16th International ECHA Conference, Dublin, 8-11 August 2018

In 2018 the 16th ECHA Conference took place in Dublin. The central topic was “Working with Gifted Students in the 21st Century”. It showed the richness of theory and practical applications in gifted education and talent support. The participants came from 42 countries world wide.

The venue took place at an unusual place: it was Croke Park, the stadium of the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) this year. The unusual location was symbolic, reminding the visitors of significant events in Irish history. The home of the Gaelic Games, Croke Park Stadium is the third largest stadium in Europe.

Professor Françoys Gagné opened the conference with a keynote. The Canadian is famous for his Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT). After a short summary he spoke about the results of his studies and practical aspects of talent development. Other keynote speakers were

– Prof. Heidrun Stöger, one of the most well-known professionals in Working with Gifted Students in the 21st Century European talent research;

– Prof. Jonathan Plucker, American researcher from Johns Hopkins University, whose subjects were creativity and education policy;

– Prof. Tracy L. Cross is an internationally renowned expert who spoke of social and emotional development of talents;

– David Cuartielles lectured about how technology can help gifted education;

– Prof. Anne Looney explained how universities can support talent development;

– Prof. Karine Verschueren from KU Leuven spoke about classroom social relationships as contexts for child and adolescent development.

In addition to the keynotes, ECHA 2018 featured 20 workshops, 14 symposia and 130 parallel sessions. There were many opportunities for participants to connect personally with scientists, practitioners and with each other. This is the advantage of a life conference compared to on-line conferences made necessary by Covid19.

In addition to the presentations in person there were 20 poster presentations.

The European Talent Support Network (ETSN) was presented in a symposium for the first time. This section was led by Prof. Albert Ziegler. The Network established its own organization as a European NGO and runs several joint programmes, such as an Erasmus+ project.

The operation of the European Talent Support Network (ETSN) was presented in the framework of a symposium. It was a pleasure for the presenters having a large number of conference delegates in the audience. The leader of the section was Prof. Albert Ziegler. The participants had the opportunity to get an overall picture of the history and operation of ETSN. The presentations provided necessary and sufficient information on how to join the network and how to establish a European Talent Centre. Prof. Ziegler reported on ETSN’s achievements and ongoing joint projects. Before the conference ETSN sent its second international newsletter3.

During the conference, CTY Ireland also hosted the second Summit of the Youth Platform of ETSN. There were 45 delegates from 10 different countries. The members of the platform discussed gifted education across Europe. They continued their work in a workshop which was documented by Ádám Pálvölgyi, member of the YouTube Channel Project.

As usual, members of the European Council for High Ability held their General Assembly at the biennial ECHA conferences. This year’s main topics included the voting for 3 members of the Qualification Committee, the adoption of the organizational and operational rules of the European Talent Support Network, the adoption of the budget of the previous year, and acceptance of the rules of applying to the qualification of an ECHA Training.

Saskia van Bruinessen, mother of two gifted children a specialist gave her impressions of the first ECHA conference. What newcomers like her to gifted conferences always enjoy, apart from the interesting theories that are presented, are the large numbers of inspiring practitioners who speak about their practical work with gifted children. “The most common experience of being a gifted student in school is waiting”. No matter what kind of school a child attends, what the official programme for learning is: a teacher can make all the difference. This is true for all children, not only for the gifted. It begins with the environment at home, followed very often by kindergarten and almost always by school (apart from families who homeschool their children).

Van Bruinessen suggests to invite gifted children to ECHA conferences and ask them to speak about their thoughts, experiences and ideas.

The text is based on reports by Peter Csermely, Balázs Hornyák, Csilla Fuszek and Saskia van Bruinessen

Annette Heinbokel, Germany