Five Steps to Better Gifted Student Identification

Identifying gifted students is a process. Currently, there are disparities between minority and white students represented in gifted education. To make sure all students are represented, there are better ways to identify deserving students.


When students are gifted, they demonstrate higher order thinking skills that go above and beyond peers of the same age. Just because a child is smart, for lack of a better term, it does not necessarily mean the child is gifted. In the process of nomination, outright gifted students are identified, but the quieter students also get the same recognition.

Nomination should also be open to teachers, administrators, parents, and students themselves. Each nomination should be within reason and have grounding evidence as to why the child should be involved in the gifted program, not just because it looks good on college applications. Overall, the nomination should have validity to the claim.

Multifaceted Screening

Test scores and standardized tests do not always identify gifted students. Some students are “good at being students,” but their efforts and interests lie no further than passing a test. Additionally, using different screening tools takes into account things such as language barriers and special needs. While a student may not be good at written language or taking a test, he may have an expansive vocabulary or highly conceptual ideas that bodes gifted talents. Increasing opportunities for students in such groups pave the way for a more diversified gifted student body.

With special needs and language barriers aside, there are still high achieving students who excel in a particular subject or in a particular way of thinking that are left out of gifted education. For example, if a single test is given, and based on a learning style that is foreign to the student, he will not do well. Having comprehensive screening addresses this concern while also painting a picture of the student as a whole.

Teacher Feedback Narratives

Teachers spend quite a bit of time with students. Using unbiased, objective feedback from teachers can further corroborate findings in the screening process. Creating forms that are strictly objective and leave little to no room for subjective feedback from teachers gives an additional opportunity for students to be identified in the process. Removing personal views and feelings about specific students also allows for teachers to look at students for their skills and effort rather than negative behaviors.

As a formality, keeping these feedback forms concrete dissuades teachers from finding ways to give noncommittal answers in regards to student abilities. The following are examples of objective questions that could be included in the teacher feedback forms:

Did (said student) show novel and ingenious ways to approach topics and concepts in your class?

Did (said student) convey a passion for a specific topic pertaining to your class or another class(i.e., knowing uncommon and precise details of World War II)?

When (said student) was presented with a complex idea or assignment, did s/he show excitement and eagerness?

Portfolio Presentation

Portfolio utilization showcases different skills the student mastered over time. Portfolios can also show starting points and the progression that was necessary to master the skill. The file can hold materials from different classes to showcase comprehensive learning and skill mastery. The work contained in a portfolio is also a real, authentic indicator of student skill retention, exploration of learning, and risk taking.

Unbiased, Multiple Observations

Similar to the Individualized Education Plan process, nominated different professionals in different classes should observe gifted students and at different times of the day. One observation does not suffice if the student’s personality and effort do not mix well with the personality of the class, the personality of the teacher, expectations set forth by the teacher, or even the time of day the class takes place.

Gifted students unlock their potential in different ways, and the identification of gifted students should be conducted through different means. Talent is not just scoring high on an aptitude test or a standardized, once-a-year test. Giftedness surfaces daily and through various methods. Allowing leveled accessed for all potential students should be at the forefront of the identification process.

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