Mentoring is noted as one of the most effective pedagogical strategies when implemented with gifted students, with mentees highly valuing the psychosocial and vocational benefits. When implemented with students who are twice-exceptional, mentorships can play a significant role in their positive development with the mentor recognising and supporting the development of their strengths. Though further research is required to elucidate some of the nuances in the research, the consensus across the literature is that the inclusion of a mentoring programme is beneficial to developing students’ gifts.
Rogers’ (2015) synthesis of research demonstrates a primary focus on gifted students’ academic development with twice the number of psychosocial effect studies, and four times the number of social effect studies. A holistic approach to research addressing mentors’ contribution to gifted students’ cognitive, social, emotional and vocational development has rarely been addressed. Literature in the field suggests the integration of mentoring programmes with gifted students from an early age, for short durations of time that increase as the student matures.
In 2017, I developed a mentoring programme, Girl Guardians, with Year 5 high ability and high performance gifted girls at Perth College Anglican School for Girls. As the inaugural year, the numbers were small but the programme significant and considered in its approach. At Perth College, our Old Girls (alumni) are an integral part of our school community. Once a PC girl, always a PC girl. Our values promote care through contributing to our community with integrity, respect and compassion. This includes caring for our own school community and through generosity of spirit, supporting and challenging each individual girl to be a remarkable young woman by building on her character strengths and developing positive relationships. Relationships are the core of success. Through building strong positive relationships, wellbeing increases along with a growth mindset.
The cognitive aspect of the programme was underpinned by positive psychology interventions through a proactive approach, supporting mentees and mentors to build on their character strengths and cultivate wellbeing by focusing on what makes them thrive. Part of the process of the mentoring programme was providing the mentees with the tools to learn and grow, leading them to experiences of flow.
Each mentor had taken a different vocational path, and spoke to the mentees about their experiences at Perth College as a student and their next steps following senior school. Conversations were informal over a shared meal or throughout the open cognitive activity sessions, with mentees inquiring further when their curiosity was stimulated.
In the context of this mentoring programme, mentees were not paired up with mentors. The programme allowed the mentees time to find their connection with a mentor through tasks and afforded them the opportunity to have one-on-one or small group conversations. This meant the mentees had their own space when needed and the opportunity to develop a one-on-one connection with an adult. This enhanced the mentorship and its ability to develop the capabilities of each student that are often hard to develop in the classroom, whilst providing them with direct feedback, promoting individualised learning.
Through my postgraduate studies my Masters thesis focused on the influence a mentoring programme has on gifted girls’ social, emotional and cognitive development in upper primary. Results from the study highlighted significant growth in each domain. The interrelationship of the social, emotional and cognitive domains is a key feature in gifted education research with a healthy balance of the three integral to the positive development of a gifted girl. Key findings identify positive relationships building through connections in two forms; between like-minded mentees, and mentees and mentors. The inclusion of cognitive and natural ability extension was noted in supporting mentees’ personal development through their qualitative responses whilst also referring to the environment. The increase in all domains lead to a positive increase in mentees’ affective and cognitive development where they could be deemed, in a state of flow, which, in turn, leads to the ultimate goal of a gifted girl flourishing.
This year the mentoring programme has expanded. The Year 5s who participated last year have returned as Year 6s as well as a group of high ability and high performing gifted girls in Year 5 joining the group. An overwhelming response was received from Old Girls (alumni) wanting to be involved in the programme. The format continues to utilise a group mentoring outset to allow the girls to find their connection.
The significance of this research and the mentoring programme has been recognised through its acceptance to present at two international conferences in the fields of gifted education and positive psychology. The influence a mentoring programme has on the holistic development of a gifted girl in upper primary will continue to be explored through the programme over the year. An exciting time lays ahead as the Girl Guardians mentoring programme continues over the course of the year through the Imaginarium at Perth College.
Rogers, K. (2015). The academic, socialization and psychological effects of acceleration: Research synthesis. In A Nation Empowered. Volume 2 (p. 27-37). Retrieved from https://files.nwesd.org/website/Teaching_Learning/HiCap/2015-16%20meetings/NationEmpowered%20Vol2.pdf