Cochran, Kathryn F.

Committee Member

Ritchotte, Jennifer

Committee Member

Vaughan, Angela

Committee Member

Omdal, Stuart


Psychological Sciences


University of Northern Colorado

Type of Resources


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)


University of Northern Colorado

Date Created





226 pages

Digital Origin

Born digital


Past research has indicated that teachers’ use of power directly influences students’ sense of empowerment and that students who feel empowered are more likely to be motivated. Research has also indicated that gifted students who are motivated achieve at a level commensurate with their ability. Lack of teacher training regarding giftedness likely influences teachers’ use of power, thereby impacting gifted high school students’ perceptions of empowerment and motivation. The relationship between teacher power and student empowerment and motivation, however, has not been thoroughly investigated in gifted education literature. This phenomenological study explored classroom situations in which gifted high school students felt empowered and the relationship between power, empowerment, and motivation. The study was conducted from a phenomenological perspective to better understand these gifted students’ perceptions of empowerment within their classrooms. Specifically, the researcher attempted to explore the impact of different power dynamics, including teachers’ utilization of various relational power bases (i.e., reward power, coercive power, legitimate power, referent power, expert power) on gifted students’ learning, their levels of motivation and engagement, and their overall sense of empowerment. The 29 gifted students in this study reported that their learning, engagement, motivation, and sense of empowerment were directly impacted by the power dynamics within their classrooms, including the ways in which teachers chose to utilize power. Teacher power was perceived most positively by these students when it was based on authentic, personal relationships; utilized to structure and control the classroom environment so all students could learn; and shared with students. Additionally, the more connected these students felt to (a) teachers, (b) peers, (c) learning, (d) self, and (e) home and community, the more motivated and empowered they felt. Based on the findings in this study, it is important for educators to realize the significant impact the climate they create and encourage within their classrooms has on their gifted students and to take steps to make it as motivating and empowering as possible. Recommendations include providing educational opportunities and support for pre-service and current educators regarding (a) the academic and affective characteristics and learning needs of gifted high school students and (b) the importance and positive impact of facilitating connections and sharing power in the classroom.


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