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Glossary of Terms

Gifted education, also known as Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), Talented and Gifted (TAG) or (G/T), is a broad term for special practices, procedures, and theories used in the education of children who have been identified as gifted or talented. There is no standard global definition of what a gifted student is. Educational authorities have variations of the definition of giftedness, which vary within countries, states, districts, and schools.

The National Association for Gifted Children describes “gifted individuals” as individuals who demonstrate outstanding aptitude or competence in one or more domains. An “aptitude” is there defined as an exceptional ability to learn or reason. “Competence” is defined as documented performance or achievement in the top 10 percent of the population.

The glossary below defines common terms associated with Giftedness. It has been designed to present the commonly accepted meaning of each term and interpretation of its importance to gifted education. It is not a complete dictionary of terms. If you have questions or comments, please contact us at 602-882-1848.

Ability Assessment
An ability assessment measures a student’s performance on a nationally-normed intelligence instrument. There are group ability assessments (e.g., Cognitive Ability Test, Terra Nova) and there are individual ability assessments (WISCIV, WNV, Stanford-Binet V). Ability measures the capacity to do something. Ability is different from achievement. Ability measures how a student learns while achievement measures what a student has learned.


Ability Grouping
When students of a similar ability or achievement level are placed in a class or group based on observed behavior or performance. Ability grouping is not the same as tracking. Read the NAGC position on ability grouping.


A strategy of progressing through education at rates faster or ages younger than the norm. This can occur through grade skipping or subject acceleration (e.g., a fifth-grade student taking sixth-grade math). View the report A Nation Deceived from the Institute for Research and Policy on Acceleration. Discover guidelines for building an acceleration policy. Faster presentation of content to more closely match the speed at which gifted students learn. Acceleration options include early entrance to Kindergarten or 1st grade, subject acceleration, whole-grade acceleration, dual enrollment programs, and early entrance to college.


Holding students, teachers, administrators, and other school personnel responsible for instructional outcomes.


Achievement Tests
Tests which are designed to measure what students have already learned, mostly in specific content areas. An example of an achievement test is the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (ITBS).


Advanced Placement (AP)
A program developed by the College Board where high schools offer courses that meet criteria established by institutions of higher education. In many instances, college credit may be earned with the successful completion of an AP exam in specific content areas (as this credit varies between colleges and universities, it is suggested that questions about this process be forwarded to the college or university of the student’s choice). The Pre-AP program is offered to younger students as preparation for upper-level courses. Offering AP courses is not equivalent to offering a gifted program.


Affective Curriculum
Curriculum that focuses on person/social awareness and adjustment and includes the study of values, attitudes, and self. Sometimes referred to as social-emotional curriculum.


An inclination to excel in the performance of a certain skill.


Aptitude Test
A test predicting a student’s future performance in a particular domain. One such test is the SAT Test. View more information on testing.


Asynchronous Development
Differing rates for physical, cognitive, and emotional development. For example, a gifted child may be chronologically 13 years old, intellectually 18, emotionally 8, and physically 11. The discrepancies are greatest for children at the chronological age of about 13, but the extremes displayed by gifted children have led some experts to define giftedness itself as asynchronous development.


A term used to describe disparate rates of intellectual, emotional, and physical rates of growth or development often displayed by gifted children. Find more information here.


A term used to describe students whose economic, physical, emotional, or academic needs go unmet or serve as barriers to talent recognition or development, thus putting them in danger of underachieving or dropping out. Read more information.


Authentic Assessment
Evaluating student learning through the use of student portfolios, performance, or observations in place of or in conjunction with more traditional measures of performance such as tests and written assignments. The process allows students to be evaluated using assessments that more closely resemble real-world tasks.

Bloom’s Taxonomy
Developed in 1956 by Benjamin Bloom, the taxonomy is often used to develop curriculum for gifted children. There are six levels within the taxonomy that move from basic to high levels of thinking. The original levels included knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The taxonomy was later updated to reflect 21st-century skills, with the levels changing to remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.

Brainstorming is an activity used to generate many creative ideas that have no right or wrong answers and are accepted without criticism. Effective brainstorming is characterized by fluency and flexibility of thought.

Cluster Grouping
A grouping assignment for gifted students in the regular heterogeneous classroom. Typically, five or six gifted students with similar needs, abilities, or interests are “clustered” in the same classroom, which allows the teacher to more efficiently differentiate assignments for a group of advanced learners rather than just one or two students. View more information.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
A set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy (ELA) proposed in 2013 that outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards place emphasis on helping students obtain skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college and careers.

Concurrent or Dual Enrollment
Most often refers to high school students taking college courses, often for college credit. Dual enrollment is viewed as providing high school students benefits such as greater access to a wider range of rigorous academic and technical courses, savings in time and money on a college degree, promoting efficiency of learning, and enhancing admission to and retention in college. The terms may also be used to refer to middle-grade students taking high school courses and earning credit toward graduation.

Creative Thinking Ability
Ohio recognizes creative thinking as a category of giftedness. A child with creative thinking ability is one who consistently engages in divergent thinking that results in unconventional responses to conventional tasks to the extent that s/he needs and can profit from specially planned educational services beyond those normally provided by the standard school program.

The process of developing new, uncommon, or unique ideas. The federal definition of giftedness identifies creativity as a specific component of giftedness.

Criterion-Referenced Testing
An assessment that compares a student’s test performance to his or her mastery of a body of knowledge or specific skill rather than relating scores to the performance of other students.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students (CLD)
Students from diverse backgrounds, including those of black, Hispanic, and Asian descent, those learning English as a second language, and those from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Often, these students are considered as being underrepresented in gifted programming. Can sometimes be referred to as culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse (CLED) students.

Curriculum Compacting
An instructional technique that allows teachers to adjust curriculum for students by determining which students already have mastered most or all of the learning outcomes and providing replacement instruction or activities that enable a more challenging and productive use of the student’s time. Find more information at the Neag Center for Gifted Education at the University of Connecticut. Adapts the regular curriculum to meet the needs of advanced students by eliminating work that has already been mastered or condensing work that may be mastered at a pace more appropriate for the student’s ability level.

Modifying curriculum and instruction according to content, pacing, and/or product to meet unique student needs in the classroom. Refers to a process by which the standard curriculum is modified in content, process, product, and/or environment to meet the needs of high ability students. Modifications relate to the quality of work as opposed to the quantity.

Distance Learning
When a student takes a course remotely (most commonly over the Internet) from a school or teacher different from his or her local/home district. These can come in the form of online high schools, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), courses for dual credit through universities, or courses offered by Talent Search programs.

Dual Enrollment
Taking upper-level coursework concurrently with grade-level coursework.

English Language Learners
Students who are learning English as an additional language. Special consideration should be taken to identify these students properly for gifted programming. View a manual on identifying and serving this population from the Belin Blank Center.

Activities that add or go beyond the existing curriculum. They may occur in the classroom or in a separate setting such as a pull-out program. The curriculum is modified to provide greater depth and breadth than is generally provided, resulting in a richer and more varied educational experience. The term enrichment may also imply activities which are conducted outside of the regular classroom, such as participation in a math or geography contest.

Flexible Grouping
An instructional strategy where students are grouped together to receive appropriately challenging instruction. True flexible grouping permits students to move in and out of various grouping patterns, depending on the course content. Grouping can be determined by ability, size, and/or interest.

Full Scale
The Full Scale IQ refers to the sum of the parts on an intelligence test. For example, the full scale IQ on the WISC-IV is a composite of these parts: Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory and Processing Speed. IQs between 85 and 115 are considered within the “average range” in that they are one standard deviation above and below the mean (100).

Gifted and Talented Students
The federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act defines gifted and talented students as “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 and activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop those capabilities.” [Title IX, Part A, Definition 22. (2002)] Many states and districts follow the federal definition.

Giftedness refers to distinctly above-average competence in intellectual, creative, socioaffective (leadership, empathy, self-awareness) sensory motor ability (strength, fine motor control, endurance), or other areas (extrasensory perception, healing) [Gagne]

Heterogeneous Grouping
Grouping students by mixed ability or readiness levels. A heterogeneous classroom is one in which a teacher is expected to meet a broad range of student needs or readiness levels. Also referred to as inclusion or inclusive classrooms. Check out the the NAGC position statement on ability grouping.

Homogeneous Grouping
Grouping students by need, ability, or interest. Although variations between students exist in a homogeneous classroom, the intent of this grouping pattern is to restrict the range of student readiness or needs that a teacher must address.

The process of determining students qualified for gifted or advanced programming, identification most commonly occurs through the use of intelligence or other testing. Many researchers place emphasis on using multiple pathways for identification, adding teacher, parent, or peer nominations or authentic assessments such as portfolios of student work to the process. Find more information here.

Inclusion/Inclusive Classroom
An inclusive classroom contains students of varying ability levels. See heterogenous grouping (above) for more information.

Independent Study
A self-directed learning strategy where the teacher acts as guide or facilitator and the student plays a more active role in designing and managing his or her own learning, often on a topic of special interest to the student.

Individual Education Plan (IEP)
An IEP is a document that delineates special education services for special-needs students. The IEP includes any modifications that are required in the regular classroom and any additional special programs or services. Federal law and the majority of states do not require IEPs for gifted learners.

The ability to learn, reason, and problem solve. Debate revolves around the nature of intelligence as to whether it is an innate quality or something that is developed as a result of interacting with the environment. Many researchers believe that it is a combination of the two.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ)
A numerical representation of intelligence. IQ is derived from dividing mental age (result from an intelligence test) by the chronological age times 100. Traditionally, an average IQ is considered to be 100.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Program
A demanding pre-university program that students can complete to earn college credit. IB emphasizes critical thinking and understanding of other cultures or points of view. A diploma is awarded at the completion of the IB program, which allows graduates access to universities worldwide. The IB program now includes Middle Years and Primary Years programs. View article here from the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development

Learning Styles/Learning Preferences
Preferred way(s) in which individuals interact or process new information across the three domains of learning identified in the taxonomy of education objectives: cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (attitude). An individual’s learning preference/learning style is how he or she learns best

Magnet Schools
A public school program that focuses on a specific learning area such as math, science, technology, or the performing arts. Magnet schools have been established to meet the specific learning needs of the gifted.

A community member who shares his or her expertise with a student of similar career or field of study aspirations.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
A set of academic standards in science proposed in 2013 that outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. The standards place emphasis on helping students obtain skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college and careers.

Norm-Referenced Testing
An assessment that compares an individual’s results with a large group of individuals who have taken the same assessment (who are referred to as the “norming group”). Examples include the SAT and Iowa Tests of Basic Skills

A theory proposed by Kazimierz Dąbrowski, a Polish psychologist, psychiatrist, and physician, that suggests that some individuals have heightened sensitivities, awareness, and intensity in one or more of five areas: psycho-motor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational, and emotional.

An alternative or supplement to traditional measures of giftedness, portfolios offer a collection of student work over time that can help to determine achievement and progress. Many of the elements found in portfolios cannot be captured by a standardized test. Find more info here.

Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
A curriculum and instruction model that asks students to solve real-world, complex, or open-ended problems by using research, decision-making, creative and critical thinking, and other 21st-century skills. Learn more in this article in the Center for Talent Development newsletter.

Pull-Out Program
A program that takes a student out of the regular classroom during a portion of the school day for special programming.

Response to Intervention (RtI)
RtI is a general education method to identifying and serving students with diverse educational needs, particularly those children with disabilities. Read the The Association for the Gifted/ Council for Exceptional Children’s description of RtI and how it can be used.

A rubric is a chart composed of criteria for evaluation and levels of fulfillment of those criteria. A rubric allows for standardized evaluation according to specified criteria, making grading simpler and more transparent.

Self-Contained Classroom

A self-contained classroom is one in which the students share similar academic requirements. For example, all the gifted children in a school or school district will be contained in the same classroom.

Sometimes the children are all in the same grade level, but other times, particularly when there are a limited number of gifted children, the classroom may contain children spanning more than one grade level, grades four through six, for example.

Social-Emotional Needs
Gifted and talented students may have affective needs that include heightened or unusual sensitivity to self-awareness, emotions, and expectations of themselves or others, and a sense of justice, moral judgment, or altruism. Counselors working in this area may address issues such as perfectionism, depression, low self-concept, bullying, or underachievement. View the NAGC position paper on social-emotional needs of gifted children.

Standardized Test
A test taken by many students under identical conditions which allows results to be compared statistically to a given standard. Popular standardized assessments include the ACT, SAT, PSAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the Cognitive Ability Test.

An acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, providing STEM curriculum is encouraged as a way to grow students’ interests and potentials in these areas. Some researchers lump the arts (STEAM) into this category of instruction.

Talent Development
Programs, curricula, and services for gifted and talented students that can best meet their needs, promote their achievements in life, and contribute to the enhancement of our society when schools identify students’ specific talent strengths and focus educational services on these talents.

Talent Search
A special program that uses out-of-level testing (commonly the SAT or ACT) to identify high-potential students and allow them to participate in a variety of out-of-school activities. These may occur in the form of Saturday or summer courses or distance learning programs. There are four major talent searches in the U.S.:

To cover the same amount of materials or activities in less time, thereby allowing more time for enrichment activities and projects that better suit the interests, needs, and readiness levels of gifted students.

Tiered Assignments
In a heterogeneous classroom, a teacher uses varied levels of activities to ensure that students explore ideas at a level that builds on their prior knowledge and prompts continued growth.

A term used to describe a student who is both gifted and disabled. These students may also be referred to as having dual exceptionalities or as being gifted with learning disabilities (GT/LD). This also applies to students who are gifted with ADHD or gifted with autism. View the NAGC position paper on Twice Exceptionality.

Underachieving / Under-achievement
A term used to describe the discrepancy between a student’s performance and his or her potential or ability to perform at a much higher level.

Validity is the extent to which a test measures what it claims to measure. It is vital for a test to be valid in order for the results to be accurately applied and interpreted. Validity isn’t determined by a single statistic, but by a body of research that demonstrates the relationship between the test and the behavior it is intended to measure. There are three types of validity: content, criterion-related and construct.

Visual or Performing Arts Ability
Some states recognizes visual (visual arts) or performing arts ability (music, drama/theatre, dance) in students. Typically, there is a checklist of behaviors related to a specific arts area. Experts in the field serve as the evaluators for Visual or Performing Arts Ability.

Written Acceleration Plan
Some states requires a Written Acceleration Plan (WAP) for students who are accelerated (subject, whole or early entrance to Kindergarten/1st grade). The WAP specifies the accelerated placement, transition strategies, methods of monitoring progress and staff responsible.

Written Education Plan
Some states require that students who are reported as served have Written Education Plans (WEP’s) to document the services provided, the goals for the students, methods for evaluating progress, method and schedule for reporting progress to parents, a list of the staff responsible to ensuring delivery of each service prescribed, policies regarding waiver of assignments and re-scheduling of tests and the deadline for the next review of the WEP. Some states use Individual Education Plans (IEPs) rather than a WEP.

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