“Just challenge those high ability learners and they’ll be all right!” The impact of social context and challenging instruction on the affective development of high ability students
This study provided a voice to gifted elementary children attending three very different schools that endeavored to meet their atypical academic needs. Although educators have theorized that special programs for gifted students benefit gifted children academically and contribute positively to their social and emotional development, there is limited research to support this belief. The phenomenological framework used in this study allowed 27 gifted elementary students to present their perceptions of the advantages and disadvantages of extension class environments. The results demonstrate that while challenging instruction was clearly important for the emotional well-being of the advanced learners, it went hand in hand with the schools' approach 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. This finding differs from previous research results, which suggest that if a gifted child's cognitive abilities are catered to, his or her social and emotional needs will automatically be met. Whereas this study found that the social context of the school played an important role in the talent process, we also found a strong relationship between program type and socioaffective outcomes.