Middle School Teachers' Experiences Addressing Gifted Students' Basic Psychological Needs: A Phenomenological Study
School of Education
Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership (EdD)
Gifted, Self-determination theory, psychological needs, gifted teacher experiences, well-being
Caldwell, Lorri Thibodeaux, "Middle School Teachers' Experiences Addressing Gifted Students' Basic Psychological Needs: A Phenomenological Study" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 3986.
This qualitative, hermeneutic phenomenological study aimed to investigate teachers’ experiences addressing the psychological needs of gifted middle school students within a public school district in Louisiana. Psychological needs-supportive teaching was defined as the pedagogies teachers employ to build students’ perceptions of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. The study was grounded in Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory (SDT), which posits that human beings seek growth as part of human nature. The participants were a sample of 12 middle school teachers of identified gifted students in a Louisiana school district. Data collection included personal interviews, artifact submissions, and a focus group discussion. The data were analyzed following van Manen’s wholistic and highlighting approach and Saldaña’s thematic analysis process of in vivo coding to code the data and develop categories. The three themes that emerged from the data analysis were relationships, pedagogy, and balance. The study revealed participants described their experiences addressing gifted middle school students’ psychological needs as a challenging but rewarding process. However, participants also felt they needed more training specifically related to needs-supportive academic and socio-emotional teaching for gifted learners. Findings of this study also showed a need for increased support for gifted education at all administrative levels and opportunities for professional development for teacher growth.