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Critical Review of a Research Article

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Manchester University

MEd Educational Psychology

Student Registration Number: 440880

MD699 Research Issues in Psychology

Critical Review of a Research Article

Pupils who exhibit gifted characteristics along with another disability are referred to as 'twice-exceptional students' (Morrison, 2001; Nielsen 2002). This term is used in the article that I have chosen to review, which analyses the responses and perceptions through interview, of one particular individual (Andrew) who was identified as being gifted and talented (G/T) and who had emotional and behavioural disabilities (EBD). What the researchers aimed to accomplish through this analysis was a clearer understanding of Andrew's community and school experiences, as they stated that there was a lack of empirical data focusing upon pupils who displayed such behaviours.

The features of the research design were straightforward and simple: a qualitative analysis with one participant; a structured interview, recorded then later transcribed and analysed to produce 3 themes; a conclusion which produced findings of Andrew's experiences as a twice-exceptional student. It is the appropriateness of the methods that were used in this study which will inform my first critique of this article. I will then move on to discuss the data which was collected, before finally examining how effective the conclusion is.

Morrison and Omdal chose to include only one participant in their study, which compares quite significantly to the research of others in similar areas that have included a greater number of participants (Gross, 1994; Sankar-DeLeeuw, 2004; Howe et al, 1998). This particular participant, named under the pseudonym of Andrew, was 22 years of age when he consented to partake in the research. A brief description of his formidable successes both academic and socially, pointed out that he was currently employed as a 'permanent substitute teacher' (p.2). The reader is immediately drawn to a young man who has accomplished and triumphed against his 'disabilities'; instantly gaining the respect of the readers' as his successes show strength of character and determination. Surely then questions must arise about the validity of using such a small, select sample. Can the quality of data that has been gathered be representative of the population (Cohen et al 20002) of twice-exceptional students? It is my assumption that no, it cannot. Especially since the chosen participant is a teacher reflecting upon his educational experiences that occurred some years ago. The fact that he was in the teaching profession, immediately infers that there may be some bias in his reflections during the interview. Teaching, according to the Teacher's Training Agency, "...is a job for those who like and respect young people" (2005). Andrew clearly from his responses, suffered during his schooling, and perhaps felt disrespected as a result of being labelled. His position as an educator a number of years later, enable him to look quite critically upon his educators, almost, one could argue with an expert eye.

As well as the questions which are raised about the size of the sample that was used, it is also necessary to point out the lack of detail present concerning how the sample was chosen. Andrew's reflective experiences several years after they occurred surely cannot be as valid as for example, a sample of children displaying twice-exceptional abilities within schools at the time of commencing the research. Perhaps Morrison and Omdal had valid reasons for choosing Andrew as their lone participant, but this detail is missing from their study. There is no evidence either to suggest whether Andrew was de-briefed about the nature of this study, which could prove significant with regard to his responses to the interview questions, especially as he talks with such fervour about his experiences.

Since they only had one participant for this research, an interview was an appropriate method to gain access to Andrew's experiences in school and in the community. An interview as stated in Cohen et al (2002), "[is] an interchange of views between two or more people on a topic of mutual interest..." (p.267). In this study there was no deficit in the amount of data collected by the questions asked by the researcher, with Andrew providing 'depth and clarification' (p.3) in some replies.

The findings that the researchers identified (p.3) form the next part of my critique. The themes which were found through analysis of the data compare to other researchers who find that gifted children in particular suffer from various social vulnerabilities as a result of their special needs (Porter, 1999; Lovecky 1992; Schuler 2003). What strikes me about some of the data is the bias which comes across from Andrew's reflections. He states, "They uprooted me and put me in a classroom because of my behaviour instead of trying to deal with the behaviour in the classroom" (p.3). The researchers analyse this as being the participant's anger and frustration towards his labelled disabilities. He then goes on to describe, "I don't remember a single thing that we did in there that I considered as being educational" (p.3). Were these statements an actuality of what he would have stated at the time in question, or were they the result of his ability to reflect from a teacher's perspective? Nevertheless the statements he makes, which are often quite controversial e.g. "We did not learn about math or science that I recall" (p.3), do seem to be conducive to the type of evidence that the researchers may have required to support their preconceived ideas.

Andrew's reflections of feeling like an 'outsider in his neighbourhood' (p.4), as a result of his placement into a specific program for children with his needs, corresponds with authors such as Louise Porter who states that the consequences of low peer acceptance can lead to feelings of loneliness and feelings of isolation, "isolated children have fewer supports for coping with the daily stresses of life, and less confidence in and experience at eliciting support from others" (1999, p.154). It can be argued therefore that Andrew's experiences were similar

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