High potential in the early years – student story

At the time of meeting, Ben was in his final year at pre-school in a low socio-economic area of a regional city. He is a creative, popular child who displays the qualities of a natural leader.

Ben identifies as Aboriginal, as do most of his classmates. He particularly enjoys construction tasks and is often sought out by his peers to help them build. Ben proudly tells his teacher that they are ‘working together’. His teachers support his advanced learning needs in the social-emotional and creative domains with high expectations and encouraging feedback.

Ben demonstrating early literacy skills
Image: Ben demonstrating early literacy skills

Ben would undoubtedly be on the short list for ‘Citizen of the Year’ if there was such an award for five year olds. He is showing high potential in the social-emotional domain. This is demonstrated by Ben’s inclusive behaviours, ensuring his popularity among his peers. Ben also shows high potential in the creative domain and this is evidenced through his ability to create and problem solve design challenges.

Ben is in his last year of pre-school, which is located in a low socio-economic area in a regional city. Ben identifies as Aboriginal, as do most of his classmates. He listens to teacher feedback and applies it to his work. Ben loves acknowledgement of his successes and consistently validates his cooperation with his teacher and with his classmates.

His successes are also validated in his interactions with his peers, who constantly seek him out to join in their activities or give them his ideas for improvement. He happily leaves his drawing or writing, to engage in the new activity. He considers his suggestions carefully and these suggestions are always acceptable to his peers.

Ben enjoys building challenging structures and uses the prompts displayed on the construction area walls to make adjustments to his creations. He enjoys the complexity of these tasks and works quite naturally as a part of a team. Ben observes shapes and details important to the structure and sources a variety of materials that he considers will meet the design brief.

An example of Ben’s engineering skills and inclusivity was during the Tower of Pisa project. Ben and his classmates started this project by experimenting with half circle arches and taping them together to make full circles. They then stacked these on top of each other to make a cylinder, using hands on and reflective techniques. The group noticed their cylinder was not unlike the Tower of Pisa, by referring to a picture on the wall. At this point, Ben’s problem solving skills and leadership capabilities came to the fore. As the children measured, discussed and pondered, he proudly called to the teacher that they were “working together”. Ben is always responsive to the needs of others. He ensures everyone is included and that they have integral roles in the various projects. Ben shows high potential in his cooperative play skills that exceeds that of other students his age.

Ben is working towards individual learning goals related to the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF). His teacher supports Ben’s high potential in the social emotional domain through her high expectations and encourages his respect for diversity. She constantly gives encouragement and warm feedback acknowledging the group’s inventiveness and ingenuity. She also uses formative assessment to track Ben’s incredible ‘people’ skills and to determine ‘where to next’.

For Ben, his immediate ‘where to next’ is his excitement about transitioning to kindergarten, and when he ‘grows up’ to be a builder, teacher or a scientist.

Questions for professional learning

For school leaders:

  • What talent development programs in the social-emotional domain could be put in place to further develop Ben’s talent? What talent development programs in the social-emotional domain could be put in place in your school?
  • What processes might you put in place to assess and identify high potential in the social-emotional domain? What objective, valid and reliable measures, as part of formative assessment, should be used?

For teachers:

  • Consider a child in your class who shows similar behaviours to Ben. What programs could you put in place tomorrow to develop this student’s potential in the social emotional domain?
  • Which students in your school are recognised as having high potential in the social-emotional domain? Which students might be overlooked and why?
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