Gifted adolescent social and emotional development: Teacher perceptions and practices

Date of Completion

January 2003


Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Special|Education, Secondary




Although the social and emotional development of gifted students has gained considerable attention in the past few decades, much of the research literature is opinion-based, and few empirical studies exist. Little is known about secondary school teachers' perceptions of the social and emotional development of gifted adolescents and teachers' classroom practices that specifically address this development. ^ In this study, quantitative and qualitative research methods were used to examine secondary school teachers' perceptions of potential internal and external problems facing gifted adolescents and the frequency of use of certain teacher practices relating to classroom climate, curriculum, and instructional strategies that address adolescent social and emotional development. A new instrument, Teacher Perceptions and Practices: Social and Emotional Development of Adolescents (TPP-SEDA), was developed and used to collect quantitative data from 132 teachers of grades 7–12 (20% return rate) from different regions of the country. These questionnaires were analyzed using descriptive and univariate statistics. Qualitative procedures included interviews and observations with 15 teachers in three geographically diverse regions. ^ Results indicated that teachers did not perceive most internal issues, with the exception of unhealthy perfectionism, to be problematic to any greater degree for gifted students than for average ability students. Teachers perceived two external problems that negatively influenced the learning and behavior of gifted adolescents as compared with average ability students, and these were parental pressure to perform at optimal levels and pressure from teachers to achieve in all subjects. Although teachers reported the same type and frequency of use of classroom climate practices for both groups, they reported using curriculum modifications such as acceleration, enrichment, and independent study more frequently for gifted students than for average ability students. Teachers employed grouping variations, but not ability grouping, most frequently as an instructional strategy to address social concerns for both average ability and gifted students in the classroom. Results also suggested that teachers have the following concerns about addressing their students' social and emotional development: lack of time due to standardized curriculum, class size, and job demands; lack of expertise, training, and awareness of the major issues; and fear of overstepping professional boundaries. ^