Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Nowicki, Elizabeth


This dissertation comprises three studies exploring Australian and Canadian students’ perspectives on grade-based acceleration. The first study involved Australian high-ability students, ages 9 to 14, in a two-phase group concept mapping exercise. First, I interviewed participants to hear their beliefs about grade-based acceleration. From the interview transcripts, I synthesized a list of 60 student-generated factors to consider when deciding on acceleration. Next, participants who had accelerated sorted the list of factors into groups, and rated the importance of each. I applied multi-dimensional scaling (MDS) and hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) to the sorted data, and identified six key concepts including (a) Academic Challenge, (b) Child’s Thoughts About Moving Up, (c) Different Subjects, (d) New class, (e) Others’ Thoughts, and (f) Social Aspects.

The second study reports another group concept mapping exploration of factors to consider when deciding on acceleration. This study involved students in inclusive grade 6, 7, and 8 classes in Ontario who participated in interviews and data structuring activities. In this two-phase study, students sorted and rated a list of 53 statements they had generated. Using MDS and HCA statistical analyses, I identified five key concepts among student-generated factors to consider when deciding on acceleration: (a) Better for the Fast Learner, (b), Concerns of Moving Up (c), Benefits for Others (d), Potential Barriers to Acceptance and (e) Uncomfortable Feelings.

In the third study, I thematically analyzed qualitative data from the interviews with Ontarian students. This study describes students’ overall perspectives on grade-based acceleration, and reports student-generated strategies to support the inclusion of students who accelerate. Participants suggested a variety of strategies to encourage the inclusion of students who accelerate and emphasized behaviours classmates could undertake to be inclusive. Findings suggest that fears about the potential for social exclusion of accelerated students may need critical, contextual re-examination.

Taken together, the findings from these studies suggest that students believe acceleration may provide benefits to students who accelerate, their classmates, and their teachers. Students emphasized individual and contextual considerations in the decision to accelerate, and generated various inclusive strategies to promote the social inclusion of students who accelerate.