Australia – New South Wales: GERRIC


The Gifted Education Research, Resource and Information Centre (GERRIC) is part of the School of Education at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Background and history

The University, which lies at 152 in the Times Higher Education World Rankings for 2010/11, was formally established in 1949. It has over 52,000 students and almost 5,000 staff.

GERRIC, founded in 1997, claims to have been the first such centre located in the Southern Hemisphere. It cites the following achievements over its lifespan:

  • Completion of 80 postgraduate degrees;
  • 2,000 teachers completing the Certificate of Gifted Education (COGE) which predates GERRIC, having been established in 1991; and
  • 23,000 learners attending residential programmes and short courses

In 2003, it was awarded an Australian Government contract to produce a national professional development package and in 2005, a further contract to run 50 workshops for parents.

GERRIC seems to have operated at arms-length from its host University for most of this period, but the website records that the relationship was strengthened in 2010, when it moved into the School of Education building.

The Centre is directed by Professor Miraca Gross, a former World Council Executive Committee member (1995-99) and former President of the Gifted and Talented Children’s Association of South Australia

The website names just three other staff – a Research Fellow (who was formerly Centre Manager), a School Manager and a postgraduate student responsible for student and teacher programmes.

There is a Management Committee (whose members are not currently named on the website) and an Advisory Committee which is exclusively Australian and mostly representative of New South Wales.

GERRIC’s mission statement gives precedence to research and professional development over its student programmes and reinforces its strengthened  relationship with the UNSW School of Education. Priorities are to:

  • foster and conduct research on effective education of gifted and talented children;
  • act as a focus for the conduct of research related to existing university initiatives in gifted education;
  • contract with outside agencies… to conduct, on their behalf, research into issues related to the education and welfare of gifted and talented children;
  • establish a database of Australian and overseas research and practice in gifted education, and to disseminate information from this database to agencies or individuals through a variety of contractual arrangements;
  • develop and conduct, on a contractual basis for schools and other educational agencies, a range of teacher professional development programmes;
  • establish and administer UNSW-based workshops and specialist seminars for teachers, counsellors and parents of gifted students;
  • be responsible for the administration of the Scientia Challenge Programme for gifted and talented high school students, and to establish and administer additional and complementary programs for gifted students;
  • publish a range of professional development materials designed to assist educators to identify and respond to the needs of gifted and talented students.

Services

For Teachers

GERRIC offers:

  • customised in-service training, covering topics such as identification, differentiation and acceleration;
  • one day masterclasses for those who have completed 20+ hours of professional development;

as well as the Certificate of Gifted Education (COGE).

The Certificate is currently offered either as a blended learning course with a single 4-day face-to-face session or through three face-to-face sessions in school holidays.  COGE is described on the website as:

‘…an intensive training program designed to equip teachers and school administrators with skills which will assist them to identify intellectually and academically gifted students in their schools and develop curricula and programs through which these students may develop their potential more fully… The program is designed for educators in state, Catholic and independent schools, in both primary and secondary education.’

There are five strands:

  • Models of giftedness: Understanding the nature of giftedness and talent; what the terms mean; levels and types of giftedness; an overview of programs for gifted students currently offered in Australia and internationally.
  • Identification of gifted students: Subjective and objective identification procedures, with particular attention to procedures which are effective in identifying gifted students from minority and disadvantaged groups.
  •  Differentiating the curriculum for gifted students: Teaching strategies and methods of curriculum differentiation which enhance the learning of gifted students in the regular classroom.
  •  Developing programmes for gifted students: Practical strategies for the establishment and monitoring of ability, achievement or interest grouping and accelerated progression.
  • Social and emotional development of gifted students: Understanding these needs. Counselling gifted students and their parents. Teaching strategies and class structures that foster the development of positive social attitudes and supportive peer relationships.

The Certificate is taught by Miraca Gross with input from several visiting lecturers, some of them well-known academics from the US and Canada. The fee is currently $Australian 3,550-3,750.

For Parents and Learners

GERRIC offers a weekend course for parents costing $Australian 330 and several courses is available for learners of different ages, though it has discontinued for 2011 its two courses for the youngest children – Poppyseeds and Small Poppies – which have reportedly been loss-bearing for several years.

Current provision comprises:

  • the Junior Scientia Programme for primary school pupils  in Years 3-6 (pupils are divided between Years 3-4 and Years 5-6 for three-day courses;
  • the Scientia Challenge Programme, also three-day courses for students in Years 7-10;
  • Peak! – a study skills programme for students in Years 10 and 11.

Research

GERRIC’s research activity has become closely integrated with that of the UNSW School of Education. Miraca Gross is convenor of a six-strong research group that includes the GERRIC Research Fellow and four other academics, three of them from the School of Education. The fourth is Dr Karen Rogers, Professor at the University of St Thomas, Minneapolis, USA. (Dr Rogers also previously held the role of Director of Research at GERRIC.)

But the only international partner cited is the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa. (This relationship stretches back to Gross’ work, alongside Colangelo and Assouline of Belin-Blank, on ‘A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students’.

And the only current research project mentioned is also funded by the US Templeton Foundation and again focuses on acceleration, this time on teachers’ attitudes to acceleration in Australia. It seems that this was awarded as long ago as 2007 and so must now be nearing completion.

The website mentions six students currently undertaking postgraduate studies in gifted education, one of whom is a GERRIC employee. But this cannot be exhaustive since it does not include Kim Ngoc Minh a gifted education blogger and regular contributor on Twitter.

Overall one gets the impression of a relatively small organisation which is perhaps not quite as active as the promotional website wishes to suggest.

From time to time GERRIC has lobbied to become Australia’s National Centre for Gifted Education, though so far to no avail. It does however remain a significant force in Australian gifted education.

GP

July 2011

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