Date of Completion


Embargo Period



talent development, gifted, adolescents, summer programs, grounded theory

Major Advisor

Catherine A. Little

Associate Advisor

E. Jean Gubbins

Associate Advisor

Preston A. Britner

Associate Advisor

Jennie Weiner

Field of Study

Educational Psychology


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Special summer programs are considered a popular service-delivery approach to bolster the talent development of all students. This study seeks to explore protective factors that influence high-ability students’ talent development. Factors influencing the talent development of high-ability students are understudied, often in favor of researching underachievement and resilience.

Because very little research seeks the perceptions of these students in their own words, this study used a grounded theory approach to explore 54 students’ perceptions of their own talent development within the context of a residential, inquiry-based summer program for high-ability adolescents. Responses across all parts of the study revealed three key findings: (a) participants recognized a variety of internal and external influences on their talent development and pursuit of academic success; (b) students’ self-perceptions around ability, motivation, and effort were revealed in how they compared themselves with peers; and (c) students’ views of the value of protective factors were linked to their perceptions of the factors’ utility in reaching goals as well as perceptions of corresponding underlying support.

Students perceived protective factors to include support from significant persons, challenge seeking, goal setting, and effort. Participants related these internal and external factors to their ability to set and take steps toward the attainment of goals in the future and viewed external support more positively when they perceived it had utility for their reaching their goals. Comparisons to similar peers revealed how students viewed their own ability, motivations, and effort as key pieces of their identity.