23 SES 08 D, Responses to Student Need
Research topic/aim: Talent has assumed a central position on global political and economic agendas in recent years. Education policies have been focusing on the talent pool and expressed concerns that it was shrinking (OECD, 2016). They follow claims that talent development is necessary to ensure competitiveness in the global knowledge economy and coincide with other performativity moves in education worldwide (Rasmussen et al. 2014; Tomlinson, 2008). The liberalist objective of making nations competitive by making schools “useful” have challenged the Nordic Model of Education for All by questioning if this models to develop the talent of the individual to its full potential (Telhaug et al. 2006). In Denmark, an explicit policy objective of talent development in the educational system came about in 2011 (Ministry of Education, 2011). The talent development policy was aimed at education in general, though at certain levels of education it had already been at work for some years. For the ‘Gymnasium’, the general upper secondary school in Denmark, a declaration in 2010 stated that it was to establish programmes for particularly talented students. This initiative was following a 40 years period, during which the Gymnasium had moved from being an elite school with 10% of the total number of a year group in 1963 to a 53% in 2004, including a much wider and more diversified student group (Thorsen & Boldt, 2008). Thus, there seems to be a countermove to reintroduce an elite orientation in education. Such policies make it relevant to ask what are the implication of setting up programmes for the ‘talented’ students as to inclusive or exclusive strategies among them and in the educational system? We address this general question by focusing on a particular regional talent academy and asking more specifically, how are students recruited for the talent academy and identified as talented at the different stages of recruitment? – What are the explicit and implicit criteria involved in the process of recruitment, and to what extent do they emphasise nature vs. nurture, potentials vs. performance, and objective measurement vs. subjective judgement? The paper investigates conceptions of talent expressed in education policy discourses; the role of the talent concept in the development of the gymnasium school; how and why talent is prioritised in education policy; the basic ideas behind the regional talent academy and its activities, and thus how the global and national policies aretranslated and enacted in the local contexts.
Theoretical framework: The paper is theoretically focused on selection processes linked to identifying talent. Defining the target group for whom gifted and talented provisions should apply has mostly been debated and researched from psychological positions, both concerning definitions of talent and relevant testing measures (Robinson & Clinkenbeard, 2008). Definitions of giftedness vary across cultures and socio-economic contexts (Philipson & McCann, 2007) and involve different positions and distinctions that vary in giving emphasis to nature or nurture (Feldhusen, 1998), to potentials or performance (Gagné, 2008), and to objective measurement or subjective judgement against a cultural-normative standard (Ferrari, 2003).
From sociological points of view, an emphasis on potential has been criticised for undermining dedication and hard work and for an individualising of success and failure, which obscures the social conditions of performance. An emphasis on performance, however, also disguises the hereditary transmission involved in the appropriation of educational talent, its dependence on cultural capital embodied in the family (Bourdieu, 1997), and the socially reproductive function of the school system (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1990). The close link between school talent and cultural capital is also evident from research on talent classes in the Danish school system, where an elite orientation in education is replacing an equality orientation (Rasmussen & Moos, 2014).
Methodological design: The empirical basis for the analysis is a case study, which evolves around a particular region in Denmark. It focuses on a regional talent programme, the Talent Academy, which is an extra-curricular programme aimed at talented youth in upper secondary school (aged 17+). The programme in this region is considered relevant, because it exemplifies a local cooperation between 19 gymnasiums that are enacting talent policies in ways that reflect particular dispositions in a regional context. The declared purpose of the programme is to support a broad concept of talent, which links closely to the Nordic concept of general education for all. Based on prior knowledge as to the origin of the talent programme, the case study further involves two schools, located at different parts of the region and positioned differently in relation to the talent programme. The research design is based on a mixed method approach combining ethnographic data with data from a regional syrvey. The methodology behind it is driven by an ambition to integrate an objectifying perspective on the social structures governing the field of study with a subjectifying perspective on the interpretations of the agents involved (Bourdieu, 1989).
The study is ongoing and we only have preliminary results. But based on findings from previous re-search, we expect that the policies behind the Talent Academy build on narrow understandings, one-dimensional, and individual and psychological rather than socio-cultural and epigenetic understand-ings of talent. This is likely to appear in the identification of talented students, though the ways of re-cruiting students for these activities reflect a bottom up perspective and are carried out as mainly self-selection. The activities of the Talent Academy are likely to appeal to students whose backgrounds are characterized by high amounts of cultural capital and who have strong interests in continued educa-tion. In order for educational systems to exert the symbolic reproduction of the social order, specific forms of classification, segregation, and evaluation have been developed (Bourdieu, 1989). The classification practices in education, including the identification of talents, correspond with elite tastes (consump-tion), associations, and dispositions that provide the bases of inequality and therefore, such practices represent selection processes in a wider sense.
Ball, S. J., Maguire, M., & Brown, A. (2012). How Schools Do Policy. Policy Enactments in Secondary Schools. Routledge Bourdieu, P. (1997). The Forms of Capital. In A. H. Halsey, H. Lauder, P. Brown, & A. S. Wells (Eds.), Education. Culture, Economy, and Society (pp. 46–58). Oxford University Press. Bourdieu, P. (1989). Social Space and Symbolic Power. Sociological Theory, Vol. 7, No. 1, 14–25. Bourdieu, P., & Passeron, J. C. (1990). Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture. Sage. Feldhusen, J. F. (1998). A Conception of Talent and Talent Development. In R. C. Friedman & K. B. Rog-ers (Eds.), Talent in Context. Historical and Social Perspectives on Giftedness (pp. 193–209). Washington DC: Americal Psychological Association. Ferrari, M. (2003). Personal and institutional excellence. In M. Ferrari (Ed.), The Pursuit of Excellence through Education. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associated Publishers. Gagné, F. (2008). Building gifts into talents: Brief overview of the DMGT2.0. Paper presented at QAGTC lecture, April 2008. Ministry of Education (2011, April). Talentudvikling. Evaluering og strategi. Report by the working group on talent development in the education system/Ministry of Education in Denmark. OECD (2016). Europe is underachieving in the global competition for talent. Retrieved from http://www.oecd.org/migration/europe-is-underachieving-in-the-global-competition-for-talent.htm Philipson, S. N., & McCann, M. (2007). Meta-Theoretical Conceptions of Giftedness. In S. N. Phillipson & M. McCann (Eds.), Conceptions of Giftedness. Sociocultural Perspectives (pp. 477–493). London: Law-rence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. Rasmussen, A., Gustafsson, J., & Jeffrey, B. (Eds.). (2014). Performativity in Education. An International Collection of Ethnographic Research on Learners’ Experiences. E&E Publishing. Rasmussen, A., & Moos, L. (2014). A school for less than all in Denmark. In U. Blossing, G. Imsen, & L. Moos (Eds.). The Nordic Education Model. ‘A School for All’ Encounters Neo-Liberal Policy (pp. 57–75). Springer. Robinson, A., & Clinkenbeard, P. R. (2008). History of Giftedness: Perspectives from the Past Presage Modern Scholarship. In S. I. Pfeiffer (Ed.), Handbook of Giftedness in Children (pp. 13–23). Springer. Telhaug, A.O., Mediås, O.A. & Aasen, P. (2006): The Nordic Model in Education: Education as part of the political system in the last 50 years. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, vol. 50, no. 3, 245-283. Thorsen, Lene & Boldt, Lars (2008): Sommerens gymnasiale studenter. København: UNI´C Statistik og Analyse, 19. juni. Tomlinson, S. (2008). Gifted, talented and high ability: selection for education in a one-dimensional world. Oxford Review of Education, vol. 34, no. 1, February 2008, 59–74.
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