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A safe path: Giftedness in the early years

Lynley Westerbeke

In New Zealand there is currently no one definition of what it means for a child to be categorised as “gifted and talented”. The very notion of “giftedness” is in itself unclear, with teachers holding varying levels of understanding. This is problematic, making identification complex and pedagogical decision-making ad hoc, with gifted and talented young children often going unnoticed and unsupported in the early years. This article presents findings from a qualitative case study that explores the identification of an intellectually gifted young child and examines the pedagogical implications for teachers. The study is located within a 3-year Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) project entitled Learning Journeys from Early Childhood into School. Two interrelated factors are identified that strengthened this young child’s learning path. These factors are the ongoing and open dialogue between teachers and with parents, which lay the foundation for understanding, and the teachers’ re-positioning of a child who lives life “outside the norm”. This article argues that, although not always a straightforward task for teachers, the identification of a child as “gifted and talented” in the early years has a direct influence on the wellbeing and identity of the child, as well as the trustworthiness of learning goals set by the teachers.

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