"Put your seatbelt on, here we go!" The transition to school for children identified as gifted: The transition to school for children identified as gifted

Nicole Masters

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    The start of primary schooling is one of the most important transitions in a child's life and can be a major challenge of early childhood (Fabian & Dunlop, 2007). Within the school learning environment, children from a range of family and cultural backgrounds, with diverse physical and intellectual abilities, and from varying economic circumstances, will have differing learning needs. For the gifted child, the transition to school may bring additional challenges. Children whose abilities are unrecognised and not nurtured in the early years may develop social-emotional or behavioural difficulties. The aim of this study was to explore the experiences of young children identified as gifted as they began primary school in regional New South Wales in 2013.The research used a case study approach within a bioecological framework. The study therefore allowed for the in-depth analysis of the experiences and perspectives of a range of stakeholders across educational settings. Data were gathered from eleven children identified as gifted, their parents, their pre-school teachers and their Kindergarten teachers. Checklists, questionnaires and structured conversations were used to examine the gifted identification process, the special needs of the child identified as gifted, changes in expectations emerging from the use of the gifted label and the experiences of these children in their transition to school. Conversations were transcribed, and along with questionnaires and checklists, were analysed using a three level model of analysis. Initial analysis used content analysis, the second level considered the context of the data: A bioecological lens. Exploring each of these elements separately laid the foundation for the subsequent, or third level of analysis. Using constant comparison analysis (Glaser, 1965), data from level two were able to be analysed according to each content theme and the level of influence of the PPCT elements. Such analysis allowed the researcher to compare and evaluate each theme across the four PPCT elements of bioecological theory and determine the level of influence of each PPCT element upon individual themes. These three levels of data analysis ultimately built an understanding of the transition to school for the child identified as gifted. Such a multi-level process of analysis considers the influences of the child and their prior experiences as well as the influences of family, pre-school and primary school contexts.Findings highlighted variations in the ways in which pre-school and Kindergarten teachers attempted to address the needs of children identified as gifted. In particular, difficulties were exposed during the first few weeks of school. For some children, practices designed to provide continuity between pre-school and primary school became an obstacle to their learning. For other children, provision of appropriate opportunities to show their advanced abilities was found to be significant, with the use of appropriate early assessment crucial. Emerging from such assessment was the need for effective curriculum differentiation, offering an inclusive approach to education.Overarching themes were the teachers' approaches to the children's social-emotional, attention related and intellectual development. For some children, the educational opportunities provided in pre-school and Kindergarten may not provide the intellectual stimulation they desired. In preparation for school, both pre-school and Kindergarten teachers prioritised the child's social-emotional skills and behaviour and their attention related skills, for example the child's task persistence and self-regulation. The findings from this study reinforce the need for teachers in both contexts to find a balance between the child's social-emotional, attention related and intellectual development within the transition to school, implementing a 'holistic' approach.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Perry, Bob, Co-Supervisor
    • Mackenzie, Noella, Co-Supervisor
    Award date01 Mar 2015
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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