CCE Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - NSU Access Only

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Computing Technology in Education (DCTE)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Steven R Terrell

Committee Member

Ling Wang

Committee Member

Laurie Dringus


Gifted, Middle School, Science, Underachieving


Gifted children possess incredible abilities and talents. In spite of this, some gifted learners academically underachieve and are at-risk for not completing high school. In the area of gifted student underachievement, research has not provided education stakeholders with concrete answers as to why these students underachieve or provided the best intervention strategies to help these students succeed. These shortcomings have not prevented researchers from further exploring gifted student underachievement, and the focus of current research is based on the lack of student motivation due to boredom in academic tasks which are not challenging or engaging.

A reciprocal relationship could possibly exist between motivation and academic engagement. This relationship could ultimately influence academic achievement. A shift in pedagogical strategy from a teacher-centered environment to a student-centered environment may have to occur to facilitate student motivation and engagement. This shift can be made by integrating technology into the gifted student curriculum. The integration of technology has demonstrated to be a viable student centered teaching strategy, supporting gifted students' cognitive abilities.

This research study investigated the effects of a Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE), River City, on the motivation and academic achievement of underachieving gifted seventh-grade science students. Research results revealed the students using the MUVE had significantly higher overall intrinsic motivation and science intrinsic motivation than the control group. Results also revealed the experimental group did not have significantly higher academic achievement than the control group. These findings impact the field of gifted education by providing an intervention strategy for the target population; contribute to the field's knowledge base by demonstrating that River City can be used to increase the science intrinsic motivation of the target population, and to conduct further studies. These results also contribute to professional practice by providing educators with a pedagogical strategy that increases science intrinsic motivation in underachieving gifted seventh graders. Implications for future research involve replicating the study for more than 10 weeks and investigating the use of subject specific MUVEs. Recommendations comprise transitioning toward a student-centered environment, using alternative forms of assessment, and the school district providing more professional development in the use of MUVEs.

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