Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Christian Z. Goering

Committee Member

Marcia B. Imbeau

Second Committee Member

Jennifer G. Beasley


Education, Activism, Community, Curriculum, Gender, Gifted education, Self-concept


The first of the following manuscripts addresses the experiences of a group of gifted middle school students as they engaged in community action projects that provided them opportunity to become activists in their school, neighborhood, and larger community. This study pays special attention to participants’ self-concepts as measured by the Harter Self-Perception Profile for Children (2012) and through participant interviews. The study finds evidence of students’ co-cognitive components of giftedness when themes of courage, sensitivity to human concerns, and sense of destiny are applied. Main themes from Harter’s scale are also applied, and participant interviews reveal evidence of academic and Social competence. While the data do not support statistically significant change in students’ self-concepts, specific domains of self-concept see larger increases than others, and participant interviews reveal the students’ perceptions of the particular ways they grew through the process of becoming activists.

The second manuscript examines qualitative data collected as students engaged in their community action projects but places special focus on the experiences of the female participants and the ways that their self-concepts were influenced by their experiences. This study develops four main themes through an inductive approach to data analysis: academic experiences, affective self, self-concept, and barriers to self-concept growth. A feminist lens was applied during data analysis. The unique female perspective of this study’s participants is particularly important to this study. Participants shared their perceptions of their gendered experiences in schools and explored their experiences operating as community activists.

The final manuscript features three female participants from the greater study. The participants were selected for further study because of their insightful reflections, demonstrated growth, and interest in continuing their activist work in the future. Interview data reveal that the participants viewed their successes as activists as informative to their development and as powerful learning experiences. However, they described having to overcome much disappointment in adults, the institutions within which they were operating, and society in general. The first main theme, disappointment, seems to be addressed by additional main themes: personal growth, determination, passion, and motivation. Connections can also be made to co-cognitive components of giftedness.