How do I understand and communicate my values and beliefs in my work as an educator in the field of giftedness?

Abstract of Barry Hymer's D.Ed.Psy. Submission

In this thesis I make a claim to know my own educational development (a claim to have generated theory), and to be in a position to influence my own future educational development, the development of others, and the development of social formations. I document my attempt to critique - and to contribute to a transformation of - dominant epistemologies in the field of gifted and talented education, and to describe and explain my own compromised relationship with this field of enquiry. The account draws ultimately - though not initially - on post-modernist psychological and philosophical insights, and the living theory action research approach to practitioner self-study (Whitehead, 1993; Whitehead & McNiff, 2006). In it, I describe and explain the source of my dissatisfaction with traditional western, rationalist approaches to the field of gifted and talented education, with their instrumentalist, dualistic, individualistic, pragmatic, tool-for-result (cf. Vygotsky, 1978; Newman & Holzman, 1993), knowing-centred associations.

I articulate in narrative form the meanings of my embodied ontological values through their emergence in my practice - specifically in my practice of philosophy with children, in creating webs of meaning through dilemma-based learning, and in seeking to unmask (Foucault, in Rabinow, 1984) the concept of giftedness - by asking whose interests the concept serves. In the process of living, clarifying and communicating the meanings of these practices are formed, I argue, living epistemological standards of judgement for a new, relationally dynamic epistemology of educational enquiry. I record also how through my professional activity, my reflections on and revisions of this activity, and the process of creating this account, I have moved in the direction of creating and living my core personal and educational values and realising the critical standards of judgment which are both consisting in and attendant on these values. These include the value of individual intellectual respect as a contributor to the creation of generative-transformational giftedness - i.e. giftedness which is co-constructed (not identified) in a social, relationally respectful, activity-oriented, dialectical, tool-and-result (Vygotsky, 1978) manner and context. I make a claim to originality in scholarship in articulating the emergence of the value-laden concept of generative-transformational giftedness and its latent fecundity in and relevance to the field of gifted and talented education. To this end, I suggest an inclusional, non-dualistic alternative to the identification or discovery of an individual's gifts and talents by arguing that activity- and development-centred (not knowing-centred) learning-leading-development (Vygotsky, ibid.) environments lead not to the identification of gifts and talents but to their creation.

Finally, I ask that if this account is judged to be unconvincing, it will have been judged so "on criteria that I avow, not on criteria that I disown." (Quinn, 1997, pp.4-5)


You can download the PhD in chapters which are stored in PDF Format

Frontpiece, contents, abstract page 1

Part One: Where shall I go? How do I improve this process of education here? page 6
1.1 Prologue - three short stories, backwards in time
1.2 Interpretation of the stories, and rationale for this enquiry
1.3 Finding a method; recognising data
1.4 Understanding myself as a living contradiction: my educational values are negated in my practice as an educator in the field of giftedness:
* Dialectic 1 (content): I believe in the creation of gifts, but instead I privilege their discovery
* Dialectic 2 (process): I believe in dialogic co-enquiry, but instead I practise didactic presentation
* Dialectic 3 (product): I'd like to provide ordnance survey maps, but instead I offer flow-charts

Part Two: Which routes do I know? Imagining and acting on solutions page 55
2.1 A matter of definition - who's gifted, and who says?
2.2 Doing and promoting philosophy with children
2.3 Creating webs of meaning through dilemma-based learning

Part Three: How can I tell when I'm there? Evaluating the outcomes of my actions page 106
3.1 Social evaluative reflections from critical friends and course participants:
* the emergence of generative-transformational giftedness
* creating relationally dynamic epistemological standards of judgment
3.2 My claim to know my own educational development: mapping my future as a consultant in gifted education - a reconciliation, a renunciation, or a continuing creative tension?

References page 139

Appendix 1: Interview Schedule: 2003 Barrow EAZ. Gifts and Talents Summer School page 153

Appendix 2: Barrow EAZ Gifts and Talents Summer School. Children's Responses to Questions (Cf. Appendix 1) page 154

Appendix 3: Transcript of Philosophical Enquiry page 163

Appendix 4: Examples of Dilemmas page 173

Appendix 5: Wise Webs page 176

Appendix 6: Request for Feedback from Course Delegates page 183

Appendix 7: Additional examples of the five themes embodied in the notion of generative-transformational giftedness page 184