Education Gifted Education
Sally M. Reis, Joseph S. Renzulli
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 April 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0016


The field of gifted education is based on the notion that some children and students either with demonstrated outstanding or very high potential can achieve at the highest levels of accomplishment in academic, creative, leadership, or artistic areas or domains, when compared with their peers. Research in gifted education has found that gifted and high-potential students require services or opportunities that are not always delivered in classrooms or schools across the country. A comprehensive review related to the need for and types of interventions required by gifted and talented students suggests that their needs are generally not met in American classrooms, where the focus is most often on struggling learners, and that many, if not most, classroom teachers have not had the training necessary to meet the needs of gifted students. Interventions for this population are based on an extremely strong research base that consistently demonstrates that the use of acceleration results in higher achievement for gifted and talented learners. Similarly, research on the use of enrichment and curriculum enhancement has found higher achievement benefits as well as other benefits such as opportunities for creative productivity and critical thinking. During the first decade of the 21st century, research has revealed that the differentiation of curriculum and instruction for gifted and talented students in regular classrooms seldom happens, due to lack of training, resources, and support, and so it is extremely important to initiate gifted programs for as much of this population of students as possible.

General Overviews

Gifted programs and strategies have been found to be effective at serving high-ability students in a variety of educational settings—those serving diverse ethnic and socioeconomic populations—and also in reversing underachievement in these students. A thought-provoking examination of some of the current research in the field of gifted education, the edited text Plucker and Callahan 2007 suggests the need for more research in the field, which is, of course, a direct function of how few research dollars are allocated to this field. To challenge gifted and talented learners, educators should develop a continuum of services in each school both in the academic and affective areas, as summarized in Renzulli, et al. 2009. This continuum of services should be developed to address the diverse learning and affective needs of gifted and talented students in each school. Services should be targeted for gifted and talented students across all grade levels, and a broad range of services should be defined to ensure that children have access to challenging curriculum and instructional differentiation. Strong and consistent benefits have also been found for grouping gifted students together for instruction to increase their academic achievement, as demonstrated in Gentry and Owen 1999 and Kulik 1992. As rapid and advanced learners, gifted and talented students require a broad range of enrichment and acceleration opportunities as well as advanced content to enable them to continue to make progress in all content areas; some will require, in addition, opportunities for individualized research when they are highly creative and want the chance to pursue advanced interests (Reis and Renzulli 2010; Renzulli, et al. 2009). Students who are underachieving or who have gifts and talents but also learning disabilities may require counseling and other services to address these special affective needs. Of equally critical importance are teachers with specialized training who differentiate curriculum and instruction and extend gifted education strategies and pedagogy across content areas. Gifted education programs and strategies also benefit gifted and talented students longitudinally, helping them increase aspirations for college and careers, determine postsecondary and career plans, develop creativity and motivation that is applied to later work, and achieve more-advanced degrees. Longitudinal studies demonstrate that gifted programs and services produce effective results, including higher levels of advanced degrees (Lubinski, et al. 2001), high levels of success and life satisfaction, and consistent patterns of interest and creative expression over time (Hébert 1993; Park, et al. 2007; Reis and Renzulli 2010).

  • Gentry, Marcia, and Steven V. Owen. 1999. An investigation of the effects of total school flexible cluster grouping on identification, achievement, and classroom practices. Gifted Child Quarterly 43.4: 224–243.

    DOI: 10.1177/001698629904300402E-mail Citation »

    Students at all achievement levels benefited from cluster grouping and other forms of instructional grouping accompanied by differentiated instruction and content. More students were identified as high achieving during the three years that cluster grouping was used in the school. Available online to subscribers.

  • Hébert, Thomas P. 1993. Reflections at graduation: The long-term impact of elementary school experiences in creative productivity. Roeper Review 16:22–28.

    DOI: 10.1080/02783199309553529E-mail Citation »

    Gifted programs have a positive effect on subsequent interests of students, including postsecondary plans. Early, advanced project work serves as important training for later productivity, and nonintellectual characteristics, such as creativity and motivation, remain consistent over time with students.

  • Kulik, James A. 1992. An analysis of the research on ability grouping: Historical and contemporary perspectives. Research-Based Decision Making RM9204. Storrs: National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, Univ. of Connecticut.

    E-mail Citation »

    Achievement is increased when gifted/talented students are grouped together for enriched or accelerated learning. Ability grouping without acceleration or enrichment produces few or no differences in student achievement. All students benefit from placement in their ability/instructional groups when the curriculum is adjusted to the aptitude levels of the group.

  • Lubinski, David, Rose Mary Webb, Martha J. Morelock, and Camilla P. Benbow. 2001. Top 1 in 10,000: A 10 year follow-up of the profoundly gifted. Journal of Applied Psychology 86.4: 718–729.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.86.4.718E-mail Citation »

    Follow-up studies found that 320 gifted students identified as adolescents pursued doctoral degrees at over fifty times the base-rate expectations. The base-rate expectation for the general population is 1 percent. Available online to subscribers.

  • Park, Gregory, David Lubinski, and Camilla P. Benbow. 2007. Contrasting intellectual patterns predict creativity in the arts and sciences: Tracking intellectually precocious youth over 25 years. Psychological Science 18.11: 948–952.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2007.02007.xE-mail Citation »

    Intellectually talented adolescents (top 1 percent) assessed on the SAT by age thirteen were tracked longitudinally for more than twenty-five years. Their creative accomplishments (emphasis on literary achievement and scientific-technical innovation) were examined. Results showed that distinct ability patterns identified by age thirteen portend contrasting forms of creative expression by middle age. Available online to subscribers.

  • Plucker, Jonathan, and Carolyn Callahan, eds. 2007. Critical issues and practices in gifted education: What the research says. Waco, TX: Prufrock.

    E-mail Citation »

    The definitive reference book for current research summaries of more than forty important topics in gifted education. Each author focused on rigorous, empirically grounded approaches to current research in gifted education in areas such as talented readers, identification, assessment, counseling, early childhood, highly gifted students, homeschooling, parenting, and policy and advocacy.

  • Reis, Sally M., and Joseph S. Renzulli. 2010. Is there still a need for gifted education? An examination of current research. Learning and Individual Differences 20.4: 308–317.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.lindif.2009.10.012E-mail Citation »

    Important research in gifted education, with summary tables focusing on curriculum, program benefits, student achievement, longitudinal research, and enrichment and acceleration. Results of the analysis show that the need for gifted education remains critical at this time in our nation’s history. Available online to subscribers.

  • Renzulli, Joseph S., E. Jean Gubbins, Kristin McMillen, Rebecca Eckert, and Catherine Little, eds. 2009. Systems and models for developing programs for the gifted and talented. 2d ed. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning.

    E-mail Citation »

    Systems and Models includes twenty-five chapters on major systems and models for gifted programs by experts who developed seminal work, including the Autonomous Learner Model, Multiple Menu Model, Purdue Three-Stage Model, and Schoolwide Enrichment Model. Chapters provide comprehensive summaries of these models.

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