Wilma Vialle is a Professor in Educational Psychology and Associate Dean in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Wollongong, Australia. She teaches subjects on gifted education and has published extensively in this field, including a text on ‘Educating the Gifted Learner’ co-authored with Professor Karen Rogers. Her research interests are predominantly concerned with giftedness and talent development and she is particularly interested in issues of social justice. Recent research projects include an international study of effective teachers of the gifted, a longitudinal study of adolescent academic and social-emotional outcomes, the development of expertise in competitive Scrabble players, popular culture and giftedness, and the development of spiritual understanding in children. She is the chief editor of the journal ‘Talent Development and Excellence’ and is on the editorial board of several international journals. Wilma is also on the Executive Board of the International Research Association for Talent Development and Excellence (IRATDE). In 2006 she was awarded the Eminent Australian award by the Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented (AAEGT) for her contributions to gifted education.
An Analysis of the Effectiveness of a University-led Enrichment Program for Gifted School Students
In Australia, the delivery of enrichment programs for gifted students in the compulsory schooling years is ad hoc at best. While individual teachers and some schools may provide a differentiated enrichment opportunity for their gifted students, this approach is not embedded systematically through state or federal policy directives. In order to provide enrichment opportunities for school-age students, many gifted associations (largely organised by parents) run such events but these offerings are largely dependent on volunteers and therefore may vary in their frequency and availability. The University of New South Wales through GERRIC has been a pioneer in providing university-led enrichment workshops during holiday sessions for gifted students for a significant period of time. Following in this tradition, the University of Wollongong also offers extensive holiday enrichment programs for gifted students from early childhood through to high school; the program is known as Learning Labs. It was established at the University of Wollongong in 2011 to support and advocate for gifted children in New South Wales, particularly those in regional areas. Learning Labs involves the following activities: (1) 2-day enrichment workshops for gifted students from early childhood through to secondary school, taught by university academics during the school holidays; (2) workshops for parents and caregivers on giftedness, presented by experts in the field; and (3) professional development sessions for teachers, again presented by experts in the field. In this presentation, I will provide details on the implementation of the Learning Labs, the nature of the programs offered and the logistics involved. I will the report on the perceptions of key stakeholders on the effectiveness of the Learning Labs program. The views of the students and their families on the program will be examined. Their views will be supplemented by those of the Learning Labs organisers, the volunteer university student helpers, and the university academics who run the workshops.