Forms of Gifted Education

Approaches to providing gifted education are commonly classified in the following ways. Each approach offers unique benefits and disadvantages and gifted children will often benefit from a combination of approaches, depending on where they’re at in their education process.


Extra curricular activities such as sports, chess, music, creative writing, reading, foreign language, or art provide additional intellectual challenge and developmental opportunity outside of the classroom for gifted children.

The hobby based approach to gifted education and development is an effective alternative to in-classroom programs when a state or district does not sponsor gifted education initiatives through public education.


The enrichment approach to gifted education is common in public school systems where gifted education is valued but funds are not available, or resources aren’t merited, to support stand alone gifted education programs. Where only the top 1 to 2% of students are recognized as gifted, it’s difficult for many schools to allocate additional resources to support full programs for a select few.

Enrichment will vary from state to state, district to district and school to school. In its simplest form enrichment may include specially designed assignments, or curriculum, provided to gifted students within a regular classroom setting with other students.

Alternatively, it might include more form programs. The following are just a few popular enrichment programs and academic contests that can be used to support gifted education enrichment.

Many enrichment programs for gifted and talented children are organised outside of the public school system. Stand alone enrichment programs are typically carried out in addition to regular school work projects and assignments. Students are required to complete their normal school work as well as that provided through the enrichment program.


Compacting could also be referred to as “skipping”–because in essence that’s what it is. Students participating in a traditional classroom environment are regularly pretested to find out which skills and content they’ve already mastered. If a student demonstrates an above average level of proficiency in a given subject, they can then skip any further repetitive practice of the subject and move on to an advanced topic or area of study.

Compacting allows gifted students to progress in their education at a faster rate than less gifted students, frees up time they can spend on more challenging subjects and reduces boredom.


As it’s name suggests, self-pacing allows gifted children to progress through their studies at their own pace. Self-pacing methods of teaching and learning can be beneficial for both gifted and non-gifted students alike as it allows each student to learn at their own pace. Those students who are able and eager to learn at an accelerated rate can, while those who are unable can adopt a pace more suited to their ability and learning style.

While the self-pacing approach can be effective, in a traditional, public school system environment it can be challenging to implement without additional resources. The Montessori Method is an example of a popular self-pacing educational method.


This is a straightforward approach to gifted education that is implemented in school systems across the United States. Students are advanced to more challenging and higher-level classes that provide a more challenging and rigorous academic experience as they show proficiency in a given skill or content area.

Acceleration may take the form of advancing to a new grade in a shorter amount of time than usual, skipping a grade altogether or completing standard grade-level curriculum in a shorter period of time.

A flexible approach to acceleration, commonly referred to as partial acceleration, allows students to advance through specific fields of study, such as math, reading, or language, without skipping grades or altering their other studies, such as social studies, history or science. Acceleration as an approach to educating gifted students is typically based on achievement testing and pretesting, rather than IQ.

Early entrance programs, offered by a growing number of community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, are another form of acceleration that allows gifted children the opportunity to advance their education at an accelerated rate.

Acceleration is so popular among elementary and secondary education institutions because it provides schools a low-cost option for providing gifted children and students with the curriculum and level of education commensurate with their ability and knowledge.

Acceleration is not only beneficial from an academic and cost perspective, it’s also beneficial for gifted students from a social perspective as it allows them to maintain current relationships and develop new relationships with other students who are on their same academic level. Partial acceleration can be especially beneficial when social stability is a determining factor in gifted education.


Colloquium is an approach for administering gifted education to high school level students. It’s similar to acceleration in that it enables students to take advanced classes more commensurate with their ability.

High schools that offer colloquium style education typically do so through a combination of Advanced Placement (AP) courses, projects, in depth study and subject grouping. For example, a gifted student participating in colloquium may take an AP Biology and AP Chemistry class while completing a course specific project in biology or chemistry. How colloquium is implemented really depends on each school. Some schools only offer AP courses, while others will provide AP courses along with advanced classes and projects in other skill and subject specific areas.


In this approach, gifted students are pulled out of the traditional “grade level” classroom environment and placed in a class specifically for gifted students. Pull-out programs for the gifted vary widely between states, districts and individual schools.

A pull-out program in one school may include spending half the day in a specialized academic program for the gifted, while the same program in another school may be limited to a single hour a week of specialized instruction and learning.

Pull-out programs are typically ineffective at promoting academic advancement for students unless the program is tied directly to core curriculum. Most pull-out programs include a mix of creative exercises, small projects, thinking drills, reasoning skills and other learning activities (logic, philosophy, math, etc.) that are not linked to standard curricula. However, students are encouraged to apply what they learn in the pull-out program to every aspect of their education.

Cluster Grouping

Cluster grouping is where a small group (3-6) of gifted and/or high achieving students are placed in a single classroom or study group for the entire school day. These groups of gifted students are then taught by a teacher specially trained to teach gifted learners. Cluster grouping is usually implemented in elementary level education.

Curriculum covered in cluster grouping varies widely between states, districts and schools. It may include enrichment education, skills exercises, compacting, accelerated learning, and learning tied to advancement within the scope of core curriculum.

Summer Enrichment Programs

Summer enrichment programs offer a good alternative or addition to gifted education programs offered during the school year. Summer enrichment programs are very popular in the United States. These programs are typically fee based and focus on one or two subjects in depth.

The following are few examples of popular summer enrichment programs as well as summer program resources for gifted and talented children (and their parents):

Most summer enrichment programs focus on a specific age group, such as elementary age, high school age, or by years such as 8 through 12. While many summer enrichment programs cover just one or two topics, others allow students to choose between a variety of subjects and activities. For example, a course in history could include both academic, theatre and musical elements. Summer enrichment programs are designed to help students to develop new skills and enhance their already extraordinary learning capabilities.

Full-time separate classes or schools

Parents with the resources and disposition to help their gifted child maximize his or her capabilities have the ability to enroll their child in a separate class or school that works exclusively with gifted children. These full-time classes for the giftered are sometimes referred to as “Congregated Gifted Classes” as they congregate gifted students together to receive specialized instruction and training.

Separate or independant schools for the gifted are relatively scarce. Parents who are interested in having their child attend a school for the gifted are often required to relocate to a city, county or even state where such a school exists. A partial list of schools for the gifted can be found at WikiPedia. The National Associate for Gifted Children website also provides a list of schools that offer education programs specifically for the gifted.

Not surprising, classes or schools for gifted students can be relatively expensive when compared to the cost of receiving an education through the public school system.

Other Gifted Education Articles:
Identifying Gifted Children
How to Homeschool Gifted Kids
Pros and Cons of Gifted Learning Programs in Schools

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