Teaching Gifted Education

Gifted education, also referred to as Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) or Talented and Gifted (TAG), refers to the broad set of practices, pedagogy and theories used when teaching students who have been identified as “gifted” or “talented.” While there is no universal definition of what it means to be a student who is gifted and/or talented, the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) defines “gifted” children and youth as those who “demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains.

Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).” Unlike special education programs, gifted education programs are not federally regulated, causing services, funds and legislation to be determined by state and/or local budget restrictions. The state-regulation of gifted education services causes the definition of giftedness to vary from state to state. Visit the NAGC’s State Definitions of Giftedness for a comprehensive list of accepted definitions.

Identifying Gifted Students

TAG students demonstrate an outstanding or above-average aptitude and/or competence in one or more areas. NAGC identifies those areas of giftedness into the following six domains:

  • General Intellectual Ability: High IQ scores, a wide-range of general knowledge and high levels of vocabulary, memory and abstract reasoning
  • Specific Academic Aptitude: Outstanding performance on achievement and/or aptitude tests in one specific content area, such as math or science
  • Creative and Productive Thinking: Synthesize new ideas by bringing together seemingly abstract, independent or dissimilar elements. Student characteristics include preference for complexity, positive self-image and openness to experience
  • Leadership Ability: Successfully direct individuals or groups to a common goal or decision and capable of negotiating in difficult situations. Student characteristics include self-confidence, tendency to dominate and ability to adapt to new situations.
  • Visual and Performing Arts: Demonstrate special talents in art, music, dance, drama and similar studies
  • Psychomotor Ability: Kinesthetic learners with strong practical, spatial and mechanical skills

Return to Top

Twice-Exceptional (2e) Students

The term “twice-exceptional” or “2e” (also referred to as “GT/LD”) refers to students who have above-average intelligence and are identified as having one (or more) disability. Micaela Bracamonte is the principal and founder of The Lang School, a New York City private school designed exclusively for twice-exceptional students. Her article, “2e Students: Who They Are and What They Need,” discusses the typical 2e student profile, acknowledging that inconsistency in test results and overall performance is one of the “hallmarks” of twice exceptionality.

Bracamonte explains, “2e students typically perform at very high levels on some, but not all, of the gifted screening tests used by public schools. On the other hand, they tend to simultaneously perform very poorly on one or more of the local, state, or national standardized assessments used to measure individual student progress.” Bracamonte outlines the remaining hallmarks as including:

  • Evidence of a discrepancy between expected and actual achievement
  • Evidence of an outstanding talent or ability
  • Coincident evidence of a processing deficit

Return to Top

Equal Rights and Advocacy

There are over 3 million academically gifted students in the United States alone, yet there are no federally mandated requirements for gifted and talented students. Currently, the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act is the only federal program for gifted and talented children. This program does not establish rights for gifted children (as IDEA does for Special Education); instead, it focuses on research and advocacy for gifted children in underserved populations. This program funds the National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented and is awarded approximately $7.5 million dollars per year. According to the NAGC, funding for the Javits program is “in jeopardy each year.” It is the responsibility of state, local and federal programs to “develop new policies supporting gifted education, to remove obstacles, and to ensure adequate funding.”

Return to Top

Teaching Gifted Education

Deciding on a career in gifted education allows you to reach and teach a demographic of students who enjoy creative and academic challenges. Gifted education teachers are not limited to the traditional classroom, and they are able to work within a number of learning environments.

A number of schools across the country offer coursework, certification and degree programs in gifted education. The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) compiled a nationwide database of all colleges and universities that offer coursework, certification and degree programs in K–12 gifted education.

To become a certified gifted education teacher, most programs require students with prior teaching certification. However, some programs, such as USC Rossier, allow students to obtain their Master of Arts in Teaching with a Gifted Education Certificate. This program does not require prior teaching credentials or experience.

Return to Top

Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) Program Options

  • Enrichment: Gifted students remain in general education classes with their peers but are assigned additional/higher-level material.
  • Acceleration: Students are advanced to a higher-level class that covers material more suited to their abilities and preparedness. May include skipping grades or completing curriculum in a shorter amount of time.
  • Pull-Out: Gifted students are assigned to a class with a special curricular focus outside the regular classroom for two to six hours per week.
  • Full Time/Self Contained: Gifted students are taught full time in a separate class or independent school, such as Long Island School for the Gifted.
  • Summer Enrichment: Summer programs for gifted students often focus on one particular area of study and are offered through colleges/universities, non-profit organizations and local summer camps.
  • Homeschooling: Though a controversial method, families of gifted students may opt to homeschool their children if they believe the school district and/or school system does not meet the needs of their children.

Return to Top

Curriculum and Teaching Standards for Gifted Education Teachers

Whether you are a general education teacher or a teacher for the gifted, it is the responsibility of classroom teachers to both identify and serve gifted and talented students. NAGC notes that it is of the highest priority that teachers recognize “high ability” students and provide them with in-depth/complex instruction or refer them for assessment and related services. It is important for all educators connected to gifted education to familiarize themselves with the research, curriculum strategies, pedagogy theories and educational practices in place to enhance learning in high ability students.

The NAGC provides standards in teacher preparation, gifted education program/services and knowledge for all teachers to ensure high quality teaching and learning within all GATE programs. Visit NAGC for more information on the K–12 Programming Standards as well as the Teacher Preparation Standards for Gifted & Talented Education.

Return to Top

Gifted and Talented Education Standards for All Teachers

  1. All teachers should understand the issues in definitions, theories and identification of gifted and talented students, including those from diverse backgrounds.
  2. All teachers should recognize the learning differences, developmental milestones and cognitive/affective characteristics of gifted and talented students, including those from diverse backgrounds, and identify their related academic and social-emotional needs.
  3. All teachers should understand, plan and implement a range of evidence-based strategies to assess gifted and talented students, to differentiate instruction, content and assignments for them (including use of higher-order critical and creative-thinking skills), and to nominate them for advanced programs or acceleration as needed.

Return to Top

Additional Gifted Education Resources


Articles and Resources

Return to Top