School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Grania Gothard Holman


giftedness, virtual instruction, differentiation, middle school, rigor




The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the experiences of core academic middle school teachers with differentiating instruction and assessment for gifted and talented students in rural southern Maryland. Two theories providing the theoretical framework for this study include Bandura’s self-efficacy theory and McClelland’s achievement-motivation theory These two theories explain learning experiences and interactions between the learner and the instructor while addressing the educator’s efficacy in challenging gifted learners within the virtual classroom. The central research question that guided this research was, “What are the shared lived experiences among select middle school, core academic, teachers when differentiating instruction and challenging gifted learners in southern Maryland during virtual instruction?” The instrumentation for this study was a set of open-ended questions conducted in a face-to-face interview, archival data in the form of document analysis and journal prompts. Data were analyzed by the researcher using MAXQDA qualitative data analysis software. Three themes emerged, including efficacy dependent on available supports and strategies, the challenge of teaching virtually, and positive attitudes and beliefs toward differentiation. The themes that developed revealed that the participants experienced conflicting attitudes toward differentiating for gifted students and felt ill-equipped differentiating instruction for this group of students. The results of this study may inform the body of knowledge regarding the education of gifted learners and address acceleration practices to improve challenging this population in the classroom and achieve academic success.

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