The Experience of Gifted Girls Transitioning from Elementary School to Sixth and Seventh Grade: A Grounded Theory

Article excerpt

Introduction

The concept of giftedness has been defined in many ways, but it is most often defined as high academic ability. The most prominent method of defining giftedness is the utilization of the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R). A score on the WISC-R of 130 is the minimum score for identification as gifted (Gottfried, Gottfried, Bathurst, & Guerin, 1994). Students may also be identified as gifted through standardized testing given in schools, usually in early or mid-elementary school. Giftedness is an attribute often associated with success and ease of life; this may lead to a notion that gifted kids "have it all" (Bernal, 2003). With this association comes a general view in the fields of education and counseling that everyone has gifts and as such there is no reason to provide those who are gifted with extra services (Bernal). However, those who work directly with gifted children and adolescents suggest that they have unique social and emotional issues (Kerr, 1994; Moon, 2002; Reis 2002; Rimm, 2002). Moon stated, "The most common counseling need of this population is assistance in coping with stressors related to growing up as a gifted child in a society that does not always recognize, understand, or welcome giftedness" (p. 213).

The transition from elementary school to sixth and seventh grade may be a difficult time for girls, gifted or not. Specifically, the process of determining how to fit in with others is a critical and often difficult part of identity development for girls during this time (Gilligan, Ward, & Taylor, 1988). The literature suggested that how girls fit in with peers and how they see themselves is largely dependent on their connection with others (Gilligan et al.; Stern, 1991; Schwartz, 2005) and stressed that a strong sense of identity allows girls to more easily identify their place in the world (Schwartz). While this is also true for gifted girls, the literature indicated that gifted girls, in particular, may struggle during the transition from elementary school to sixth and seventh grade (Bain & Bell, 2004; Dai, 2002; Kerr, 1994; Reis, 2002; Rimm, 2002).

In elementary school, gifted girls tend to be accepted for their gifts, but upon entering sixth and seventh grade they may experience pressures to fit into the mainstream and may begin to experience difficulties due to these pressures (Bain & Bell, 2004; Kerr, 1994; Kilbourne, 2004; Moore & MacKinnon, 2001; Rimm, 2002). The research also indicated that relationships play an important role in identity development for gifted girls during this transition, particularly relationships with friends and teachers (Kerr; Rimm). Academics may also play a role in this transition for gifted girls; however, McCoach and Siegle (2003) found the influence of academics to be positive for gifted students, while others (Bernal, 2003; Bybee, Glick, & Zigler, 1990; Jones, 2003) found the influence of academics to be more neutral, if not negative.

While the existing literature does provide some idea of what gifted girls may be experiencing as they transition into sixth and seventh grade, much of it pertains to gifted children in general or is narrowly focused on the influence of academics upon self-concept and does not address the holistic experience of these girls. A greater understanding of the experience of gifted girls during this transition is pivotal to ensuring that counselors serve them appropriately. Rimm (2002) stated, "counselors need to be trained to understand the peer pressures and isolations that gifted children feel so that social isolation doesn't lead to anger toward themselves and others" (p. 17). Unfortunately, gifted girls of this age are largely ignored in the current literature; Bain and Bell, 2004; Bybee et al., 1990; Dai, 2002; Kerr, 1994; and Moon, 2002 all called for further research of this population. Additionally, the available research is primarily quantitative and lacks the voice of the girls it hopes to represent. …

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