This qualitative study investigated the internal and external protective factors that serve to ameliorate barriers to academic achievement posed by the cultural factors of poverty, minority status, and rural residence for high-ability students, rendering them academically resilient. While there has been ample research on underachievement among students who are gifted adolescents, who are African-American, who are living in poverty, and who are living in rural communities, heretofore there has been a dearth of research that examines academically successful students who possess the confluence of such factors.
Resilience research has revealed both external factors and internal factors that serve to protect students who possess a single at-risk factor from underachievement; the extent to which such elements serve gifted adolescents with multiple at-risk traits has not heretofore been investigated.
The participants of the study were four gifted African-American high school students who lived in rural poverty. Data for each were collected through interviews with the participant, his or her mother, a middle school teacher, and high school teacher. Analysis was conducted by hand through theme derivation of interviews transcribed verbatim.
Findings revealed protective factors of relationships, school environments, high academic expectations and specific goals for college and career, specific personal traits, and a variety of coping strategies.
Implications for policy and practice include the need for early identification and placement of students into gifted programs, appropriate representation of African American students in gifted programs, opportunities for gifted students to experience appropriately challenging curricula with their intellectual peers, and the need for supportive teachers and parents.
Implications for future research include issues regarding academic resilience related to affective factors, variations among rural settings, and replication with various ethnic groups in alternate settings.