Gifted young adolescents : voices of self

Dillon, Lisette Helen (2011) Gifted young adolescents : voices of self. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Despite the challenges that giftedness can add to self-formation during early adolescence, gifted young adolescents seldom are asked about their lives outside of counselling and educational contexts. The study considers the complexities that face gifted young adolescents in the process of self-discovery and self-representation, thereby building a case for seeking their own viewpoints. A guiding assumption for the study was that gifted young adolescents may respond positively to the opportunity to share their own perspectives and their own versions of “who they are”. The theoretical underpinnings for this study drew from Dialogical Self Theory. The study resides within an interactive view of self as a dynamic construction rather than a static state, where “who we are” is formed in everyday exchanges with self and others. Self-making as a process among gifted young adolescents is presented as an interactive network of “I” voices interpreted to reflect internal and external dialogue. In this way, self is understood within dialogical concepts of voices as multiple expressions. The study invited twelve gifted young adolescents to write freely about themselves over a six month period in an email journal project. Participants were recruited online and by word-of-mouth and they were able to negotiate their own levels of involvement. Access to the lives of individual young adolescents was sought in an out-of-school setting using narrative methods of personal writing in the form of journals sent as emails to the researcher. The role of the researcher was to act as a supportive listener who responded to participant-led emails and thereby facilitated the process of authoring that occurred across the data-gathering phase. The listening process involved responses that were affirming and designed to build trust. Data in the form of email texts were analysed using a close listening method that uncovered patterns of voices that were explicitly or subtly expressed by participants. The interpretation of voices highlighted the tensions and contradictions involved in the process of participants forming a “self” that emerged as multiple “I” voices. There were three key findings of the study. First, the gifted young adolescent participants each constructed a self around four key voices of Author, Achiever, Resistor/Co-operator and Self-Innovator. These voices were dialogical selfconstructions that showed multiplicity as a normal way of being. Second, the selfmaking processes of the gifted young adolescent participants were guided by a hierarchy of voices that were directed through self-awareness. Third, authoring in association with a responsive adult listener emerged as a dialogic space for promoting self-awareness and a language of self-expression among gifted young adolescents. The findings of the study contribute to knowledge about gifted young adolescents by presenting their own versions of “who” they are, perspectives that might differ from mainstream perceptions. Participants were shown to have highly diverse, complex and individual expressions that have implications for how well they are understood and supported by others. The use of email journals helped to create a synergy for self-disclosure and a safe space for self-expression where participants’ abilities to be themselves were encouraged. Increased self-awareness and selfknowledge among gifted young adolescents is vital to their self-formation and their management of self and others’ expectations. This study makes an original contribution to the field of self-study by highlighting the processes and complexities of young adolescents’ self-constructions. Through the innovative use of narrative methods and an inter-disciplinary approach, the voices of gifted young adolescents were privileged. At a practical level, the study can inform educators, policy-makers, parents and all those who seek to contribute to the well-being of gifted young adolescents.

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ID Code: 43399
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Diezmann, Carmel & Danby, Susan
Additional Information: Recipient of 2011 Outstanding Doctoral Thesis Award
Keywords: dialogical self, email journals, gifted young adolescents, listening, voices, ODTA
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 20 Jul 2011 00:05
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2013 06:09

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