How Do Teachers Develop an Understanding of Giftedness: A qualitative investigation

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The terms gifted and giftedness have been used by teachers for decades when discussing students who appeared to be bright. This research study has recognised that although public school teachers in South Australia may have experienced similar professional development in the field of gifted education, they may not share the same understandings of giftedness. The participants had been identified in their respective schools for their knowledge and experience as exemplary teachers of gifted students. Participants communicated similar nomenclature, but lacked congruency of common understandings related to giftedness.Using a qualitative Narrative Inquiry case study approach, employing Seidman’s three-interview method this study provided three participants opportunities to reflect upon how their understanding of giftedness had developed, and why it had developed in that way. Discovering how teachers develop their understanding of giftedness provided insight into how teachers might be better equipped to teach gifted students. During the interviews, common themes of influence emerged that connected with early life experiences, common myths relating to giftedness, pre-service and in-service provision, and purposeful reflection.This research study recommends suggestions for further research relating to pre-service and in-service professional development, teachers gaining greater access to teacher friendly research and gifted educators working collaboratively to clarify nomenclature within the field of gifted education.

Text of How Do Teachers Develop an Understanding of Giftedness: A qualitative investigation

How do Teachers Develop an Understanding of Giftedness? A Qualitative Investigation

Frank M. Davies.

Supervisors Dr. Jane Jarvis (Flinders University) Dr. Paddy OToole (Monash University)

A thesis submitted as partial fulfillment for the requirements of the Doctor of Education degree

2 ABSTRACT DECLARATION TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Error! Bookmark not defined. ABSTRACT DECLARATION CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION1.1. DEFINITIONS OF GIFTEDNESS 1.2. RESEARCH QUESTION 1.3. A BRIEF HISTORY OF GIFTED EDUCATION WITHIN SOUTH AUSTRALIA 1.4. UNDERSTANDING GIFTEDNESS: A GUIDE TO IMPLEMENTATION 1.5. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY 1.6. A BRIEF COMMENT ON RESEARCH METHODS 1.7. OUTLINE OF THESIS1.8. SUMMARY 9 11 13 14 15

4 5 66 8 8

CHAPTER 2. LITERATURE REVIEW2.1. DEFINITIONS OF GIFTEDNESS 2.2. INDICATORS OF GIFTEDNESS 2.3. PARADIGM SHIFTS WITHIN GIFTED EDUCATION 2.4. COMMON MYTHS THAT MAY HAVE IMPACTED UPON A TEACHERSUNDERSTANDING OF GIFTEDNESS

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2.5. TEACHER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GIFTED STUDENTS 2.6. HOW TEACHERS MIGHT DEVELOP THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF GIFTEDNESS 2.7. SUMMARY

CHAPTER 3. RESEARCH METHODS3.1. TEACHERS UNDERSTANDING OF GIFTEDNESS: A QUALITATIVE APRROACH 3.2. NARRATIVE INQUIRY CASE STUDY 3.3. SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS 3.4. SEIDMANS THREE INTERVIEW METHOD 3.5. DATA COLLECTION METHODS 3.6. DATA ANALYSIS METHODS 3.7. SUMMARY

4243 44 46 46 50 50 55

CHAPTER 4. FINDING4.1. INTRODUCTION 4.2. CHRIS 4.3. PAT 4.4. SAM

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34.5. SUMMARY87

CHAPTER 5. DISCUSSION5.1. RE-OCCURING THEMES ACROSS CASE STUDIES 5.2. PARTICIPANTS HABITUS AND UNDERSTANDING GIFTEDNESS

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5.3. TEACHER EDUCATION (PRE-SERVICE) AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT(IN-SERVICE)

5.4. CONTINUING MYTHS REGARDING GIFTEDNESS 5.5. PURPOSEFUL REFLECTION 5.6. SUMMARY

CHAPTER 6. CONCLUSION6.1. KEY THEMES 6.2. FUTURE RESEARCH 6.3. LIMITATIONS OF THE RESEARCH STUDY 6.4. SUMMARY

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REFERENCES

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ABSTRACTThe terms gifted and giftedness have been used by teachers for decades when discussing students who appeared to be bright. This research study has recognised that although public school teachers in South Australia may have experienced similar professional development in the field of gifted education, they may not share the same understandings of giftedness. The participants had been identified in their respective schools for their knowledge and experience as exemplary teachers of gifted students. Participants communicated similar nomenclature, but lacked congruency of common understandings related to giftedness. Using a qualitative Narrative Inquiry case study approach, employing Seidmans threeinterview method this study provided three participants opportunities to reflect upon how their understanding of giftedness had developed, and why it had developed in that way. Discovering how teachers develop their understanding of giftedness provided insight into how teachers might be better equipped to teach gifted students. During the interviews, common themes of influence emerged that connected with early life experiences, common myths relating to giftedness, pre-service and in-service provision, and purposeful reflection. This research study recommends suggestions for further research relating to pre-service and in-service professional development, teachers gaining greater access to teacher friendly research and gifted educators working collaboratively to clarify nomenclature within the field of gifted education.

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DECLARATIONI certify that this thesis does not incorporate, without acknowledgement, any material previously submitted for a degree or diploma in any university and that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, it does not contain any material previously published or written by another person except where due reference is made in the text.

Frank Davies............................................................................

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CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTIONThis chapter introduces a research study that explores and discusses how teachers develop an understanding of giftedness. This question is particularly appropriate in educational settings where relevant policies and professional development exists yet inconsistencies, between teachers, in understanding giftedness, appear to prevail. This is a qualitative study using a Narrative Inquiry case study methodology. Because the participants in this study were South Australian, the research question is positioned within the context of a brief history of gifted education in South Australia and the current policy relating to gifted students. The significance of this study is also discussed. DEFINITIONS OF GIFTEDNESS This research study addresses giftedness, making it necessary to provide a context for that term. There is no single definition of giftedness that is universally accepted. Historically there have been various definitions of giftedness and how it might be demonstrated. The literature reveals that giftedness resembles a multi-faceted diamond: hard to see all aspects at once. Different groups of researchers suggest diverse characteristics and identification criteria (Delisle, 2000; Freeman, 1998). Porter (1997, p. 14) cited McAlpines observation that definitions [of giftedness] differ according to whether they are conservative or liberal, are single- [sic] or multidimensional, and focus on potential or performance. Further discussion regarding definitions of giftedness will be explored in Chapter 2. Even though there may be diverse interpretations of giftedness, broad characteristics are similar and accepted within the literature. These include that gifted students may learn at a faster pace (Moltzen, 1996; Porter, 2005; Van Tassel-Baska, 1988), and gifted students may have capacities to find and solve problems more readily (Braggett, 1997; Braggett, Day & Minchin, 1996; Pohl, 1997; Winebrenner, 2000). Gifted students may also demonstrate capacities to manipulate abstract ideas and make connections, and to work at multiple levels (Clark, 1997; Schiever & Maker, 2003; Snyder, Nietfeld, & Linnenbrink-Garcia, 2011). Though there may be agreement regarding broad characteristics of giftedness there still remains a lack of clarity relating to a universally accepted definition of what constitutes a gifted child (Rogers, 2002). Sternberg and Davidson (1986) observed that: Giftedness is something we invent, not something we discover: it is what one society or another wants it to be. Understanding

7 giftedness is a fluid concept as interpreted by a variety of cultures and educational needs (p. 3). Colangelo and Davis (2003) wittily suggested: Historical events underlying todays strong interest in gifted education center on half a dozen people, an intelligence test, one Russian satellite, and three national reports (p. 6). While this might be useful as a thumbnail sketch, it does not reveal the changing paradigms that have occurred within the field of gifted education. Some of these paradigm shifts include Termans (1925) study of children with high Intelligence Quotients [IQ] which utilised the Stanford-Binet IQ tests declaring the population top 2% as being gifted (Clark, 1997; Terman & Merrill, 1937). Another paradigm shift came with Blooms Taxonomy of Cognitive Objectives published in 1956 (Bloom, 1956; Krathwohl, 2002). Blooms research had an impact on curriculum understanding and development that created many positive opportunities for all students including gifted students (Maker & Nielson, 1995). The Renzulli triad model promoted inclusivity (Renzulli, 1976), and in 1983 Gardners multiple intelligences encouraged the recognition of different types of intelligences (Gardner, 1983, 2006). These paradigms will be discussed more fully in Chapter 3. For the purposes of this study, the focus will not be on providing a particular definition of giftedness. The definition of giftedness will be guided by each participants understanding of what it means to them. Much has been written concerning gifted students. Researchers have provided a rich body of literature concerning keys areas of gifted education including identification (Brown, Renzulli, Gubbins, Siegle, Zhang & Chen, 2005), learning needs (Rogers, 2002) and differentiation for gifted students (Rowley, 2008; Tomlinson, 1995a). The literature is also rich in understanding how the needs of gifted students might be different from other students (Rogers, 2002) and even how various cohorts of gifted students differ from each other (Betts & Neihart, 1988). This research study focuses on teachers and asks how they developed their understanding of giftedness. There is a growing body of work discussing teachers responding to, and providing for, gifted students (Bangel, Enerson, Capobianco, & Moon, 2006; Bangel, Moon & Capobianco, 2010; Geake & Gross, 2008; Harris & Hemmings, 2008; Lassig, 2009; Moon & Brighton, 2008), but little on how teachers understand giftedness. This research suggests that there is inconsistency in the understanding of giftedness between teachers who are teaching gifted students. Understanding how teachers develop their understanding of giftedness might enable

8 pre-service and in-service providers to use strategic measures to provide a strong basis for understanding the learning needs of gifted children (Rogers, 2002). RESEARCH QUESTION The research question, How do teachers develop an understanding of giftedness? guided and focused the study. The qualitative investigation employed a structure of Narrative Inquiry case studies, using face to face interviews as the method to collect data. All the participants were middle primary [grades 3-5] teachers in public schools within South Australia. At the time