Identifying Gifted Learners

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  • Best Practices in the Identification of Gifted and Talented Students by Susan K. Johnsen
  • Twice-Exceptional Students: An Endangered Species by Barbara Gilman, Dan Peters, Mike Postma, & Kathi Kearney
  • It Takes a Village: Identifying and Providing Services for Twice Exceptional Learners in the Elementary Grades by Karen B. Rogers
  • Bright Beyond Their Y ears: What are Parents to Think? by Judy Galbraith
  • Recommended Standards for Gifted and Talented Education: California Department of Education
  • Issues of Identification and Underrepresentation by Barbara Clark
  • NAGC Teacher Preparation and Program/Service Standards


  • Parent talk: How do we find Gifted Children? by James Webb & Janet Gore
  • Administrator talk: Identifying Students for Gifted Education Services: Tips for handling the “Red Flags” by Carolyn R. Cooper
  • Common Core for Gifted Learners: Fractions on a Number Line: A Lesson for The Common Core State Standards, Identifying Appropriate Learning Tasks for Gifted Students by Beth Littrell
  • Web Watch: Identifying Gifted Learners by Carolyn Kottmeyer
  • Technology Ideas for Home and School: Khan Academy by Barbara L. Branch


  • Teaching Advanced Learners in the General Education Classroom reviewed by Christine Hoehner


Quick—what’s the number one frustration of local school district coordinators of services for gifted students? The Identification Process. This process is fraught with major expenditures of time and resources and laden with emotional stress in the interactions with school personal as well as parents. Most coordinators I know would gladly eliminate this part of their jobs if it weren’t so important! How else can we serve these children if we don’t know who they are? Additionally, how will we know what each gifted child needs in order to flourish at his or her optimal progress? The identification of gifted children is every much as important to these children as is the identification and diagnosis of children with learning disabilities. If gifted children are to be appropriately served, we must identify them in thoughtful, wideranging, equitable, and efficient ways. This is no small task!

Leading the way in our feature article section is Susan Johnsen; Dr. Johnsen has provided outstanding leadership at Baylor University in Texas and with the National Association for Gifted Children—especially identification and assessment of gifted children. Her article, “Best Practices in the Identification of Gifted and Talented Students,” provides a thoughtful look at the issues involved in identifying gifted children along with guidelines for carrying out the process. She sums up the process with three “must have” components:

  • equal access to a comprehensive assessment
  • qualities of procedures and assessment evidence, and
  • representativeness of diversity in the gifted education program.

Dr. Johnsen’s article leads us into an area of diversity that is often overlooked or omitted, namely, the identification of twice exceptional (2-e) learners: those who are both gifted and have learning challenges. They are often overlooked because their talents mask their learning difficulties, or omitted because school personnel (and sometimes parents too) think it is more important to focus on their disabilities rather than their strengths.

Summit Center in northern California specializes in helping 2-e children and their parents receive the support and counseling they need to become all they can. I met Dr. Dan Peters at the NAGC conference in New Orleans last November; his immediate concern was that it is so difficult to get appropriate identification of these children—they keep falling through the cracks—especially in public schools. He and his colleagues, Bobbie Gilman, Mike Postma, and Kathi Kearney have prepared their article, “Twice-Exceptional Students: An Endangered Species,” to help bring awareness of the needs of 2-e children to our readers.

Karen Rogers of the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota follows with a case history of one district’s efforts to better identify and assess twice-exceptional learners. Dr. Rogers begins her article with, “ This is the story of one public school district that has been able to nurture its twice exceptional learners in an effort to improve academic achievement in mathematics and reading/writing, intrinsic motivation to learn, and academic self efficacy.”

In her article, “It Takes a Village: Identifying and Providing Services For Twice Exceptional Learners In the Elementary Grades,” she describes the effectiveness of a group of dedicated, hard-working, and inspired teachers who make significant progress in their efforts.

We don’t often reprint articles in this journal; however, some things haven’t changed and are worthy of repeating. In “Bright Beyond Their Years: What are Parents to Think?” Judy Galbraith provides answers to some of parents most asked questions including:

  • I’m fairly certain that my preschooler is smarter than most of her playmates. Do I need to do something about this? Or do I just let her be a kid, as they say, and let nature take its course?
  • Why do I need to discuss my son’s giftedness with him? He’s bright—can’t we just leave it at that?
  • What does exceptionally bright or gifted mean, exactly? I know my child is advanced, but what specifically should I be looking for?

Finally, Barbara Clark’s earlier article, “Issues of Identification and Underrepresentation,” identifies some of the main factors cited when discussing the reasons why we have underrepresentation of culturally and linguistically different groups of children in gifted education programs. These include:

  • method of identification for gifted programs
  • definition of intelligence and giftedness
  • bias and prejudice of educators

Dr. Clark looks at these factors through the lenses of what she calls the “discrimination theory” and the “distribution theory.” She concludes with several “actions” that we can take to eliminate underrepresentation of these groups in our programs.

In addition, we’ve included two guidelines for identification and assessment as developed by the California Association for the Gifted and the National Association for Gifted Children.

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