This study provided a voice to gifted elementary children attending three very different schools that endeavoured to meet their atypical academic needs. While educators have theorised 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 wellbeing of the advanced learners, it went hand in hand with the schools’ ethoi 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. This finding differs to previous research results, which suggest that if a gifted child’s cognitive abilities are catered for, her or his social and emotional needs will automatically be met. While this study found that the social context of the school played an important role in the talent process, a strong relationship was also found between program type and sociaffective outcomes.


Peer-reviewed, gifted learner, social context, challenging instruction, affective development, elementary school, phenomenological research

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