“Myself and I”: A multi-vocal approach to the self-narratives of gifted children Lisette Dillon...

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  • Myself and I: A multi-vocal approach to the self-narratives of gifted children Lisette Dillon Dialogical Self 2008 CAMBRIDGEQUT, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA - Email: lisetted@iinet.net.au

  • The big picture

    CHILDRENS PARTICIPATION A global agenda involving the right of children to not wait until they are grown-ups to be heard and to be taken seriously Research trends

  • Impact on early adolescent identityEDUCATIONTeens, tweens... andgifted..?MARGINALIZATION?RESEARCHINTERNETPEERSEXPERTSGLOBAL FORCES

  • Identified asTen childrenGIFTED10-14 year olds

    AUSTRALIA Approx: 400, 0002% of the population (AAEGT, 2008)Children who demonstrate, or maybe capable of demonstrating, advanced abilities in one or more domains of: intellectual; creative;socio-affective or sensorimotor(Gagn, 2003)DefinitionIdentification : one qualitative tool (parent, teacher, peer, self nomination)and one quantitative measure (scores from standardised aptitude or achievement tests) Gifted Education Professional Devt. Package (DEST, 2005)

  • My questionsWhat do the voices of gifted children say about their lives?

    How do gifted children construct and express a sense of self in their journal narratives?

  • Multi-voicing in theorySELF(Hermans, Kempen & van Loon, 1992)Trans-disciplinaryNarrative AgenticSelf as a self-space: an inner chat-roomfor many different but connected voices

  • Over 6 monthsThis is about me and my life!

    Today Idiscovered..

    THE LISTENING GUIDE (Gilligan, Spencer, Weinberg, Bertsch, 2003)Self-narratives that contain many I,me and my statements

  • Thin is beautiful become famous smart girls dont get guysI shouldve triedharder...? Teachers are so unfair ...External worldEg. peers, societyInternal world reason and emotion Eg Voice of regretAttached to rolesEg. The studentEach voice, or IPosition produces a different narrative.

  • #A Venice ForeverContrapuntal voices

  • What the voices tell us...Digital journals are saturated with voices eg. email addresses: wildcatgirl; blitzthunder; gimmelife; piggyinthemiddle. Self-disclosure does not occur readily and will fluctuate voices need to be looked at over an extended period.Very conscious of audience - stay with safe topics (voice of caution) unwilling to take risks regarding social acceptanceUse a variety strategies to persuade the audience and express themselves: symbols; different fonts; creative vocabulary; literary devices.Number of voices not closely linked with age finding a language to express complexity appears to be linked with age.Express strong voices of frustration; anger; exuberance (over the top); independence; distrust ; perfectionism; resistance to adult agendas; humour; anxiety about achievement.Highly variable (heterogeneous)

  • Multi-voicing is a way of showing respect to ones Narrators (Czarniawaska, 2004). Multi-voicing is a promising means of contributing to identity research (Kiegelmann, 2007).

    Introduction - Today I want to share a way that I am using Dialogical Self Theory within Social Sciences research. My presentation is from a present study into the lives of a specific group of children who are a) early adolescents and b) identified as gifted. First I will provide some brief background into the study, including my reasons for wanting to investigate this group. Then I will explain why DST is such a promising approach within identity research and how it can help shed light on what we know (or think we know) about children. My aim is to demonstrate that children speak in many voices and that they may be much more complex than adults imagine. .

    *My work aligns with what is now referred to as childrens participation (refer). Whether one believes or not that children have a right to have their views heard holds important implications for their identities . This is because by respecting childrens own knowledge about themselves and their world, we are less likely to limit who they are according to adult-only interpretations. Adults in many instances claim expert status over childrens lives and do not always seek to include childrens input about themselves as being important information. But growing interest in participatory paradigms has influenced the ways that research involving children is carried out. Hence, there is interest in multi-disciplinary approaches (refer) - so that we can expand our thinking; child-centred approaches (refer) - that means we enter childrens worlds and are responsive to their feelings; and participatory approaches (refer) where we listen to childrens suggestions and treat them as partners in the research process. What are some reasons to use such research approaches with children who are managing early adolescence and giftedness?

    * What do we know about the betwixt and between age of early adolescents? We know that this group (in western societies) is highly receptive and socially aware, that peers rule, that they are switched on to technology , celebrity and consumerism, and that they are prone to switch off to school and to adults. Yet we know next to nothing about the confluence of these forces on young identities.

    Education in particular has been slow to embrace principles of participation. It appears that schools are not good at listening to what children say, and school life can produce narrow descriptions of children that impact and limit the kinds of identities that they can form. Yet, there is a dearth of identity research amongst this group - it appears that older, influential identity models have created a blind spot where young adolescents are concerned.

    When we add the dimension of giftedness to the whole early adolescent picture, things become even more complicated. In terms of identity this amounts to a double-whammy. Yet typically, the voices of this group are seldom heard in mainstream education and they can be especially prone to school disengagement.

    *Who are gifted children? The present study acknowledges that how giftedness is seen and expressed may vary across cultures . These are the reported numbers of identified-gifted children in Australian schools (refer). In Australia, as with most western countries, giftedness is linked to accepted definitions, such as the one shown and used for this project (refer) This guides identification processes (refer) and the types of provision that occur within schools. However, while the participants for my study were identified by school processes, they were accessed out of the school setting. Since aspects of formal schooling pose problems for many gifted young adolescents, concerns were held about their reluctance to self-disclose within the school environment. I wanted to know how they see themselves beyond the kind of self they portrayed at school.

    For most young teens it can be difficult to be seen as different at a critical point in working out who you are and where you fit in. And when the struggle for peer acceptance must be juggled with the demands of talent and all the other normal aspects of being a young teen the challenges to identity mount up. Hence, these challenge can extend well beyond the typical experiences expected by age peers. * In wanting to learn more about this group and how they choose to describe and construct who they, my questions are...*For this investigation, multi-voicing provides a useful perspective. DST is an exciting approach to identity because it appears to capture the human condition. But in DST we use a different language. Instead of having good or bad character we are instead thought of as exhibiting a flux self - one that toggles between different positions depending on the perceived demands of the situation. Like a virtual chatroom, self is a space for many kinds of different voices to engage with each other.

    For childrens research DST has 3 key features: it is transdisciplinary and can thus accommodate the tensions that exist between the socially-constructed aspects of children and the question of their having innate qualities (such as giftedness, for example). It centres on narrative - which involves using individuals own words and not those that are filtered by others (for example, more powerful adults). Hence it works hand-in-glove with participatory principles. Third, there is personal agency involved in creating ones different selves. Hence, children are assumed to be active in the processes of making and re-making who they are. But there are practical challenges to multi-voiced research as we will see.* The first problem is in getting self-disclosure. Getting children to open-up and tell us the things we want to know is not an easy task. Young adolescents in particular may be suspicious of adult agendas and not want to share their thoughts. However, as a general rule, they do demonstrate preferences that guide a choice of strategies for encouraging self-disclosure for example, they are typically secretive, interested in themselves, and enjoy using technology. I found digital journaling to be one way of appealing to these preferences. Journal entries thus offer excellent potential for gaining access to narratives of the self these are highly self-referential , meaning they typically contain frequent use of personal pronouns such as I me and my An important aspect of this approach is that it allows for an extended view and is capable of capturing a self that fluctuates over time.

    Next, to find the voices within these journal scripts, a tool for listening can be used


    *The Listening method provides a heuristic, or a strategy for breaking into the journal texts that children produce. It requires tuning in to levels of voice that may be hidden as well as explicitly expressed. Each step is a se