Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Teaching and Learning Sciences, Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Norma L. Hafenstein

Second Advisor

Paul Michalec

Third Advisor

Brette Garner

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Goetz


Agency, Differentiation, Gifted, Self-perception, University, Women


While the advocacy of differentiation as best pedagogical practices for instruction of gifted students can be found in scholarly literature, minimal research attention has been given to high-ability students’ perceptions about their lived classroom experiences. Lack of challenging and accelerated content for identified gifted students can lead to boredom, negative self-perception, and disengagement from school. Gifted adolescent females, who are less likely to address barriers to realizing their potential can especially suffer or thrive depending on curriculum. The purpose of this qualitative study is to describe identified female gifted university students’ perceptions of pre-collegiate and collegiate differentiation of curriculum and instruction to find the essence of their lived experiences. This phenomenological research study shares the stories of ten gifted women in U.S. higher education. Data collection included in-depth interviews with gifted women within five years of high school graduation. Three themes emerged from data analysis: differentiation, agency, and self-perception. As supported in previous literature, the women in this study reported a lack of differentiation in secondary school. In higher education, the participants described some differentiation in terms of course content, process, product, and setting. A second finding was the level of agency in which all the women engaged to control their own educational experiences. Through participation in multiple, concurrent extracurricular activities, these gifted women supplemented their formal academic classes by independently regulating their learning. A third finding relating to self-perception revealed that nine of the ten participants in this study did not fully understand the manifestations of their own giftedness, while some experienced imposter syndrome. Implications for secondary educators point to a need for more systematic differentiation made to curriculum, instruction, and assessment for gifted students. Implications for higher education suggest broadening the concept of differentiation to enable students to design their own interdisciplinary majors. Another implication for students, parents, and educators is that gifted students need explicit training in the nature, development, types, and needs of gifted individuals. The women in this study expressed interest in learning about giftedness; the clear implication is that gifted students should be taught about giftedness in secondary and/or higher education.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Ann Makikalli


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

237 pgs


Curriculum development, Gifted education, Higher education