Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Teaching and Learning Sciences

First Advisor

Norma Lu Hafenstein, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Blanche M. Kapushion, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Paul Michalec, Ph.D.


Gifted students, Gifted and talented, Social emotional learning (SEL), Universal SEL, Affective education, Gifted social emotional development, Gifted


The purpose of this intrinsic qualitative study was to investigate the use of universal social emotional learning (SEL) curricula as a primary means for supporting the social and emotional developmental needs of gifted students in a large school district in the western U.S. The District, or case for this study, was not using any specific systemic social and emotional programming for their identified gifted learners. Through a constructivist social cognitive theoretical lens, the efficacy of universal curricula for gifted learners was explored. The increasing use of SEL in school reform efforts to improve academic success has provided much research on SEL curricula (Durlak et al., 2011; Elias et al., 1997; Zins et al., 2007). The goal of this study was to provide educational leaders a way to examine universal SEL programs’ efficacy for the affective programming needs of gifted learners.

The large school district setting yielded participants purposively chosen to include one class in each of three elementary schools (n = 3) where gifted learners were included in regular education classrooms using three different universal SEL curricula – Well-Managed Schools, Second Step, and Conscious Discipline. A multi-step process was used to create an evaluation tool, the Social Emotional Learning for Exceptional Children’s Thinking and Emotional Development (SELECTED) Rubric™ (2017) with categories and sub-categories based on analysis of research-based best practices for supporting the social and emotional needs of gifted learners. Resources and references came from the National Association for Gifted Children’s (NAGC) standards, the state’s Department of Education, and others (e.g., Eckert & Robins, 2017; Neihart et al., 2016a; Robinson et al., 2007; Rogers, 2002; VanTassel-Baska et al., 2009). Data were collected via document analysis, 30-minute semi-structured interviews of the teachers and two district administrators, and the evaluation of the three universal curricula via the Rubric.

The results of this study indicate that although teachers had various levels of knowledge about the affective needs of gifted students, they all saw weaknesses in their SEL interventions for meeting their gifted students’ needs. The findings of the study are based on a small sample size, yet the use of universal SEL curricula was not substantiated by these findings as an effective way to meet the unique affective needs of gifted students.

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