Date of Award

2004

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education

School

School of Education

Faculty

Education and Arts

Abstract

This study seeks to investigate the teaching of gifted children in a Montessori school, with particular reference to gifted students with learning difficulties in writing. A review of the literature on the Montessori method of education and on provision for gifted children, shows considerable philosophical and practical overlap in these two fields. However, it appears that this theoretical overlap is not necessarily realised in practice. Furthermore, although considerable research has been conducted on the characteristics, identification and classroom provision for the gifted, very little has been undertaken on the actual provision for gifted children in Montessori schools or gifted children with learning difficulties in writing. Research indicates that appropriate teacher development is an important component of provision for the gifted. Within an action research context, all twelve teachers at a school participated in professional development on the gifted. They were provided with current information about attitudes toward the gifted, theories and models relating to giftedness, as well as curricular and instructional modifications for gifted primary children. The teachers' perceptions about the gifted were examined, by the administration of an attitude scale and through an interview process, before the professional development and again after they had the opportunity and support to implement program modifications. To obtain a more detailed understanding of what was happening in classrooms, observation sessions were conducted. Data was also collected from parent feedback, informal observations, document searches and the researcher's reflective journal. The research found that the teachers indicated, overall, positive attitudes toward the gifted. However, contrary to evidence in the literature which suggested positive attitudinal changes in teachers after professional development, the teachers' attitudes towards the gifted remained the same, overall, throughout the study. Despite this lack of measurable attitudinal change, the teachers enacted practical, behavioural modifications to their gifted students' programs after professional development. Positive outcomes for teachers and gifted students were generally obtained. Nevertheless, teachers expressed reservations about the effectiveness of their interventions for the gifted, particularly those with learning difficulties, with reference to these students' ability to 'work independently'. Implications that arise from this research relate to issues influencing the identification and provision for gifted students with learning difficulties. Additional implications were presented for school administration, teacher development, methodological issues and the need for further research.

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