INTO THE WOODS WE GO
The quest for resources to aid my inquiry question had two major purposes; to fulfill the requirements of my university assignment, and to begin to develop an understanding of what I will need in order to support secondary school teachers in my new role as gifted and talented program coordinator.
Even before I had started researching my original inquiry question, How can inquiry learning assist secondary teachers to develop their knowledge of the different needs of gifted students?
it had begun to evolve. The first step (developing a key word concept map) had exposed the indisputable fact that my inquiry question was too broad for the time frame and purpose. An initial Google search further illustrated this with a return of approximately 2,750,000 results.
I needed to “Goldilocks” it again, to make sure that the question was not too broad, not too narrow, just right.
So, I refined my question to How can I assist secondary teachers to develop their knowledge of the needs of gifted students? When this returned 6,210,000 results, it became apparent that I was going to need to do some further refining if I was going to get any useful results from Google.
My next task involved a more active inquiry method - meeting with the Heads of Departments and secondary teachers themselves. I needed to listen to them, to find out their preconceptions and beliefs about gifted education if I was going to be able to assist their learning. These valuable conversations confirmed previous research; that there are a great many differing views on gifted education. Perspectives ranged from those who believed that it was socially unjust to give gifts to the gifted, those who believed that gifted students will succeed no matter what, those who focused on performance, and those who looked for potential as well as performance.
I believed that the first thing that secondary teachers were going to need was to see a purpose. They needed to know why they should be expending their precious time to learn more about gifted education. My first guiding question was “Why give gifts to the gifted?”
GOOGLE and Google Scholar
My first response was to jump onto Google, after all, isn’t that the most obvious reaction in a world where “to Google” is now a verb? However, it became almost immediately obvious that this was not a Google friendly search statement.
Whilst this was not quite on the search focus, the resources it uncovered looked more useful, so I followed this path, and changed my search to “talent development as a framework for gifted education”. Google again had too many results; however, its first reference was to Google Scholar, which told me that I was possibly going to find better results there. One of which was a link to the first resources I had used when developing previous teacher professional development, PD Modules produced by GERRIC. Another was a wonderful 2019 literature review of the current research on Gifted Education. These two resources would definitely be useful. During this time, I also had learned how to link my Google Scholar search to my QUT account, which gave me much greater access to the peer-reviewed research articles that interested me.
Next, I tried Google Scholar’s Advanced search, this was a function that I had tried previously, but with little knowledge or success. Maybe I would be more successful this time?
Reading the description of the resources, both written by highly respected leaders in the field of gifted education, indicated that I was on the right path. Further investigation confirmed my beliefs, and resources from Gagné and Renzulli were added to the collection. These were particularly valuable because the two theorists approach giftedness and talent from a very different perspective, and if I was to support the inquiry of secondary teachers, I would need to give them access to multiple perspectives and allow them to make up their own minds .
Next the term “perceptions” appeared to be a useful key term – though very far removed from my initial key word concept map. I followed this thread. The first resource appeared to be very useful; however, it was not available to the general public in any format and was therefore not accessible to my target inquirers, so it was not selected.
My next idea was that if I could show teachers with social justice concerns how they could increase the representation of the under-represented, this could be a motivating factor. So I tried Google Scholar, “gifted education” perceptions “underrepresentation”. Google Scholar gave 2,370 results; however, they were very US-centric, especially focused on African American and Hispanic students, there were no English as an additional language learners, learners from low socio-economic backgrounds, the twice exceptional or Aboriginal learners, commonly the minority populations of interest to Australian teachers. Adding (2010 – 2020) and “Australia” to the search string, refined the results much further (311 results). Whilst many of these were still not what I sought, one article Teacher perceptions of gifted cultural minorities: An Australian study looked very promising. It was not exactly what I was looking for, but the final sentence of the abstract gave me hope
“Despite these somewhat negative findings, teachers at the study site viewed it to be
an educator's responsibility to cater for the gifted cultural minority student,
suggesting the participants would be willing to address the problems identified.”
If this was true, that teachers viewed catering for gifted minority students as their responsibility, maybe my next search should be back to what would be useful for them in their learning? Refining my Google Scholar search to "teacher attitudes" "gifted education" "professional development" Australia 2000-2020 provided me with some highly interesting and useful references (see curated collection).
DATA BASE SEARCHING
Several days later, with more experience listening to the people I was working with, and more reflection of my own, I realised that my inquiry question needed to transform again. I needed to take myself out of the mix, to focus on what the learners needed, rather than on myself.
The question became: What do secondary teachers need to develop their knowledge of gifted students? It was time to stop avoiding the new and slightly daunting world of databases. The first database I used was A+ Education (via Informit), primarily because it was an Australian database of Australian education journals, and my context was very much Australian.
As the above screen shot illustrates, the database search provided only two results; however, both were extremely valuable resources and were included in the curated collection. This time it was time to widen the search string to see what other serendipitous finds would eventuate.
Several of these resources were very interesting, and some have been included in the curated collection, but more were not included due to lack of general access. I had decided to make this inquiry purposeful, and if the intended audience was unable to access the resources (after I had attempted to utilise databases available through our school library), then I would not include them.
I next tried ERIC plus Education Source (via EBSCOhost), despite its US/international focus. I remembered using it back in the 1990s when searching for information online and hoped that it would provide more freely available resources. My search skills were definitely refining – after multiple attempts gifted students AND high school AND teaching NOT statistics, limited to full text, published 2000 – 2019 provided more interesting articles, but it was time to become more focused.
SOCIAL MEDIA SEARCHES
I had taken many twists and turns in my Database search which had helped me to realise, yet again, that distractability is a very real threat once researching online for a passion project. Maybe I would have been wiser to dissociate my university studies from my real life passions, but it was too late now, I now had 86 items that had “looked interesting” while I was searching.
Goldilocks had something else to remind me – not too off topic, not too distracting – just focus on the topic! I had to stay on task.
Previous studies in Connected Learning had introduced me to TwitterDeck, and it was to Twitter and possible PLNs (professional learning networks) that I first turned.
I already followed #gtchat and #giftedminds, and through them realised that the World Conference for Gifted and Talented Children was occurring at that very moment. Keynote Speaker was Lannie Kanevsky, who I had met in 2011 as part of my studies in gifted education. I knew the site that I wanted to use in my Curated Collection- Possibilities for Learning, which is linked with Lannie’s research. Finding this resource was not as difficult as others would prove to be; however, it demonstrated that sometimes the mental connections that we make whilst searching are also useful.
FaceBook is often criticised by users for its ability to divert users from more pressing issues in the “real world”, and it took this Goldilocks on many new and time-consuming paths. I went to groups focused on gifted education where I was already a member and discovered more items of interest, one of which is included – though focused on a current issue in New York City.