High potential and diverse backgrounds - student story

Are you having trouble assessing and identifying the needs of an EAL/D student with high potential? Reading Rami’s case study may alert you to the some of the characteristics demonstrated by this young man that allowed his teachers to further develop his talents.

Image: Rami in conversation with his teacher

Rami is a 17 year old student currently in Year 11 at a secondary college in regional NSW. He arrived at the school as a refugee student in Year 10. He has been assessed and identified as having high potential in the intellectual domain.

Rami is originally from a minority cultural group located in Iraq and comes from a farming community. He has always had a deep interest in philosophy and the classics such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. As he wanted to read more widely in these areas, he decided he would need to learn English so that he could access a wider range of material. Rami obtained an English dictionary and started teaching himself. He had not actually spoken English to anyone before arriving in Australia in 2018.

As a refugee, Rami spent four years in a camp in Turkey before arriving in Australia and consequently had no formal schooling during this time. He studied philosophy, the classics and physics when able to access reading material. His family was settled in a rural area and he was placed in his local school’s Intensive English Centre (IEC). Although placed in Year 10 his high potential was quickly recognised. His teacher immediately noticed that he could speak with knowledge about philosophy and carried a variety of advanced reading material with him which he read in the playground at break times. His speed of learning English also alerted staff to his ability and he was gradually put into a selection of Year 11 classes. Now in Year 11 Rami speaks four languages and has started learning French. He has a clear passion for exploring culture through language.

Rami is articulate about the challenges he has faced as an English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) student. One of his suggestions for teachers when supporting new language learners was to allow sufficient wait time when asking questions. He explained that as he would be translating the question into English, then to his native language and then composing an answer in English, he would often be too late to answer the question. Another suggestion was for teachers to explain the meaning of key terms or concepts for upcoming units to further assist understanding.

Rami acknowledged the importance of teachers getting to know their students and in particular: finding out what they could already do, the areas needing further assistance, their interests and future goals. He praised the Intensive English Centre staff who helped both in his transition to the school and allowing him to continue learning at a high level.

After he leaves school, Rami would like to go to university to continue his study of philosophy and possibly continue his interest in languages.

Questions for professional learning

For school leaders:

  • How does your school currently promote high expectations for all students?
  • How well does your school promote high expectations for your high potential and gifted students, including those from diverse backgrounds?

For teachers:

  • Rami’s teacher provided high challenge and high support. What did high challenge and high support look like for Rami? Consider a student in your class who may need high challenge and high support. What would that look like for your student?
  • One of Rami's suggestions for teachers to help support English as an additional language or dialect (EAL/D) students was to provide a list of key words. Develop a list of key words for your EAL/D students using the current unit you are teaching, or are about to teach.


  • Teaching and learning


  • Assess and identify

Business Unit:

  • Teaching, Learning and Student Wellbeing
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