Vanessa White

Title: “People Who Think the Same as Me”: The Importance of Like-Minded Peers for Gifted Children

(Co-presenting with Tracy RileyCarola SampsonJanna Wardman, and Deborah Walker)

Much anecdotal evidence would indicate that for gifted and talented students, interaction with like-minded peers is crucial in both their academic and social/emotional development, and this interaction is often cited as a benefit of special provisions which group learners with others of similar abilities. In fact, Rogers (1993) suggests that the removal of opportunities for these students to learn with others like themselves may result in substantial declines in achievement and attitude towards a subject. There is, however, very little research on how these interactions affect the students, and, even less research on the importance of these interactions to their learning and development, as expressed by the children themselves. This presentation describes the perspectives on like-minded interactions as voiced by gifted and talented children who are enrolled in the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education specialist one-day-a-week programme. Through interviews with the gifted children, their parents, specialist teacher and contributing school teacher, this case study explores their experiences of learning. The presentation looks specifically at the opportunities the gifted students have to engage with like-minded peers and what perceived impact this may have on their academic, social and emotional development. Tensions that emerge include: bullying, loneliness, mis-match of interests with age-peers, different moral boundaries and the difficulty of working in mixed ability groups in regular classrooms. The children identify different friendship groups for various settings and describe the stress of having to ‘multi-task’ in order to cater for non like-minded friends. This small qualitative study confirms the belief of the importance of having at least one like-minded, reliable friend in school settings, with whom gifted children can relate. In this presentation, we will share the results of this study, as well as future research plans and practical implications for parents and teachers of gifted children.