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The research investigated the problem of identification of giftedness in primary-aged school students. The study was conducted in primary schools in a large Australian metropolitan Catholic education system, referred to in the study as the system that claims best practice and has historically provided strong support for the specific needs of students with learning difficulties. Gifted education is, however, new to the culture of this system of schools and the under-identification of gifted students has been identified as a matter of concern. The scholarly literature provides considerable research regarding teacher attitudes and their impact on gifted education and gifted students, but little research has been undertaken to investigate the impact of teachers’ knowledge, attitudes and experiences on the identification of giftedness. To address this gap in the research, the present study examined the question: How is the identification of giftedness of students in primary schools influenced by the knowledge, attitudes and experiences of principals and teachers?

Using a mixed methods design within the paradigm of pragmatism, the research data were collected in two phases: the collection and analysis of quantitative data at a system level through an online survey, and case study involving analysis of school documentation and semi-structured interviews across six sites.

In Phase One, the online survey was distributed across the system of 111 Catholic primary schools. The responses from the system-wide survey assisted in the selection of schools with high and low rates of identification of gifted students as case study sites for the second phase of the study. In Phase Two, a total of six principals and 44 teachers participated in the case study from across six sites selected as three successful- and three non-successful schools. Phase Three included the final synthesis and analysis of all data. The data collected sought to determine the knowledge, attitudes and experiences of teachers and leaders, and school approaches and practices of identification, and their influence on the identification of giftedness in these schools.

The central findings of the study are reflected in a proposed model, which elucidates specific elements in relation to knowledge and attitudes of educators, and the approaches and practices of schools, towards gifted education and identification of giftedness that enable the effective identification of giftedness. Within knowledge, the levels of training and the significance of understanding the multidimensional nature of giftedness were identified as core to the process of identification of gifted students in the primary school setting. Positive attitudes towards giftedness, and a shared responsibility for the identification process, among the school leadership and teachers leads to effective identification. The research also found that sharpened focus on identification through leadership, embedded school-wide policy and practices, provision of resources, and ongoing professional learning are key elements of effective identification. Essential to the identification process is the involvement of teachers and leaders in early and ongoing identification practices using a range of accessible objective and subjective measures.

The model highlights the complex interplay of factors that contribute to effective identification of giftedness and the significance of teacher, leader and systemic commitment to gifted education. The research findings and recommendations have significance from the perspective of educational system leaders and school-based practitioners who have the challenge of effectively identifying, and responding to, the needs of their gifted students.


School of Education

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Access Rights

Open Access


385 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Research) (EdD(Res))


Faculty of Education and Arts

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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