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 Seidmans 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.

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<p>How do Teachers Develop an Understanding of Giftedness? A Qualitative Investigation</p> <p>Frank M. Davies.</p> <p>Supervisors Dr. Jane Jarvis (Flinders University) Dr. Paddy OToole (Monash University)</p> <p>A thesis submitted as partial fulfillment for the requirements of the Doctor of Education degree</p> <p>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</p> <p>4 5 66 8 8</p> <p>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</p> <p>1616 16 20 26 27 34 40</p> <p>2.5. TEACHER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GIFTED STUDENTS 2.6. HOW TEACHERS MIGHT DEVELOP THEIR UNDERSTANDING OF GIFTEDNESS 2.7. SUMMARY</p> <p>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</p> <p>4243 44 46 46 50 50 55</p> <p>CHAPTER 4. FINDING4.1. INTRODUCTION 4.2. CHRIS 4.3. PAT 4.4. SAM</p> <p>5757 58</p> <p>7078</p> <p>34.5. SUMMARY87</p> <p>CHAPTER 5. DISCUSSION5.1. RE-OCCURING THEMES ACROSS CASE STUDIES 5.2. PARTICIPANTS HABITUS AND UNDERSTANDING GIFTEDNESS</p> <p>8888 89 91 94 103 105</p> <p>5.3. TEACHER EDUCATION (PRE-SERVICE) AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT(IN-SERVICE)</p> <p>5.4. CONTINUING MYTHS REGARDING GIFTEDNESS 5.5. PURPOSEFUL REFLECTION 5.6. SUMMARY</p> <p>CHAPTER 6. CONCLUSION6.1. KEY THEMES 6.2. FUTURE RESEARCH 6.3. LIMITATIONS OF THE RESEARCH STUDY 6.4. SUMMARY</p> <p>106106 110 111 111</p> <p>REFERENCES</p> <p>112</p> <p>4</p> <p>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.</p> <p>5</p> <p>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.</p> <p>Frank Davies............................................................................</p> <p>6</p> <p>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 &amp; 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 &amp; Maker, 2003; Snyder, Nietfeld, &amp; 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</p> <p>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 &amp; 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 &amp; 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 &amp; 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 &amp; 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, &amp; Moon, 2006; Bangel, Moon &amp; Capobianco, 2010; Geake &amp; Gross, 2008; Harris &amp; Hemmings, 2008; Lassig, 2009; Moon &amp; 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</p> <p>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 of data collection all public schools in South Australia were governed and managed by the Department for Education and Childrens Services (DECS) In 2011 DECS revised its name to become the Department for Education and Child Development [DECD]. Teachers in DECS, including the participants in this research study, received professional development in the field of gifted education. This professional development provided was based on the DECS Gifted Children and Students Policy (1996). Accompanying the policy was an implementation guide entitled Understanding Giftedness [Department for Education and Childrens Services, 1996]. This guide aimed to equip all DECS teachers to understand and teach gifted students within the state of South Australia. It would be expected that all the participants in this research study not only knew about this policy but also might have implemented it in their own schools. A BRIEF HISTORY OF GIFTED EDUCATION WITHIN SOUTH AUSTRALIA The DECS policy for teaching gifted students was developed in 1994 and was recently reviewed in 2010. The policy was originally developed as a response to gifted education being a South Australian DECS priority between the years 1994-1998. Federal and State funding was provided for the development of Students with High Intellectual Potential [SHIP] programs within schools to facilitate support in identifying and accommodating the needs of gifted students. Some schools became known as SHIP schools whereby the teaching staff received extensive professional development in gifted education. These schools became lighthouse schools for any surrounding DECS schools. Funding and provision was also made available to employ a State Co-ordinator of SHIP, a Curriculum Officer for gifted children and students, a Project Officer in SHIP as well as six fulltime SHIP co-ordinators travelling across South Australia implementing the Gifted Children and Students Policy implementation guide within DECS schools. SHIP</p> <p>9 schools no longer exist and in-service professional development is often provided by private providers or academics. UNDERSTANDING GIFTEDNESS: A GUIDE TO IMPLEMENTATION Understanding giftedness: a guide to implementation [Department for Education and Childrens Services, 1996] provided comprehensive support encouraging teachers to implement the 10 key policy outcomes of the DECS Gifted Children and Students Policy (pp. 5-6). These outcomes, as found in the policy, included: Outcome 1: Gifted individuals are provided with opportunities to realise their potential. Outcome 2: Gifted individuals are identified as early as possible. Outcome 3: Gifted individuals have equality of educational opportunities. Outcome 4: Gifted individuals have appropriate and ongoing educational opportunities. Outcome 5: Gifted individuals have a differentiated educational curriculum. Outcome 6: Gifted individuals interact with an appropriate peer group. Outcome 7: Accelerative measures and flexible entry into all levels of education are available to gifted individuals. Outcome 8: Gifted individuals learning outcomes improve when teachers and other personnel have appropriate training in gifted education. Outcome 9: Parents and other appropriate community members have opportunities to be involved in the education of gifted individuals. Outcome 10: Gifted individuals have access to counselling and vocational services. All of the participants in this study received similar professional development based on these ten outcomes. It is interesting to note that both the policy and the implementation guide failed to provide a clear and meaningful definition of giftedness. In outcome 1 (p. 9) the following definition of giftedness was the only one suggested: In 1977, Gina Ginsburg</p> <p>10 suggested that gifted children do things a little earlier...a little faster...a little better...and perhaps a little differently. The authors instead, referred to characteristics of gifted learners to support identification. The following example, taken from the implementation guide is representative of identifying through observation: Identifying the gifted child in the educational setting: All children tell us something about their abilities through the kinds of behaviour that they exhibit in a learning situation. Careful, informed observation in a variety of learning situations and the recording of observed student behaviours provide the teacher with valuable information about a students particular interests and abilities (Department for Education and Childrens Services, 1996, p.12) Without a clear-cut definition of giftedness it would be reasonable to ask the question If there is no single standard reference for the definition of giftedness what influences a teacher to reach their own understanding of giftedness? Other questions might follow, such as Was their understanding of giftedness formed throughout their life experiences as they interacted with gifted children during their own schooling? or Is their understanding gained through their teacher preparation in university or during their experience whilst teaching in the classroom? Knowing how teachers reach an understanding can shed light on the rationale emp...</p>