New interpretations of giftedness in early years : looking through the lens of social constructionism.

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Theses / Dissertations
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Doctor of Philosophy
University of Canterbury
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Wong, Kit Ting Melanie

This research investigates the social construction of giftedness, social constructions of teaching and learning for gifted children, and the consequences of these constructions in the early years of education. Social constructionism (Burr, 2015) was used as a theoretical lens through which to shape this research. The research examines how participants interpreted teaching and learning that related to giftedness, and how their constructions influenced their attitudes; with some constructions inter-related but some competing with one another. The research data were collected through three phases using different qualitative methods. These methods included an open-ended questionnaire for early childhood practitioners in Aotearoa New Zealand, Skype interviews were conducted to collect data from initial teacher education (ITE) programme leaders and teacher educators in Aotearoa New Zealand. In the third phase, data were collected through a Facebook closed-group discussion. Some members live in Aotearoa New Zealand, but a significant number resided overseas in countries that include: the United States of America, Australia, Canada, Singapore and India. The data were analysed through an inductive approach. Two conceptual frameworks were used to construct the stories of the participants and these were developed after the data were analysed. The conceptual frameworks of this thesis included the three alternative models of teaching-learning of Smith & Barr (2008) and Noddings' (1984) concept of ethics of care.

This research developed three major findings about the participants’ constructions of teaching and learning that impacted on gifted children. The first finding focused on how the participants constructed giftedness as a fixed ability – a result of their construction that giftedness is identified and determined by measurements. The second finding investigated how the participants constructed learning and teaching for gifted children that involved the role of teachers and the views of learners. The third finding discussed that many teachers were dedicated to developing a learning community and were committed to working with gifted children and their parents. The participants indicated that it is important for teachers to develop positive relationships with gifted children and their parents. This research does not seek a common or dominant definition of giftedness; instead, the research explores how the participants constructed teaching and learning and how their constructions influence their actions towards those who are gifted. This thesis argues that giftedness is not a thing that has always existed but, rather, it is a concept invented by people as a way to describe certain phenomena and make sense of certain experiences. This argument highlighted a significant message: that giftedness is socially constructed and each construction of giftedness can have consequences for gifted children and their families.

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