Gifted students with a reading disability : the impact of lived experience

Wills, Janelle Terese (2012) Gifted students with a reading disability : the impact of lived experience. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Gifted students who have a reading disability have learning characteristics that set them apart from their peers. The ability to read impacts upon all areas of the formal curriculum in which print-based texts are common. Therefore, the full intellectual development of gifted students with a reading disability can be repressed because their access to learning opportunities is reduced. When the different learning needs caused by concomitant giftedness and reading disability are not met, it can have serious implications for both academic achievement and the social-emotional wellbeing of these students. In order to develop a deeper understanding of this vulnerable group of students, this study investigated the learning characteristics of gifted students with a reading disability. Furthermore, it investigated how the learning characteristics of these students impact upon their lived experiences. Since achievement and motivation have been shown to be closely linked to self-efficacy, self-efficacy theory underpinned the conceptual framework of the study.

The study used a descriptive case study approach to document the lived experiences of gifted students with a reading disability. Nine participants aged between 11 and 18, who were formally identified as gifted with a reading disability, took part in the study. Data sources in the case study database included: cognitive assessments, such as WISC assessments, Stanford Binet 5, or the Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices; the WIAT II reading assessment; the Reader Self-Perception Scale; document reviews; parent and teacher checklists designed to gain information about the students' learning characteristics; and semi-structured interviews with students.

The study showed that gifted students with a reading disability display a complex profile of learning strengths and weaknesses. As a result, they face a daily struggle of trying to reconcile the confusion of being able to complete some tasks to a high level, while struggling to read. The study sheds light on the myriad of issues faced by the students at school. It revealed that when the particular learning characteristics and needs of gifted students with a reading disability are recognised and met, these students can experience academic success, and avoid the serious social-emotional complications cited in previous studies. Indeed, rather than suffering from depression, disengagement from learning, and demotivation, these students were described as resilient, independent, determined, goal oriented and motivated to learn and persevere. Notably, the students in the study had developed effective coping strategies for dealing with the daily challenges they faced. These strategies are outlined in the thesis together with the advice students offered for helping other gifted students with a reading disability to succeed. Their advice is significant for all teachers who wish to nurture the potential of those students who face the challenge of being gifted with a reading disability, and for the parents of these students.

This research advances knowledge pertaining to the theory of self-efficacy, and self-efficacy in reading specifically, by showing that although gifted students with a reading disability have low self-efficacy, the level is not the same for all aspects of reading. Furthermore, despite low self-efficacy in reading these students remained motivated. The study also enhances existing knowledge in the areas of gifted education and special education because it documents the lived experience of gifted students with a specific learning disability in reading from the students' perspectives. Based on a synthesis of the literature and research findings, an Inclusive Pathway Model is proposed that describes a framework to support gifted students with a reading disability so that they might achieve, and remain socially and emotionally well-adjusted. The study highlights the importance of clear identification protocols (such as the use of a range of assessment sources, discussions with students and parents, and an awareness of the characteristics of gifted students with a reading disability) and support mechanisms for assisting students (for example, differentiated reading instruction and the use of assistive technology).

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ID Code: 64452
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Watters, James & Diezmann, Carmel
Keywords: gifted, gifted with a reading disability, gifted with a learning disability, self-efficacy, self-regulation, lived experience, motivation and resilience
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 13 Nov 2013 05:01
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2015 22:20

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