ACADEMIC TALENT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS OF STUDENTS WITH GIFTS AND TALENTS IN HONORS COLLEGE: A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF ACHIEVING AND UNDERACHIEVING GROUPS
The purpose of this study is to understand achieving and underachieving honors students’ perceptions and experiences of their talent development process. Students currently enrolled in the Honors College at research-intensive public university in the Midwest participated in this study. Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (DMGT, Gagné, 2009) was used as a conceptual framework with a sequential explanatory mixed methods research design. In the quantitative phase, the Academic Talent Development Factor Survey was redeveloped to measure honors students’ perceptions and experiences of their academic talent development in terms of four components of DMGT: gifts, intrapersonal catalysts, environmental catalysts, and developmental process. A total of 174 honors students were assigned to two groups: achieving (n = 143) and underachieving (n = 31) groups. The redeveloped survey showed an acceptable model fit but should be improved to accomplish reasonable reliability and validity. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE, 2011) was used to determine whether honors students with underachievement are less exposed to good practices for undergraduate education (Chickering & Gamson, 1999) than their peers who maintain high academic performance.
In the quantitative phase, discriminant analysis and chi-square test results did not yield appreciable differences in pre-college characteristics including gender, ethnicity, and SAT/ACT scores between two groups. In terms of four components of DMGT, discriminant analysis results revealed that developmental process, environmental catalysts, intrapersonal catalysts were statistically significant factors to determine differences between achieving and underachieving honors students in this study. Additionally, discriminant analysis results indicated that achieving and underachieving honors students showed high level of exposure to good practices. The differences between two groups were significant with good practices including (a) faculty interest in teaching and student development, (b) quality of non-classroom interaction with faculty, (c) academic challenge and effort, and (d) challenging classes and high faculty expectations.
In the qualitative phase, in-depth interviews were conducted to investigate similar and different patterns between achieving and underachieving honors students. Interview data from eleven achieving students, four underachieving students, and three honors advisors/staff were analyzed. From the student interviews, four composite textural themes and four composite structural themes were identified. From the interviews with staff/advisors, four composite textural themes and four composite structural themes were identified. Qualitative analysis results supported the findings from the quantitative phase and provided detailed picture of participants’ perceptions and experiences. Both achieving and underachieving students confirmed their natural ability but understood the importance of effort, task commitment. Honors students in the achieving group showed clear purpose of being honors students, focused on benefits, and anticipated opportunities in their academic talent development in the honors college Underachieving honors students did not share the same expectations. Honors students in the underachieving group viewed benefits as either unimportant or as additional work. Since few studies exist related specifically to the talent development process of honors students, this study adds to the literature and understanding of underachievement in honors college.