Gifted and Talented Education Programs

A kindergarten student enters school already reading. Another student demonstrates an avid interest in science, well beyond that shown by his or her peers. Still another makes up her own songs and musical compositions. All these children show characteristics of being gifted and talented. Children such as these and the approximately three million other gifted and talented children in the nation's classrooms require the skills of a qualified gifted and talented teacher to help them reach their full potential.

Gifted children demonstrate a high degree of creative ability, excel in specific academic fields and possess an extraordinary motivation for learning. As an educator in this specialty area, it is vital that you understand the complex differentiations that gifted students experience in learning, growth and development and their unique challenges. A specialty degree in teaching gifted children is designed to educate the teacher on how to accommodate the talented student, identify their exceptional academic expertise and assist them with the social, developmental and psychological stressors that may affect gifted learners.

Gifted & Talented Education Job Description

The National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) defines gifted and talented as those individuals who demonstrate outstanding levels (top 10 percent or higher) of aptitude or ability in one or more areas such as math, music or language. Gifted and talented teachers are responsible for helping identify and educate these unique learners. To do this effectively, they must be well-versed in theory, research, strategies and best practices of gifted education. Schools employ gifted and talented teachers at both the elementary and secondary levels.

Gifted and talented teachers might work within a wide variety of service models. Some work in special schools for the gifted and talented, while others teach students in a self-contained classroom in a traditional school setting. Still others work with gifted and talented students in a pullout setting. Gifted and talented teachers often serve as consultants to regular classroom teachers, and they also identify and coordinate enrichment opportunities for gifted students.

Gifted & Talented Education Requirements

Like all other teachers, gifted and talented teachers must be licensed by the state in which they work. State licensing requirements typically include a bachelor's degree from an approved teacher education program, a student teaching internship, and a passing score on a competency test. Teacher preparation programs frequently group gifted and talented education in the special education category, so a prospective teacher might earn a Bachelor of Science in special education with a gifted and talented endorsement. While there is no national certification requirement for teaching the gifted, most schools seek to hire teachers who are specifically trained in gifted and talented education. Teachers with a gifted and talented endorsement or specialization have taken extensive coursework that addresses the knowledge and skills needed to serve gifted and talented students.


Gifted & Talented Education Career Outlook

A study released by the American Association for Employment in Education reports that the supply of GATE teachers is facing some shortage according. This means there is no longer a surplus of GATE teachers. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary of teachers was $56,900 in 2017. According the a study done by the American Federation of Teachers, the average teacher salary in the 2012-13 school year (the most current year with available data) was $52,383, with the average starting salary for teachers at $36,141.

Gifted & Talented Education Trends

One of the hottest topics in gifted education is the under-representation of minority, low-income, and limited English students in gifted education programs. According to the NAGC, Congress has introduced legislation called The Equity in Excellence Act to attempt to reduce the achievement gap between high potential, low-income students and their more advantaged peers.

Gifted and Talented Teacher Education Online

Want to engage and challenge gifted and talented students but don't have the time to earn a traditional campus-based degree?

Online degrees in gifted and talented education (GATE) may be the answer. If you're considering this online degree, you should know that most are master's-level programs. It's also helpful (although not necessarily required) to have previous teaching experience.

Online gifted and talented education programs are much like traditional programs except most or all the coursework is done via the web. Classes are available online for you to access at any time of the day or night. Live chats, email and virtual classroom tools supplement your online learning. Typical courses include issues in gifted education, teaching methods for gifted and talented, and assessment in gifted and talented education.

The time it takes to complete an online master's degree in gifted and talented education ranges from as little as 18 months up to two years. Most graduates are then eligible to apply for gifted and talented education certification in the state where the program provider is located.

When judging the quality of an online gifted and talented education program, check to see if it is accredited by the Council for Exceptional Children or the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Also, look for programs that include real-world teaching experiences such as a student teaching internships or classroom observations.

Online Degrees for Teachers of Gifted and Talented Students

According to bestcolleges.com, the University of South Florida is one of the best regional universities to complete this degree.  USF's degree is a 36-credit hour program designed to teach certified teachers how best to serve gifted learners. Students learn to address cognitive needs of gifted students and how best to develop appropriate educational opportunities. The curriculum for this master's in gifted education online program includes a focus on classroom assessment and students with exceptional talents, in addition to practicum supervised by faculty. 

Graduates of the University of Cincinnati's online Master of Education in gifted, creative and talented education are eligible to apply for certification in the state of Ohio. It is strongly recommended that applicants to this two-year program have previous teaching experience, but it is not required. This program is accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education.

Azusa Pacific University, a Christian school in Azusa, California, offers an online Master of Arts in education with a concentration in gifted and talented education that is designed for working professionals. Program features include live chats, threaded discussions and a virtual classroom with whiteboard, graphing and drawing capabilities.


Curriculum Information for Teaching Gifted Children

According to a NAGC study, gifted education programs in elementary schools take a variety of forms. They cut across many dimensions including: the identification process, the service delivery model (e.g., pull-out programs, cluster grouping in the general education classroom, special schools), and standards and curriculum specifically targeted for identified gifted students. Furthermore, schools and districts implement these diverse forms and formats in different combinations.

Introduction to the Education of Gifted Students

As higher-achievers are now clustered in special groups, the identification of talented children is essential. Educators who teach gifted children should be familiar with the research strategies, curriculum design, learning theories and educational practices that are vital to teaching gifted children. This introductory course describes the nature, needs and characteristics of talented children. Differentiations can be made at the social, cognitive, emotional and cultural aspects of learning. Through learning theories and research, strategies can be improvised to meet the distinctions of each individual child. This course also attempts to provide perspectives in learning that allow the gifted learner to flourish and remain motivated in the learning experience. Gifted students require special instruction to achieve at the levels that match their abilities.

Differentiating and Designing Curriculum for Gifted Learners

Guided by advanced learning theories and educational research, educators learn to modify basic curriculum to meet the talented child's needs. Each child has unique characteristics that must be considered when developing learning strategies and materials that challenge them appropriately. Qualitative research is used to assess a child's interests, need for in-depth exploration and appropriate time for their provocative questions. A gifted child may have extensive interests that are different than their peers or age group. Educators learn to build on a child's individual needs to provide them with a successful curriculum designed to motivate, inspire and challenge them.

Assessment of Barriers in Educating the Talented Student

Through a conceptual framework, educators evaluate characteristics and individual needs of talented learners. All learners require an education that is relevant to their lives, provides rich experiences and offers the appropriate tools to build on prior knowledge. Talented children may learn at a faster pace, explore their expertise at a deeper level and require more of the teacher's time in the classroom. Educators learn to arrange classroom time to meet the needs of gifted students while encouraging interaction with their peers, identifying social isolation, psychological stress or disabilities to effective learning.

Evaluation of Programs for Gifted Students

Educators learn how to use advanced research, learning theories and teaching principles to test and evaluate curriculum for talented learners. Evaluation instruments are used to define cultural, unique characteristics and learning style to assess the success of curriculum, lesson plans and learning materials. Teaching models are employed to evaluate the cognitive, social and learning styles of gifted learners to achieve the highest level of learning. Teachers also use evaluation design techniques to organize, manage and evaluate alternative learning technologies to assess the appropriateness and effectiveness of learning outcomes.

Useful Resources

Below, EducationDegree.com speaks with Darlene Boyd, the Director of the University of California Irvine's Gifted Students Network. In the interview, she discusses what gifted and talented education is, and how to get started in the field.

This rewarding profession needs more teachers like you who care about the needs of gifted children. Request information from the schools below to find out more about each school's Gifted Education program.