Gifted and Talented

By Megan Purvis

Gifted and Talented Defined

There is no one standard definition for Gifted and Talented, but the term usually refers to students who are exceptional in academics, intellect, creativity, leadership, social skills, and/or the arts.

There is a wide range of definitions of what gifted and talented means. A more narrow view defines giftedness based solely off of exceptional cognition, reasoning, and IQ score. A more multidimensional view also considers intelligence, aptitudes, abilities, creativity, and talents.

Even though many schools do not have a standard definition of what makes a student gifted and talented, the ones that do will usually use one of the two federal government definitions:

  • U.S. Department of Education (The Marland Definition): According to this definition, gifted and talented children are identified by professionally qualified people as being so outstanding in one or more of the following areas that they require specialized educational programs and services outside of what their normal school program provides in order to live up to their full potential.
  1. General intellectual ability
  2. Specific academic aptitude
  3. Creative or productive thinking
  4. Leadership ability
  5. Visual or performing arts
  6. Psychomotor ability

  • Elementary and Secondary Education Act (2002), PL 107-110, Definition 22: "students, children, or youth who give evidence of high achievement capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who need services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities."

Considering there are so many ways in which students can be considered gifted and talented, there are also many options for evaluation of giftedness. While standardized tests, such as IQ tests, have been used for over a century, many modern experts believe that this is not always the best way to find out if a student and talented, as these tests are often biased against certain groups of people, and it is now understood that intelligence is both genetic and environmental. Another reason why standardized tests are not always the best option is because there are so many criteria that they cannot test. The Talent Pool identification system is often used now to identify students who are gifted and talented. This process encourages teachers to nominate students who are outstanding in a variety of different areas and also allows students to be nominated by other people in their lives and even by themselves. Achievement tests, tests of creativity, portfolios/samples of work, and performances are more ways that students can be nominated. The Talent Pool system decreases bias against students who may be at risk for not being considered and is also a lot less exclusionary than other methods.

It is hard to know exactly how prevalent gifted and talented students are because there is no concrete definition that is consistently used across schools to identify these students. However, it is believed that they usually make up about 3-5% of students in a school.

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Common Characteristics of Gifted and Talented Students


  • Reasons abstractly
  • Conceptualizes
  • Processes information quickly and meaningfully
  • Solves difficult problems
  • Quick learner
  • Intellectually curious
  • Variety of interests
  • Does not like routines
  • Generalizes learning
  • Exceptionally great memories
  • Strong verbal skills
  • Likes to in a more quiet environment
  • Is able to adapt to new situations and learning situations
  • Applies varied reasoning and thinking skills
  • Is highly motivated by academic tasks
  • Focuses and concentrates on a topic or idea for long periods of time


  • Self-critical
  • High empathy
  • Plays with older friends
  • Persistent
  • Intense
  • Strong character
  • Demonstrates leadership abilities
  • Is concerned about ethical issues
  • Takes risks
  • Independent
  • Sensitive to others
  • Mature sense of humor
  • Individual/nonconforming
  • Uses different modes of expression
  • Experiences great stress from failure

These are typical characteristics seen in children who are considered to be gifted and talented. Although many typical students may express some of these characteristics, in gifted and talented students, they are so prevalent that it usually sets them apart from their peers.

Although most of these are considered to be generally good traits, a lot of them do have downsides for these children. For example, it can often be hard for them to relate to their peers or make friends their own age. It is also common for these students to get in trouble for talking while other students are working or fooling around during work times because they finish their work so much earlier than their classmates and feel like they don't have anything else to do. Similarly, gifted and talented students get very easily bored in the classroom because they learn at a faster pace than most and may already know and fully understand the information they are being taught. This can often lead to teachers reprimanding them for appearing distracted or not paying attention to lessons.

This can eventually start to interfere with a student's learning because they may feel discouraged or unappreciated for the work that they do. Being gifted and talented can also hold these students back by not being provided with the proper services that they need. If a school has either no programs for gifted and talented students or has very limited ones and requires them to do the same work as their classmates, they will most likely never be able to reach their full potential or even recognize how talented they are and what they can contribute to the world.
On Being Gifted.m4v

Classroom Strategies


This strategy differentiates the typical curriculum being learned in a general education classroom in a way that expands the content and examines it more deeply.

Advanced Placement (AP) Classes

These classes allow students to earn college credit while still in high school. They are not specifically designed for gifted and talented students, but they can often be of service to them because they go more in depth on specific subjects than typical general education classes.


This strategy allows students to move through material at a quicker pace, rather than having to feel slowed down by their classmates' slower learning and processing of speeds. Some examples of acceleration are grade skipping, early admission to Kindergarten or First Grade, self-paced instruction, curriculum compacting, mentoring, and early graduation.

Home Strategies

  • Encourage children's learning quests by taking them to places such as libraries, museums, labs, etc.
  • Play word games and do puzzles as a family or encourage them to do some on their own
  • Do not overwhelm children by forcing them to do too many things. It is sometimes hard to tell how much is too much for these exceptional students because they are so advanced compared to their peers, but it is important to present them with plenty of learning opportunities while also gauging how many activities, enrichment opportunities, etc. are appropriate for one child to handle.

Additional Resources for Teachers, Parents, and Gifted Students


Introduction to contemporary special education: new horizons By: Smith, Deborah Deutsch, and Naomi Chowdhuri Tyler. Pearson Education 2014

Gifted students: recommendations for teachers. Retrieved from

Gifted students: recommendations for teachers. Retrieved from