A phenomenological study of the lived experience of underachieving, gifted, early adolescents

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Ronksley-Pavia, Michelle

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Hafenstein, Norma Lu

Pendergast, Donna L

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Gifted learners have the potential to make important contributions to society as they grow and develop. During formal primary and secondary education, however, the prevalence of underachievement for this group appears to be growing. Despite significant research into the phenomenon, there is limited consideration of the voices of intellectually gifted, early adolescent students and their lived experience of underachievement. This research aimed to answer the question, "What are the lived experiences of intellectually gifted early adolescents with regards to underachievement in formal school settings in South-East Queensland?". Employing a descriptive phenomenological methodology, this research used semi-structured interviews to engage with student participants and their caregiver/s to learn about underachievement as they had experienced and perceived it. Convenience sampling was employed to recruit six participants, five male and one female, who were intellectually gifted early adolescents experiencing academic underachievement. Two interviews were conducted with each student participant, and one with their caregiver/s, for a total of 18 semi-structured interviews. Data analysis of the interview transcripts and subsequent textual-structural descriptions illuminated three themes common to the phenomenon of underachievement: (a) Personal Perceptions - how participants considered themselves and the way they operated in the school context; (b) Academic Experiences - how students experienced and evaluated their learning needs with respect to how these were being met within their classroom situations; and (c) Reflections on Underachievement - how students recognised and acknowledged their strengths and weaknesses and had these validated within their classroom situations. The key findings of this study include the need for educators, teachers, and policymakers to make pedagogical and structural shifts to better support the needs of intellectually gifted students, particularly with respect to providing appropriate and deliberate challenge and support, and further evidence for the categorisation of "selective consumers" either within or alongside underachievement.

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Thesis (Masters)

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Master of Education and Professional Studies Research (MEdProfStRes)


School Educ & Professional St

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The author owns the copyright in this thesis, unless stated otherwise.

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