Ecological systems of the young gifted learner
Stevenson, Jennifer Leigh
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This case study followed the story of a ten year old girl, in a suburban Title I, extremely diverse and transient school who overcame many obstacles and barriers to become a gifted and talented student of minority. According to the literature, there is an extreme underrepresentation of minority students in gifted and talented programs. Through interviews of parents, grandparents, the student and her educators, combined with field notes, observations, and document reviews, barriers and obstacles, as well as, supports were established based on the following common themes: teacher preparation and awareness of cultural diversity, parental involvement, home-school relationships, cultural identity issues, low socio-economic status, identification of the young child, and single parent homes. By using Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory and relating it to these themes, we were able to uncover the barriers and obstacles that being from a multiethnic background, low income home, single parent family, presented for this student. In this study, this student was considered “at risk” by these characteristics, and supports from each of the five layers of her ecological systems working strongly together and focusing on the positive aspects of the child, allowed for her to become an identified gifted and talented learner of a minority group. The interactions of her strong home-school connection, cultural difference sensitivity and awareness of her educators, young identification, appropriate assessment measures and strong biological needs of the learner allowed her to overcome the “at risk” characteristics and become successful, gifted and talented. Finally, implications for teaching to improve the statistics of minority groups in gifted education programs were established. Also, methodological implications for this type of case study were also discussed.