersectionality impact our understanding of the experiences of gifted individuals?
  • How can we incorporate research from other disciplines into the field of gifted education in order to better understand the social and emotional development of gifted individuals?

Anne Rinn - 2021 Virtual WCGTC World Conference Keynote SpeakerAnne N. Rinn, Ph.D., is Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of North Texas, where she also serves as Director of the Office for Giftedness, Talent Development, and Creativity. She has a BS in Psychology from the University of Houston and a PhD in Educational Psychology from Indiana University. She has authored around 75 publications related to the social and emotional development of gifted and talented individuals and the psychosocial skills necessary for the development of talent. She is the author of Social, Emotional, and Psychosocial Development of Gifted and Talented Individuals (Rinn, 2020) and co-editor of From Giftedness to Gifted Education: Reflecting Theory in Practice (Plucker, Rinn, & Makel, 2017). She is currently co-editor of the Journal of Advanced Academics.

The Fuzzy Theory: Debates on Conceptions of Giftedness

Ugur Sak, Ph.D.
Sponsored By

The Fuzzy Conception of Giftedness (FCG) posits that conceptions and practices concerning giftedness (e.g., propositions and identification practices) are vague. The Fuzzy Conception of Giftedness itself is vague as well. The two editions of the landmark book Conceptions of Giftedness (Sternberg & Davidson, 1986, 2005) cover over 20 different conceptions of giftedness. Each conception has its own unique vagueness. In this talk, first, I will discuss the vagueness of the concept “giftedness,” with an emphasis on problems related to vagueness in conceptions of giftedness. Then, I will explain the Fuzzy Conception of Giftedness and suggest identification and education practices based on this conception. The FCG is composed of personal dispositions, stimulus conditions, and the between- and within-group interaction of personal dispositions and stimulus conditions. The manifestation of giftedness is situated in the interaction. Therefore, the identification of and education for gifted students are strictly based on interactional models.    

Ugur Sak - 2021 Virtual WCGTC World Conference Keynote SpeakerUgur Sak is Professor and founding director of the Center for Research and Practice for High Ability Education and founder of graduate programs on gifted education at Anadolu University and the founding editor of the journal “Talent” formerly known as the Turkish Journal of Giftedness and Education. He currently serves as the Editor-in-Chief of Gifted Education International. His scientific research has focused on the development of original models on the identification and education of gifted students, assessment of creativity and intelligence. He is the author of Selective Problem Solving Model (SPS), Creative Reversal Act (CREACT), Anadolu Sak Intelligence Scale (ASIS), and co-author of Creative Scientific Ability Test (C-SAT) and the Test of Scientific Creativity Animations for Children (TOSCAC). He has been an active participant in social networks in gifted education, being an executive board member of the Asia-Pacific Federation on Giftedness and a member of the qualification committee of the European Talent Support Network. His most recent work is the Fuzzy Conception of Giftedness. He is currently a visiting professor at Western University, Canada.

Remain Open to Openness: The Controversy of Openness to Experience vs Overexcitabilities

M. Alexandra Vuyk, Ph.D.

In 2016, I published a study in which I affirmed that openness to experience is a better construct to explain certain behaviors seen in gifted individuals than the common explanation of overexcitabilities. Overexcitabilities have become popular mainly through blogs and conversations, but not as much in the scientific literature. Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration is a complex theory that goes well beyond overexcitabilities, though it does not seem to trickle down to everyday conceptions.

Openness to experience, as conceptualized in the five-factor model of personality, explains overexcitabilities seamlessly through its underlying facets. The overlap is not one hundred percent as initially hypothesized, a fact that was used by some researchers to try to negate the importance of openness or even to claim the study as incorrect. Yet science is self-correcting. So, now we know it does not “perfectly” overlap; instead, it overlaps “almost perfectly.” In the last seven years, many studies have investigated the relationship of openness to overexcitabilities. By revising these studies, most of which show partial overlap of overexcitabilities to the openness trait, we could potentially map the parts to facets of other traits in the five-factor model and empirically test these relationships.

The main statement prevails; we ought to stick to openness to experience to explain said behaviors. The five-factor model is supported by research, thus is a common language that permits interdisciplinary collaboration. Our field should not be a silo; science grows in cooperation. Let us strive to be open in science and in experience.

M. Alexandra Vuyk - 2021 Virtual WCGTC World Conference Keynote SpeakerAlexandra Vuyk, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Graduate Studies and Research at the School of Philosophy and Human Science, at the Universidad Católica Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Asunción, Paraguay. Additionally, she is principal investigator in talent development projects at OMAPA (Multidisciplinary Organization for Support of Teachers and Students). At the National Council for Science and Technology in Paraguay, Dr. Vuyk is ranked as a level II researcher (second highest) in the National Program for Researcher Support and in the Selection Committee for said program. She is the delegate for Paraguay at the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children, associate editor at Gifted and Talented International, and on the editorial board of the Journal for Advanced Academics. Dr. Vuyk pioneered gifted education research, practice, and advocacy in her country. She is the founder of the Aikumby Center for Giftedness and Creativity, the first of its kind in the country, and REDPAC Paraguay, a network for professionals working with high-ability students. By means of this advocacy, the Ministry of Education and Sciences organized the First Seminar on High Ability Students in Paraguay in 2019 with Dr. Vuyk as the keynote speaker, as well as continued discussions for nationwide implementation of evidence-based practices for gifted students. She holds degrees from the University of Kansas (Ph.D. and M.S., counseling psychology) and Emporia State University (M.S., special education in gifted, talented and creative; B.S., psychology and philosophy). Her research interests include social and emotional development of intellectually and creatively gifted individuals, creative and non-linear career paths, and personality traits related to these paths.

Globally Reframing Giftedness: The Equity Work That Enables a Brighter, Stronger Future for All

Gilman Whiting, Ph.D.
Sponsored By

The utility, effectiveness, and equity of gifted and talented education are being questioned globally. Conversations about inequity can be heard from Australia to the Americas. State and local governmental agencies are either not supporting or cutting ties with gifted and talented programs and services. Is there a path forward? This keynote will address the historical foundations of gifted education and the ongoing struggle to make it equitable for all. Shifting the conversation from one fraught with misunderstanding and fear to one strengthened by lessons learned from past missteps and stronger policies and practices will enable a brighter, stronger future for gifted education.

M. Alexandra Vuyk - 2021 Virtual WCGTC World Conference Keynote SpeakerGilman Whiting, Ph.D., is an associate professor and the director of graduate studies for the Department of African American and Diaspora Studies. He directs the Scholar Identity Institute (SII) and the Black male initiative at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

His areas of research include disparity and underperformance in special and gifted education; sociology of race, sports, and American culture; qualitative research methods; and young fatherhood initiatives.

In 2006 Whiting re-conceptualized his dissertation work on young Black and Brown fathers and created the Scholar Identity Model™ (SIM), a psycho-social model created to assist whole communities to rethink ways to combat academic apathy. The SIM and SII have been expanded to include all children across racial, ethnic, gender, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

He is the founding chair of the Achievement Gap Institute at the George W. Peabody College of Education at Vanderbilt, an intensive summer institute designed to work with key school personnel on issues of historical importance including equity, diversity, and inclusion.

Dr. Whiting’s work has been used internationally in India, Australia, Belize, and Brazil. He consults with numerous school districts and programs nationally and internationally.

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