Academic Talent Development


The unique learning needs of high-ability and academically talented students are fostered through the Academic Talent Development and Honours Programs at TSS. The ATD program is based on Gagne ́s Differentiating Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT 2.0). The initial purpose of this program is to identify outstanding natural abilities (e.g., language(s), maths, sciences and humanities). Selection for the ATD program is based on a body of evidence, including: measures of intellectual and/or school ability; academic achievement measures; current performance levels; and feedback from parents, students, and teachers.

Elements of the program include clustering students with like strengths, specialized programs within the classroom, withdrawal, workshops with guest speakers, academic clubs & competitions and a dedicated ATD Centre, which is open selected periods every day, most breaks and dedicated afternoons each week for specialised programs. ATD programs are focused on timely and relevant topics, including STEM topics (such as car design & engineering, space exploration and gamification), world events and sustainability. Guest speakers discuss relevant and engaging topics, such as the importance of research in society and emerging virtual technologies. Students are also encouraged and supported to set personal goals, including reading and research on topics of interest. The Centre is open during lunch and breaks and during dedicated afternoons; this provides students with a supportive and engaging environment in which to explore their academic pursuits.


Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT 2.0)

Whereas conceptions abound and often contradict one another, scholars keep mentioning one particular dichotomy in almost every discussion of the giftedness construct. They acknowledge, implicitly or explicitly, a distinction between early emerging forms of ‘giftedness’ with strong biological roots, and fully developed adult forms of ‘giftedness.’ Scholars will express that distinction through pairs of terms like potential/realization, aptitude/achievement, and promise/fulfilment.

The Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT) was created to take advantage of that distinction; it became the basis for new differentiated definitions of these two terms.

  • GIFTEDNESS designates the possession and use of outstanding natural abilities, called aptitudes, in at least one ability domain, to a degree that places an individual at least among the top 10% of age peers.
  • TALENT designates the outstanding mastery of systematically developed abilities, called competencies (knowledge and skills), in at least one field of human activity to a degree that places an individual at least among the top 10% of age peers who are or have been active in that field.

From: Gagné, F. (2012). Building gifts into talents: Brief overview of the DMGT 2.0. Reaching forward… Achieving sustainability in gifted education. In National conference on gifted education. En Quintero, M.

From: New South Wales Department of Education. (2009). Differentiated model of giftedness and talent. Retrieved from



TSS utilises a body of evidence approach to identify boys for the ATD program. All boys in Year 2 and Year 6 and all new students (up to Year 9 and in Year 10+ by nomination) are screened for the ATD program using multiple measures of ability, achievement, prior performance/grades and feedback from parents and teachers. The identification process acknowledges that boys may exhibit giftedness and still be in process of developing talent; similarly, gifted students may underachieve. It also acknowledges that some gifted students may also have a learning disability or difficulty. The ATD identification process focuses more strongly on ability/potential in the lower grades, with more weight being given to academic performance/talent in the upper grades. As with any innate ability, talent is developed through hard work, effort, task commitment and perseverance. Characteristics of academically talented students include: rapid learning, excellent memory, advanced vocabulary, idealism, questioning, advanced comprehension, sensitivity, abstract thinking, curiosity, unusual sense of humour, and/or vivid imaginations. Academically talented students are not a homogeneous group and may exhibit uneven strength areas and/or social-emotional development. Parents or students who would like to request additional information about program identification are encouraged to contact Ms Jasna Giebeler (Prep – [email protected]) or Dr Sarah Bond (Senior – [email protected]).

Programs – Senior School

ATD Centre

The ATD Centre is open for a minimum of three periods per day, for students to work on their academic development, including projects of personal interest. Research is clear on the benefits of providing high-ability students with opportunities to interact and socialise with peers who may share their unique interests; for this reason, the ATD Centre is also open during morning tea, at lunch and for dedicated programs after school (this includes work and meeting times for the programs below).

The pinnacle of the Academic Talent Development (ATD) at TSS is the Honours Program; students begin work in Year 11 and complete the program in Year 12. The pillars of the TSS Honours Program are scholarship, leadership, service and character. Program goals are to create excitement for academia, stimulate a desire for citizen service, build leadership skills and develop character in students. Students complete service learning and show evidence of high character and leadership, in addition to completing a high-level personal research paper. Honours program research is then shared with other ATD boys in a workshop forum. Junior Masterclass provides a pathway for younger boys to build their skills in research, completing a personal research project in Years 7 to 9.

Programs – Prep School

ATD Centre

The ATD Centre in the Prep school is a learning hub for high-ability students to develop their ability to think critically and creatively, innovate, research, and collaborate during academic pursuits. With a focus on individual strengths, and developing learner agency, students work at a level two to three years above the expectation of their same aged peers. Those who attend the weekly program create their own Individual Learning Plan for the year. All goals relate back to the TSS values Teamwork Scholarship and Service. Students engage in long term projects of interest to become experts in their field of study. They do so by contacting professionals in the field along the way and on completion, present their findings to the school community.

The ATD Centre also offers different learning pathways such as Literacy, Maths and Science acceleration, extension and enrichment. Providing opportunities for high-ability students to interact and socialise with peers who may share unique interest is supported in the research, therefore the ATD Centre also provides opportunities for dedicated age -specific programs, as listed below, during lunch times and after school.


Future Problem Solving

FPS is a research-based, academic program that teaches problem solving strategies, collaboration, critical and creative thinking, and effective communication. The interdisciplinary approach helps develop ethical leadership skills and provides a unique opportunity for students to learn and apply essential life skills in the 21st century.


The F1 in Schools STEM Challenge

The F1 in Schools STEM Challenge provides an exciting and engaging experience for students through the captivating appeal of Formula 1. Through the challenge, students design, analyse, manufacture, test and race model F1 cars manufactured from a block of balsa wood. The program allows students to learn about physics, aerodynamics, design processes, manufacturing, marketing, graphics, sponsorship, teamwork, communication, media, careers, finance and to bring all of these together practically and creatively to compete with their peers.

Space in schools

Taking students into the world of design for human habitation



Tournament of Minds

Tournament of Minds is a problem-solving program for teams of students from both primary and secondary years. Tournament’s aim is to enhance the potential of our youth by developing diverse skills, enterprise, time management, and the discipline to work collaboratively within a challenging and competitive environment. They are required to solve demanding, open-ended challenges from one of the following disciplines: The Arts, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Language Literature or Social Sciences. Tournament of Minds is an opportunity for students with a passion for learning and problem solving to demonstrate their skills and talents in an exciting, vibrant and public way. The 2020 Senior STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) team earned a Merit for their submission, scoring in the top 10% of a pool of 60 competing schools in Queensland.


ICAS Assessments

ICAS Assessments are online assessments, designed to recognise and reward academic excellence. The assessments are based on the curricula for the relevant year. Students are asked to demonstrate a deeper, integrated, and thorough level of learning. To ensure an engaging and beneficial experience for all students, new ICAS assessments are developed annually for each subject in every year level.


The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) CyberEXP

The Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) CyberEXP is an interactive online program for high school and university students to gain exposure to a cyber security incident response operation. The experience is based on real-life scenarios and provides a taste of what it is like on the front lines of security within ASD. Students also find out about the various roles, skills and interests required for a career in the secretive and sought-after world of ASD.


The Oxford University Computing Challenge (OUCC)

The Oxford University Computing Challenge (OUCC) builds on the principles used in the CAT competition and helps students develop their skills further to produce programmed solutions to computational thinking problems. Questions are solved using the Blockly programming language, as well the programming languages available to students in their schools for secondary levels.


The Queensland Science Contest

The Queensland Science Contest is an annual event organised by the Science Teachers Association of Queensland (STAQ). The goals of the contest are to: 1. stimulate an ongoing interest in the study of science by: encouraging students of all ages to participate in the process of self-motivated project work; giving all students of Queensland the opportunity to communicate their passion and understanding of science to a wider audience; and according recognition of effort and achievement to students who participate; 2. To promote the direct involvement of Queensland students in the processes and communication of science; and 3. To celebrate in the wider community, the exemplary science currently being carried out by Queensland students.


Gold Coast Schools Science Competition

The annual Gold Coast Schools Science Competition aimed to raise the profile of STEM in our community and encouraged students to demonstrate their STEM abilities by entering a project into one of five categories.


The ASX Sharemarket Game

Students in the ASX Sharemarket game receive a virtual $50,000 they can invest over a 10 week period. The prices students buy and sell at are the same prices as they would get in the live market so this is as close to real life share trading as you can get. Students in the ASX Sharemarket game build critical thinking and teamwork skills through forming investment syndicates.


The da Vinci Decathlon

The da Vinci Decathlon is an academic competition designed to challenge and stimulate students’ minds. Students compete in teams of eight across 10 disciplines: engineering, mathematics and chess, code breaking, art and poetry, science, English, ideation, creative producers, cartography and legacy. The Decathlon is designed to celebrate the academic gifts of Australian youth by providing a stimulating and challenging competition run in the spirit of an Olympic Decathlon.




The Maths Olympiad and Maths Games

The Maths Olympiad and Maths Games are an ideal complement to the school curriculum. The main aims of the competitions are to: introduce students to important mathematical concepts; teach major strategies and develop flexibility for problem solving; foster creativity and ingenuity and strengthen intuition; stimulate enthusiasm and enjoyment of mathematics; and provide for the satisfaction, joy and thrill of meeting challenges.



The Australian Maths Trust

Including programs such as Mathematics Challenge and Maths Enrichment




Model UN

In collaboration with the Humanities Department, Model UN is a popular activity for those interested in learning more about how the UN operates. Hundreds of thousands of students worldwide take part every year at all educational levels. Model UN helps students to develop public speaking, writing and research skills. In addition, they often provide the first entry point into international affairs and introduce students to the wide range of peace and security, human rights, development and rule of law issues that are on the UN agenda.


The Ethics Olympiad

The Ethics Olympiad cultivates the virtues central to democratic citizenship, and prepares students to navigate challenging moral issues in a systematic and open-minded way. In collaboration with the Life & Faith Department, TSS takes part in high School Ethics Olympiads, which involve either online events or face to face events. At the end of the day medals are awarded to schools that draw clear considered conclusions, address issues with a good understanding of multiple perspectives and where they respond well to critiques of their argument. The students explore interesting and relevant ethical cases using a format designed to promote respectful dialogue.

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