Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Education


This study explored the lifeworld of 27 academically advanced primary students in educational environments that have attempted to address their atypical learning needs. A phenomenological theoretical framework was used to discover the experiences of 13 gifted boys and 14 gifted girls attending either single-gender or co-educational schools. Three types of school settings were purposefully selected for this study in order to discover the supportive systems that these different educational environments created for academically advanced learners. While there is a great deal of research about the cognitive outcomes of these types of school environments, little is known about their social and emotional outcomes. Some researchers, as well as educators in the field, have suggested that the affective outcomes of these types of school settings may be a more powerful argument for gifted programming than their well known cognitive results (Coleman, 1995, 2003). The results from this study demonstrate that, while challenging instruction was clearly important for the emotional wellbeing of the advanced learners, it went hand in hand with the schools` ethos in relation to the social and emotional development of their student populations. The schools’ objectives clearly influenced students’ perceptions of emotional safety, acceptance of diversity, and teacher student and peer relations in the schools` environments. This finding differs to previous research that suggests that if a gifted child’s cognitive abilities are catered for, her or his social and emotional needs will automatically be met. This research has significance for educators and researchers in the field, as it provides insights from the gifted students themselves about their experiences in the specialised school environments, which hopefully will assist educators in better meeting the psychosocial and emotional needs of these students. This study also describes the types of social and emotional support systems, and social and emotional outcomes that can contribute to optimal social context in schools. In this study optimal describes a school setting that positively answers and enhances both the academic as well as the social and emotional needs of the gifted student.