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Classroom Instruction and Teacher Training for Gifted Students from Diverse Populations

Every student has the right to learn something new every day, although, unfortunately we know that too many advanced students are simply marking time in the classroom until new material is presented to them.  Worse, many underserved gifted students -- those who are limited English proficient, disabled, or from minority or low-income backgrounds -- have not been identified for advanced learner services or are in schools where no advanced classes or gifted education services are available, and where classroom teachers have not been trained to meet their needs.  In practice, most gifted and talented students spend the majority of their time in the regular classroom.  Therefore, it is imperative that schools and districts account for this reality in their instructional and professional development planning. 

Modifying Instruction 

In order to foster high achievement and to keep high-ability students from disadvantaged backgrounds from slipping backwards as they progress through school, modifications of curriculum and classroom practice must begin early and should provide students with continued access to enrichment and/or acceleration strategies.  Equity in providing advanced services can be accomplished by implementing the following (from the NAGC Pre-K - Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards):

  • District curriculum plans should include objectives, content, and resources that challenge gifted learners in the regular classroom.
  • Gifted learners should be assessed for proficiency in all standard courses of study and subsequently provided with more challenging educational opportunities.
  • Differentiated educational program curricula for students pre-K–12 should be modified to provide learning experiences matched to students’ interests, readiness, and learning styles.
  • Possibilities for partial or full acceleration of content and grade levels should be available to any student presenting such needs.

Teacher Training 

All teachers must be trained to recognize and meet the needs of advanced students. Research in professional development has shown that:

  • Teachers exposed to quality professional development experiences can adapt curriculum to meet the needs of gifted and talented students.
  • Teachers who have access to professional development in gifted and talented education are more likely to apply successful practices and strategies.
  • All teachers need to be familiar with  the strategies, practices, and curricula appropriate for educating gifted and talented students.

In order to develop skills to identify advanced students from underserved populations and to create a learning environment that supports their needs, teachers and other school leaders need regular professional development that addresses the following (from Designing Services and Programs for High-Ability Students):

  • Learning characteristics and behaviors of underrepresented gifted populations
  • Awareness of cultural differences
  • Children with multiple exceptionalities
  • Developing positive peer culture in the classroom and school
  • Test bias

Much of the research that informs classroom best practice for those working with gifted learners originated under the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education Act, which focuses specifically on enhancing the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the special educational needs of gifted and talented students, particularly those in underserved populations.  Explore some of these exciting projects listed in the box to the right.

Strategies Shown to be Successful

Thanks to research in the field of gifted education, we know that classroom strategies such as grouping, curriculum compacting, acceleration, and pull out / special programs not only increase individual achievement, but also promote total school improvement, even in classrooms and schools with learners performing at or below proficiency.  

Grouping by achievement and ability is successful when there is significant and meaningful curricular adjustment based on student ability and specific levels of achievement.  Advanced, average, and struggling learners profit from grouping programs that adjust the curriculum. Explore more about how Grouping Works

Curriculum  Compacting eliminates previously mastered curriculum, allowing students to use the time gained with challenging learning opportunities. Explore more about how Curriculum Compacting Works

Pull-out, Separate Classes, and Special School programs present gifted children with opportunities to show higher achievement than gifted students who were not in such programs, and in most cases, higher achievement than those from Within-Class programs. Explore more about how Pull-Out Programs and Specialized Classes Work 

Acceleration is one of the cornerstones of exemplary gifted education practice, with more research supporting this intervention than any other in the literature on gifted students.  Acceleration has long been used to match high level student ability and specific talent with optimal learning opportunities.  Explore more about how Acceleration Works

Gifted Education Works! Click to find out more. 

Explore more about Curriculum 

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Supporting Information

Javits Grant Projects
Project M3 

Read an article from NEA here.  
Scientists-in-Schools was featured in an issue of Teaching for High Potential.  

Project Athena 

Project Clarion 

You can find out more about other Javits-funded programs like CHAMPS, Project La Jornada, Project SAIL, Project Breakthrough and others here.

Grouping Resources
Cluster Grouping 
Ability Grouping
Cooperative Learning Groups 
Grouping Practices

Compacting Resources
Curriculum Compacting Study
What Educators Need to Know

Pull Out / Special Class
Effects of Programming Arrangements

Acceleration Resource
A Nation Deceived

Professional Development
Teacher Training Makes a Difference  

Diversity Focus in the NAGC-CEC Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted Education

Professional Development 
Standards from the Pre-K-Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards

NAGC Publications
Social-Emotional Curriculum With Gifted and Talented Students, edited by Joyce L. VanTassel-Baska, Ed.D.

Other Resources of Interest 
Providing access for culturally diverse gifted students

Minorities in Science and Math 

Content-based Curriculum

Serving Gifted Learners