Scholars on the sidelines : a phenomenological study of high-achieving elementary students in southwest Missouri
High-achieving students are those who enter the classroom ready and able to learn. They demonstrate their abilities by earning high grades in their coursework and by receiving high scores on standardized tests. The purpose of this phenomenological inquiry was to articulate the lived experiences of high-achieving elementary students in suburban schools in southwest Missouri. How would high-achieving elementary students, their parents, and their classroom teachers describe the academic experiences of high-achieving elementary students in suburban schools in southwest Missouri? Specific research probes looked at the degree to which these students received differentiated instruction and sought to uncover the classroom experiences and academic structures that best support and most hinder these students? growth. The findings show that students have limited differentiated opportunities. In speaking to parents, students, and teachers, the following classroom structures and academic structures emerged as those that most hinder learning: (a) mixed-ability classrooms, (b) a focus on standardization, (c) teaching to the middle, and (d) personality clashes with teachers. The following classroom structures and experiences emerged from the data as those that support high-achieving students: (a) pursuing their passions in and out of the classroom; (b) supportive teachers; and (c) confronting and conquering academic challenges. Implications from this study could provide researchers, educators, and administrators more insight into the needs of high-achievers and recommendations for supporting these students in the classroom.
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