Promoting growth in gifted females : a naturalistic case study

Rhodes, Celeste, Department of Education, University of Virginia
Callahan, Carolyn, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Comfort, Ronald, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Loyd, Brenda, University of Virginia
Strang, Harold, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This case study is an exploration of the life of a highly productive gifted female to understand and describe the individual, family, and educational factors and interactions that promoted her growth. The informant selected for this study was considered to be among a select group of the 11 most successful PEG graduates (as of 1992) on the basis of her exceptional academic and extracurricular productivity, and judgments of her personal growth by administrators of the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) at Mary Baldwin College.

PEG is an early entrance college residential program for gifted adolescent females which began in 1985. Students are given the opportunity to complete their college degree in as few as four years. Prospective students apply to PEG from their eighth grade year on and are accepted based upon giftedness, consistent achievement, and personal maturity. Ruby Kelp was selected as an exemplary graduate who demonstrated optimal development, was reflective, and had good rapport with this researcher.

A naturalistic, case study approach provided an interactive perspective acknowledging the critical nature of context in studying such a complex subject as human growth. Theory emerged from: textual data; products selected by the graduate; and in-depth interviews and observations of Ruby, her parents, and mentors. Focus on remarkable human functioning provided an understanding of how that optimal functioning occurred, was fostered, and developed.

Rich descriptive information helps explain how a gifted female was nurtured and empowered to be productive at such a young age. A family model of interdependence emerged from the evidence and focused on four themes. First, the Kelps promoted love and commitment in their family. Second, the Kelps promoted authenticity and autonomy by modeling the process of being true to oneself and self-governing. Third, the Kelps promoted uniqueness and purpose by forging unique identities despite norms for their culture. Fourth, the Kelps promoted interdependence· and evolving purpose by working to return their gifts and make a difference in others' lives. Study findings affirmed and extended experts' assertions and future directions for research were offered in parenting and educating gifted females.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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