Key strategies for teaching gifted students

By Kylie Bice

This is my attempt at summarising the key strategies educators need to know about teaching gifted students. 

This is definitely just a brief overview of what we already know from research, so please make contact with me if you would like to discuss further professional learning or reading on this. The links provided are just to give you an idea of the resources, and there are many more online resources available.

Differentiation, differentiation, differentiation!

  • Differentiate by PACE (reduced amount of repetition & practice) IMPORTANT: Pre and formatively assess regularly to determine prior knowledge & to know when students are ready to move on)USEFUL RESOURCE: 53 Ways to check for understanding

  • Differentiate by CONCEPTUAL DIFFICULTY (spend majority of teaching & learning time focusing on high order thinking and questioning) USEFUL RESOURCE: Bloom's Taxonomy and Williams Model

  • Differentiate by COMPLEXITY (ensure concepts, skills & knowledge are taught in connection with other concepts, not in isolation or step by step using a 'whole to part' method) USEFUL RESOURCE:SOLO Taxonomy

  • Accelerate content as a priority to ensure genuine challenge and learning every day and every lesson.  Acceleration is not just grade-skipping, there are many ways to offer accelerated options to students to ensure they are learning and not just cruising. USEFUL RESOURCES: A Nation Empowered and Iowa Acceleration Scale

  • Ensure gifted students have the opportunity to spend some or all of their time with like-minded peers so they can learn, talk about what they want to talk about, find intellectual and social peers, and feel that they are not the odd one out. Depending on your school or context, this may be ability grouping as a class, cluster groups across or withing classes or finding a peer or older student who shares similar interests.

  • Avoid asking gifted students to always teach/help other students

  • Students should be engaging with their tasks at the appropriate level of difficulty from the beginning of the lesson, task, activity or unit of work, not just get an extension question if they finish everything else in time.

  • Be aware of over-excitabilities and the impact these can have on learning, behaviour and sometimes underachievement in some gifted students.

  • Be aware that gifted students are not all the same and that just because they don't look, behave or perform like 'Einstein' doesn't mean they are bored or not learning in your classroom (the top 10% is a big range of abilities, personalities, backgrounds, interests and quirks!)

  • Be aware that there are many reasons why gifted students may underachieve and may not be identified or working to their potential in your class. They may need support as well as academic challenge. USEFUL RESOURCE: Betts & Neihart Revised Profiles of the Gifted and Talented


If you are looking for a comprehensive, research-based overview of teaching gifted and talented students, then the Australian UNSW Professional Development Modules are excellent and the modules are freely available online.

Kylie Bice