Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

First Advisor

Professor Caroline Barratt-Pugh

Second Advisor

Associate Professor Jan Gray

Abstract

The purpose of this research was to examine provision of differentiated learning experiences for gifted students in regular classes in Western Australian primary schools. Specifically, it was intended to explore differentiation strategies used with gifted students, issues faced by teachers in their efforts to provide for their gifted students, and teachers’ suggestions on solutions for these issues.

Presently reality in Western Australia is that gifted primary students spend at least 90% of their time at school in regular classes. Therefore, the regular class teacher’s role in implementing appropriate learning opportunities for these students is critical. Relevant literature clearly identifies the need for gifted students to engage in educational experiences commensurate with their abilities, and raises concerns that gifted students are not receiving appropriate differentiation in their educational programs. The lack of local research in this area makes it difficult to reach informed decisions about the appropriateness of current provisions for gifted students in regular classes, or to identify potential issues and solutions for teachers who try to do so.

A state-wide survey of Year 5 teachers provided information about regular class practices for gifted students, and issues for teachers in providing for their gifted students. Responses suggested that little differentiation takes place for gifted students, and that issues for teachers included time, resources, range of students, and knowledge in differentiating curricula effectively. Focus groups discussions with regular class teachers, and interviews with gifted education specialists, provided in-depth information about teachers’ issues, as well as possible solutions to these issues. Analysis of teacher education courses from 35 universities across Australia showed that there is a distinct lack of teacher education in this area, both in undergraduate and post-graduate courses.

This study found that teachers are concerned about a range of class management issues, and have limited knowledge about giftedness and teaching gifted students. Recommendations from this research include providing teachers with appropriate professional development regarding gifted students, and direct support to implement differentiation in their regular classes.

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