The Space Between: A Narrative Inquiry into three practitioners’ experiences of leading professional learning in gifted education

Author: Lesley Henderson

Henderson, Lesley, 2023 The Space Between: A Narrative Inquiry into three practitioners’ experiences of leading professional learning in gifted education, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Over a century of research supports the field of gifted child education. And yet, the underachievement and under-serving of gifted students in schools is endemic and well-documented in the research literature. This indicates a problematic gap between gifted education in theory and in practice.

The research puzzle at the heart of this narrative inquiry focused on why there is a space between gifted education theory and practice, how this space might be bridged by the provision of effective professional learning, and what factors contribute to its effectiveness. Using life-story interviews with three gifted education specialists provided rich data about their careers as they worked to provide teachers in South Australian schools with the necessary professional learning to improve outcomes for gifted students. Applying a psychological lens and drawing on career construction theory and social constructivism as a theoretical framework, the participants’ stories were interpreted using a thematic and comparative analysis. Themes that emerged through the three phases of their career development – their career formation, development and reflection – revealed both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that were influential in their effectiveness as leaders of professional learning. Their co-constructed narratives explain how professional learning leadership can be effective in bridging the gifted education theory-practice divide to change teachers’ attitudes and practices that will benefit our most able students. This narrative study makes an original contribution to the professional learning literature. Ultimately, the significance of this study will be to challenge educators’ ideas about the implementation of gifted education that will bring about positive educational outcomes for gifted students in schools and sites over time and across contexts.

Keywords: Gifted education, professional learning, narrative inquiry, career construction theory

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Professional Doctorate
Completed: 2023
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr Kerry Bissaker