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Gifted education specializes in teaching students who are particularly gifted and talented in one specific area or who exhibit above-average attainment across a range of subjects.

Gifted education teaches children who have been identified as talented or gifted.

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Teaching gifted education

Sometimes known as Gifted and Talented Education or Talented and Gifted, every school should endeavor to support children who excel in certain areas or who habitually achieve results over and above the standard expected for their age.

See the following teaching gifted education topics:

  • Teaching gifted students resources
  • Tips for teaching gifted students
  • Student lesson plans
  • Gifted students in the classroom accommodations
  • How to support gifted and talented students in the classroom
  • Gifted teacher job description
  • Helping gifted students
  • Gifted special education

The right way of teaching gifted education

Specializing in gifted education allows teachers to work with students who enjoy challenges and respond to innovative teaching methods. In most instances, individuals who undertake gifted education certification programs have already qualified as teachers and wish to focus on this particular area of teaching. Of course, obtaining a gifted education certification does not prevent teachers from working in a standard classroom setting. It enables them to increase their qualifications and deliver effective teaching to a wider demographic of students.

Although most individuals who commit to obtaining additional gifted education qualifications are already working as teachers, some degree programs do not require previous teaching qualifications or classroom experience. If you’re training to become a teacher and are interested in working with gifted students, this certification may be incorporated into your qualifying studies.

How to identify gifted students

The term gifted students can have various definitions. Still, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) identifies gifted children as students who demonstrate outstanding aptitude… or competence… in one or more domains.

When assessing whether a student has an outstanding aptitude, the NAGC defines this as having an exceptional ability to reason and learn. In contrast, outstanding competence is achieved if there is documented performance within at least the top 10% of their peers. To assist teachers in determining whether a student should be identified as gifted, the NAGC has set out six areas into which their talents may fall:

  • Specific academic aptitude: Outstanding academic performance in one specific area, such as science or geography.
  • Leadership ability: Students adapt well to new situations, direct individuals and groups, and use their confidence to negotiate and/or problem-solving.
  • Psycho-motor ability: In advanced spatial, mechanical, and practical schools, students tend to learn through ‘doing’ something (i.e., kinesthetic learners)
  • Visual and performing arts: Particularly talented in one or more of the following: music, drama, art, dance, performance, and/or similar subjects.
  • Creative and productive thinking: Students can use seemingly distinct, independent, or abstract elements to form new ideas. Students are often keen to experience new situations, may dominate easily, and often exhibit high self-confidence.
  • General intellectual ability: Students typically have high levels of memory, abstract reasoning, and vocabulary, routinely achieve high IQ scores when tested, and possess a wide range of general knowledge.

Suppose a child demonstrates above-average competence and/or aptitude in one or more of these areas. In that case, it’s highly likely that they meet the ‘gifted and talented’ criteria and should be taught by the Gifted and Talented Education programs offered at their school.

Equal rights and beyond

All children have the right to an education, and their individual needs should be recognized and met wherever possible. In reality, however, gifted and talented students do not benefit from centrally-mandated programs, curricula or funding.

While the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act is a federal program, its main focus is on advocacy and research for gifted children in underserved communities. Although the program receives some funding each year, this remains at risk and could be removed or reduced at any time.

Currently, the rights of gifted and talented students are not recognized by law or enshrined by statute. There are limited options available for teachers who wish to develop programs aimed at helping gifted students to achieve their potential.

As the responsibility to develop new gifted education policies falls to local, state, and federal levels, it is often individual teachers and schools who attempt to fund and implement such initiatives. Teachers often try to supplement the cost of such programs due to funding constraints and the limited financial support available from central sources.

2e students: twice-exceptional

Twice-exceptional students are those who possess above-average intelligence and also have one or more recognized disabilities. Sometimes known as ‘2e’ students, these children may perform extremely well in some areas but obtain relatively poor results in some standardized tests. 2e students may often exhibit the following traits or abilities:

  • Outstanding ability or talent
  • Difficulties processing information, particularly data that is absorbed via the senses
  • Discrepancies between the expected performance of the student and their achievement

Although 2e students may be overlooked due to average or below-average results in some tests, their ability and giftedness should not be ignored. 2e students can benefit from Gifted and Talented Education programs in the same way as any other children. They should be allocated to such teaching groups when their ability and/or competence is assessed about their disability or disabilities.

Standards and curriculum for gifted education teachers

Both teachers working solely with gifted students and those who work in a standard classroom setting should recognize the abilities of their students and should ensure they are suitably challenged by the materials provided. In a standard classroom environment, teachers should refer potentially gifted students to the appropriate services and assessment facilities so that they can be entered into Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs, where available.

Teachers who specialize in teaching, particularly talented children, may have undertaken a range of gifted teaching qualifications before engaging with students. In addition, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) provides a range of resources to assist individuals who are teaching or planning to teach gifted students. These can help ensure students benefit from high-quality teaching within gifted programs and reach their potential within such frameworks.

GATE: Gifted and Talented Education

In an attempt to give gifted children the support, education, and challenges they need, various program options are in use. The following options are the most commonly-used programs when it comes to educating gifted and talented students:

  • Summer Enrichment: Specialist programs run throughout the summer, often focusing on one particular area or subject.
  • Pull-Out: For two to six hours each week, gifted children are taught in a specific class with a focus outside the standard classroom environment.
  • Acceleration: Gifted students are moved to a higher-level class, such as skipping a grade, so they have access to materials more suited to their abilities.
  • Self-Contained/Full-Time: Gifted and talented students are taught together, on a full-time basis, in a specific class or school designed to meet their needs.
  • Homeschooling: Some families of gifted students choose to home-school their children, often because there are limited provisions for gifted and talented students within their school district.
  • Enrichment: Students remain in their regular classroom environment but are given extra and/or higher-level materials to meet their needs.

Educational standards for all teachers

To ensure that gifted students are recognized, all teachers should be familiar with the traits, common performance indicators, and behaviors associated with gifted and talented students. For example, all types of teachers should:

Recognize

Recognize the varying developmental milestones, learning differences, and cognitive/affective characteristics of gifted students and should identify their social, emotional, and academic needs. This includes students from diverse backgrounds and those with recognized disabilities.

Understand

Understand the definitions, theories, and identification processes of gifted students and the issues that can arise from using these strategies. In doing so, teachers should be able to identify all gifted students, including those from diverse backgrounds.

Undertake strategies

Recognize, plan and undertake evidence-based strategies to assess gifted and talented children. Following this, teachers should provide gifted students with different instructions, class content, examinations, or assignments. Teachers should also nominate these students for further assessment or entrance into relevant advanced learning and/or Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs.