The Capability Approach, Education and Issues of Justic

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Chapter 5: Findings—Understanding-Self, Accepting Differences, and Managing Climates

The phenomenon that underpinned this investigation was the current underachievement of 2E students in the NZ school system. This underachievement when compared with potential was established in Chapters 1 and 2. Evidence in the literature to date suggests there is reason to suspect that the NZ school system is inequitable and/or exclusive of the complex learning needs of 2E students. Such inequities in education provision, impact upon individual capability to succeed academically. Thus, this thesis set out to investigate what factors might influence the ability of 2E students to realise their potential in NZ schools. The perspectives of 2E students, their parent(s)/caregiver(s) and teachers/special education needs coordinators (SENCos), were sought to provide a range of views on this issue. As noted earlier, the research question was: How do twice-exceptional students negotiate identity and capability within the New Zealand school system To facilitate reading of the findings Chapters 5 and 6, a visual overview of the developed theory (Figure 5.1) with a brief description of the key features is included here. This visual overview shows the generation of the new theory from the data up to the construction of the core category and explanatory theory. The developed theory is summarised as follows: Twice-exceptional individuals often struggle to achieve in NZ schools based upon a conceptualisation of learner difference that influences, and is influenced by, the process of negotiating student identity and capability. The key features of this theory, expressed as an organised arrangement of sets of concepts that help explain the phenomenon under investigation (D. Silverman, 2001), are as follows: Twice-exceptional identity and capability are the two concepts central to the emergent core category. The negotiation of identity and capability help to determine student achievement in the NZ school system. The process of negotiating identity and capability is influenced by twice-exceptional students’ realisation of difference in learning abilities (understanding-self), as well as by the ability of others to accept difference (accepting differences), and the degree of flexibility and suitability in school systems/arrangements (managing climates). These factors interact to influence conceptions of difference, and thereby the ability of twice-exceptional students to achieve in schools. The process of 2E individuals negotiating student identity and capability involves the reciprocal processes of imagining-self and categorising-self in a learning climate. These intertwined, continuous happenings influence the envisagement of a sense of self in reflection of changing personal circumstances and contextual conditions. Supports, as well as challenges, faced by 2E students in the NZ school system, help to define the conditions under which the negotiation of identity and capability occur. Ongoing negotiations influence, and are influenced by, conceptions of 2E student difference in particular learning climates. Conceptualising difference is the culminating theory emerging from analysis of the data. The theory helps to determine, via the construction of differing conceptions of dual exceptionality, the capacity of 2E students to successfully negotiate identity andcapability to achieve in a learning climate. As such, the need for more equitable provisioning for gifted students with learning difficulties in NZ schools is justified. Realisation of equity in provision helps address issues of social justice by recognising the unique complexities associated with the condition in the school context. It is argued that the ability to re-conceptualise 2E students in NZ schools as first and foremost having learning strengths, rather than only learning deficits, assists with the development of positive identity and perceptions of capability. This re-conceptualisation ultimately influences realised achievements. Chapter 5 will unpack the findings (and the process used) to construct the initial and focused codes in order to substantiate the subsidiary categories shown in the lower layers of Figure 5.1. Chapter 6 will then present arguments for the generation of the theory of conceptualising difference, as shown in the higher levels of Figure 5.1

Twice-Exceptional Students’ Perceptions of Schooling: Understanding-Self

The perspectives of 2E students were sought at the outset of the study as these were central to the phenomenon under investigation. As the focus of the research was to develop greater understandings about factors that influence the capacity of such students to achieve NZ schools, the voices of the student participants were critical to understanding why they typically underachieve when compared with their considerable potential. Understandings of self, that is, the personal perceptions of 2E students concerning their learning, emerged as a subsidiary category during the early stages of data collection and analysis. The dynamic process of coming to understand oneself in comparison to others, influenced by personal constructions of similarity and difference, appeared to guide the development of identity and perceptions of capability in the NZ school system. The subsidiary category, understanding-self, arose from the merging of three focused codes: becoming aware, developing intrapersonal understandings, and realising dual effects. These codes were all developed from line-by-line analysis of the interview transcripts of the students. The generation of each of these focused codes will now be discussed.

Becoming aware.

The focused code, becoming aware, specifically related to one of the first interview questions asked by the researcher: When did you first become aware of your learning differences? The analysed student responses ranged on a continuum (identified through theoretical sampling and constant comparative analysis of the student transcripts), from early to later awareness of difference. Early awareness was most commonly acknowledged, as shown by comments such as: “When I was younger the longer the book the better- I used to have a pile of books and was reading way ahead of my age” (T23S C07D 06.09.16), and in the excerpt: Early on—yes, early on, like preschool. I was standing on the table dropping things, so that was a fairly early sign, lecturing the others…not that I knew a lot about gravity at that point. But in Year 1 and 2 writing was not my forte, so that happened fairly early on. And then of course Mum realised, and it took us a while to learn about all this sort of stuff. (T27F C21 09.10.16) Another student similarly linked awareness of learning difference to early schooling experiences stating: “[It was] early in primary school—at first we thought it was my eyesight [as a learning difficulty] and then it wasn’t, and we got a few more tests done, and it was [dyslexia]” (T28F C12Z 15.10.16). It was these early experiences that gave rise to the initial code of developing awareness, which referred to a more naturally occurring process of recognising difference emanating from student actions or behaviours, in a fitting developmental timeframe. Awareness of learner difference often appeared to be related to the conditions of a social setting that provided a source of comparison of learning traits amongst peers. Commonly, 2E students reported that it was significant adults who commented on learning disparities in these settings, which first alerted them to difference (coded as supporting conditions), as evidenced in the above excerpts. The need for assistance in developing awareness was a significant finding in the transcripts of the students. Children are often unable to articulate difference as they lack a basis upon which to compare and contrast individual peculiarities, and therefore require help from more knowledgeable adults. Whilst the majority of the students reported early awareness, some students reported developing a later appreciation of their dual exceptionalities. Again, later awareness appeared to be related to a context, and specifically to the demands of that setting, that influenced expressions of individual ability. Student 07C commented: “[It was] Year 8 when they said I could use a computer for doing my essay instead of writing it…and then it just went on and on, until it was just computers for everything basically” (T22F C07C 06.09.16). This later awareness was coded under the initial code, realising differences, as it occurred in reference to specific demands of schooling (incidents) that provoked a learning intervention. The term realising was used to evoke the idea of students attaining awareness of difference at a later time, and usually in response to challenging contextual conditions. Realising differences appeared to have different consequences for students when compared with the earlier concept of developing awareness. For example, student 12E revealed that he only became aware of his learning differences in Year 8, following assessment for learning challenges that compromised expression of his academic ability in the classroom. His learning difficulties were subsequently diagnosed as dyslexia. This diagnosis then required a period of time dedicated to understanding, and adjusting to, the learning challenges associated with this form of cognitive impairment. These adaptations in functioning had to occur in parallel with the demands of his schoolwork. I didn’t really know too much about [learning differences] until we got tested. Was it a bit of a revelation for you? It was really good in tests, yeah. And the learning challenge- it is dyslexia? Yeah and I found copying things off the board was so hard, because I get one line, copy it down then forget where I was. Did you feel you could talk to your teachers about this? No, not really. Nah. Did you just think it was normal? Yeah—yeah, I did. Well, I didn’t really know about dyslexia or anything until Year 8 when I got the diagnosis, so I just thought it was a thing…like, everyone had the same problem. (T31F C12E 20.10.16) This excerpt is suggestive of the difficulties associated with day-to-day functioning in mainstream schooling contexts for dual-exceptional students. The revelation of the diagnosis of dyslexia alongside areas of learning strength, was transformative for this student, as he better understood why he had difficulty with the task of reading and writing when compared with his peers, and how this impacted upon his learning. Not knowing that he had a specific learning difficulty had meant that he had no conception of difference in learning ability— rather he presumed others perceived the world in the same way as he did. Developing awareness or realisation of dual-learning exceptionalities was an important event in each of the students’ lives. These two significant initial codes were consequently united, via the process of abstraction, under the focused code, becoming aware. The continuum of student responses, from early to later awareness, alongside the manner in which they emerged, appear to suggest there is currently considerable variation in recognising dual exceptionality in the NZ education context.

Developing intrapersonal understandings.

The second focused code, developing intrapersonal understandings, emerged from analysis of the student transcripts in response to interview questions concerning domain(s) of gift and talent and area(s) of learning difficulty, and how these manifested in the school setting. Students appeared to develop deeper understandings about their learning differences as they aged, and in consideration of the nature and extent of their dual exceptionalities and the support networks surrounding them. Again, theoretical sampling and constant comparison between and within the student transcripts, resulted in student experiences being located on a continuum ranging, this time, from positive to negative. This was because whilst some aspects of the development of understandings were affirming of difference, like the ability to seek assistance for areas of learning need, some aspects were less welcome. For example, socio-emotional impacts, including bullying and fear of social exclusion or rejection by the peer group, were often referenced in the transcripts of the students. It was comments like those seen in the following excerpt referencing such challenges, that gave rise to the initial code, becoming conscious of impacts. The following passage references a conflict between student 19 and a classmate regarding equitable provision for dual-exceptional learning needs: I did my speech on dyslexia to show everyone what it is, and Mum showed me this way of explaining it… Equity… So, there’s like this family and they are at a rugby game and in order for them all to see the child needs a step. Because I’ve been told that me skipping a year isn’t fair. They felt it wasn’t fair… Who felt it wasn’t fair? Another kid. She was like, that’s not fair! She said it was unfair I skipped a year because she had done all this hard work to get to where she was, and I had just jumped in. So, my whole speech was how it’s not—its making things more equitable because it’s giving me extra time. But because I am allowed extra time they thought I was cheating. (T27F C19 09.10.16) In this regard, many of the student participants reported becoming more conscious of their learning differences as the school years progressed. For example, student 02B stated that “You can see [them] more prominently in college than in primary I think. Probably because in college you have classes and they split you up. But in primary you have the same teacher all the time, teaching all the subjects, so they get to know you better” (T1F C02B 04.05.16). Becoming conscious of impacts was a broad term that allowed the labelling of fragments of data (like that shown above), which referenced the cognitive, and/or socio-emotional and/or academic domains of student functioning. Whilst this analytic idiom was more often assigned to schooling challenges, there were a few positive examples within the student transcripts. These positive incidents appeared to enable the development of an affirmative student identity, as well as personal agency, in the school setting as seen by student 21’s remarks: One of the things I did at the beginning of the year was that I had a template email that I personally sent out to all my teachers that said look, I am dyslexic, and I am dyspraxic. I will be coming to all my classes with a computer—what you need to facilitate this is please accept my work by email, instead of in print. If I have exams there are special exam conditions with procedures in place you email this teacher, and it will all just happen. (T27F C21 09.10.16) The initial code recognising asynchrony and difference was similarly developed from the comments of the student participants, this time in reference to their learning differences. As discussed in Chapter 1, asynchrony in learning is often considered an important indicator of giftedness. Failure to support 2E students in the school setting in recognising, and ultimately accepting, asynchrony and difference, appeared to influence motivation and achievement. For example, student 03A commented that his enjoyment of a learning activity (robotics programming) was impacted by controls placed by his teacher around his ability to create and innovate at his own advanced pace. Instead, he had to comply with the instructions and task given to the rest of the class, even though he had demonstrated his skills in this field at an earlier time: I: Are you enjoying robotics programming? Yes- the only thing I don’t enjoy [is when] everyone still has to learn stuff and I don’t get to zoom off and learn new things. I have to re-learn everything… At least it’s going faster than it did last year- last year we took 2 weeks, like every Wednesday, to learn the same thing. (T5F C03A 01.06.16) Being able to recognise and understand the extent of the impacts learning asynchrony has on the process of schooling for gifted students with learning difficulties is therefore important. Comments such as those seen in the excerpt below, demonstrate the frustrations often felt by students with dual exceptionalities attending mainstream schools. Such affective responses to developing intrapersonal understandings were assigned the initial code reacting emotionally. In this example, student 03B remarks on the difficulties he has in reconciling his placement in a high-ability accelerate class for English, with his placement in a low-ability group for mathematics: I am in the top writing group with the Year 7 and 8s. We do extremely big writing with, like, big vocabulary and what-not. I do like it, they are putting me up way high, as high as the sky for literature, but for maths they are putting me down into the sewers. [They are] just expressions. (T4F C03B 01.06.16) The development of these initial codes assisted with explicating the dimensions and properties of the focused code as described above. Developing intrapersonal understandings thus became another key feature of the analysed student data that would eventually be located within the subsidiary category of understanding-self. With respect to developing intrapersonal understandings, data was also collected on student academic, emotional and social self-efficacy using a self-efficacy questionnaire (as part of the student questionnaire, Appendix K) designed by Muris (2001). As Muris’s (2001) questionnaire had been adapted for this study to better capture the perceived self-efficacy of 2E students, a reliability check was first conducted on the scales using Cronbach’s alpha statistics. This reliability analysis indicated that the modified questionnaire was acceptable (α >.70) across all three domains of self-efficacy (academic (α = 0.85), social (α =.85) and emotional (α =.81). A Likert scale of 1–6 was used for the responses, where 1 represented “not at all well” and 6 represented “extremely well.” Results were reported as means for the group as seen in Table 5.1. An inspection of the means showed that the 2E student participants did not perceive themselves as particularly academically capable (mean= 2.96, representing “not very well” to “quite well” on the student questionnaire) in respect to succeeding in specific situations or tasks at school. Additionally, whilst social self-efficacy averaged across the group at a mean 141 of 3.00 (reported as quite well), emotional self-efficacy was reported at a mean of 2.43 (also representing not very well to quite well) across the group. It should be noted that these findings were based purely on the reported means, as the significance of any differences between means was not investigated. These findings suggest that the 2E students were experiencing some difficulty in developing self-efficacy overall, perhaps due to difficulties in developing intrapersonal understandings about dual exceptionality as a construct in the school context. Unfortunately, no further analysis of these findings could be undertaken as the participant sample size was too low. This will be discussed in the limitations section.

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Research
1.1 Changing Conceptions of Giftedness and Talent
1.2 Definitions of Giftedness and Talent
1.3 Giftedness and the New Zealand School System
1.4 Twice-Exceptional Students: Defining Characteristics
1.5 Twice-Exceptionality and Conceptions of Underachievement
1.6 Mediating Factors on Expressions of Achievement
1.7 Twice-Exceptional Student-Learning Differences
1.8 Identity, Capability and Well-Being
1.9 Special-Education Needs in the New Zealand Context
1.10 Special-Education Needs Labels
1.11 Social Exclusion
1.12 Thesis Outlined
1.13 Chapter Summary
Chapter 2: Literature Review
2.1 International Perspectives on Twice-Exceptionality
2.2 New Zealand Literature Relevant to the Education of Twice-Exceptional Students
2.3 Chapter Summary
Chapter 3: Theoretical Framework
3.1 The Capability Approach
3.2 The Capability Approach, Education and Issues of Justic
3.3 Critiques of the Capability Approach
3.4 Special Needs, Causality and Capability
3.5 Special-Education Needs and the Capability Approach
3.6 The Capability Approach and Issues of Inclusion
3.7 The Capability Approach and Issues of Identity and Agency
3.8 Chapter Summary
Chapter 4: Research Design and Methodology
4.1 Study Rationale
4.2 Research Aim, Questions and Objective
4.3 Research Methodology
4.4 Research Methods
4.5 Ethical Considerations in Mixed-Methods Research
4.6 Data-Creation Methods
4.7 Data Analysis
4.8 Trustworthiness, Credibility and Transferability
4.9 Chapter Summary
Chapter 5: Findings—Understanding-Self, Accepting Differences, and Managing Climates
5.1 Twice-Exceptional Students’ Perceptions of Schooling: Understanding-Self
5.2 Family Perceptions of Schooling: Accepting Differences
5.3 Perceptions of School Systems: Managing Climates
5.4 Relationships Between Subsidiary Categories: Development of the Core Concepts of Identity and Capability
5.5 Chapter Summary
Chapter 6: Findings—Negotiating Identity and Capability in the Theory of Conceptualising Difference
6.1 Negotiating Student Identity and Capability
6.2 Development of the Concept of Learning Climates
6.3 Characteristics of Different Learning Climates
6.4 Relationship Between Learning Climates and the Negotiation of Identity and Capability
6.5 The Theory of Conceptualising Difference
6.6 Chapter Summary
Chapter 7: Discussion
7.1 Revisiting the Research Issue, Aim and Objective
7.2 Negotiating Twice-Exceptional Identity and Capability
7.3 Imagining-Self and Categorising-Self in a Learning Climate
7.4 The Theory of Conceptualising Difference
7.5 Conceptualising Difference in a Capability Learning Climate
7.6 Concluding Comments
Chapter 8: Conclusions, Limitations and Recommendations
8.1 Thesis Summary
8.2 The Case for Transformational Change
8.3 The Capability Approach and Education Equity
8.4 Research Limitations
8.5 Research Recommendations
8.6 Chapter Summary

Gifted Students with Learning Difficulties Negotiating Identity and Capability in New Zealand Schools: A Theory of Conceptualising Difference

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