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  • Linda Helaskoski

“It’s boring because I know a lot.”

Gifted Students’ Experiences of Differentiation in Finnish Elementary Schools

Finland’s highly egalitarian educational system lacks official definitions and policies regarding gifted students. The Finnish National Core Curriculum proposes differentiation as the method by which to meet the diverse needs of students in the inclusive Finnish classroom. Previous research indicates that many Finnish teachers lack adequate knowledge about how to support and differentiate instruction for the gifted. This thesis focuses on gifted students’ experiences of differentiation in mixed-ability public schools in Finland. Four gifted students in grades 5 and 6 participated in one semi-structured interview where they were asked questions about assignments in school. The transcripts from the interviews were analyzed with a thematic analysis method and a hermeneutic-phenomenological research approach. Through the thematic analysis, six themes were generated from the material: Acceleration and ability grouping, lack of differentiation, finishing assignments early, inaction and unawareness in teachers, support from teachers, and dealing with peers. The results show that while all students had acceleration measures in place, the students did not seem to receive sufficiently differentiated instruction in school. They found assignments unchallenging, and finished their work early, leading to a lot of idle time in class spent doing things unrelated to the current lesson. Furthermore, the students described their teachers as passive and even unaware of the fact that assignments are too easy. Frustration and boredom seemed to be common feelings in the lived experiences of gifted students in the mixed-ability classroom, which further points toward the need for effective differentiation for gifted students.


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