Teaching gifted and talented students

Gifted and talented young people experience a sense of wellbeing and engagement when provided with challenging learning environments and opportunities.

Schools should respond to each young person’s learning profile. For the gifted students, this often requires modifying the curriculum. Planning a differentiated curriculum makes it stimulating for gifted children or young people.

A differentiated curriculum is a curriculum that offers a variety of entry points for learners who differ in abilities, knowledge and skills and allows them to progress through it at a rate that matches their learning.

School programs

A number of primary and secondary schools in Victoria have sourced external programs or developed their own approaches that suit their particular context, to extend students’ learning within the classroom, school and community environments.

Programs and approaches may include:

  • personalising the curriculum with opportunities to respond to the learner’s needs
  • curriculum differentiation through changes in pace, depth, complexity and teaching method
  • different models of grouping, for example, interest and subject acceleration
  • specialised programs that offer students access to specialist expertise and facilities, including facilities available in the wider community, as part of deep engagement with a particular curriculum area
  • select entry accelerated learning programs designed for gifted and talented students who are capable of working at a significantly faster pace and in greater depth than their peers whereby students usually complete Years 7–10 in three years
  • mentoring programs within or between schools to connect students with ‘like minds’
  • engaging students with strengthened personalised learning opportunities that provide greater breadth and depth of learning, such as participation in the programs offered by:
  • the Higher Education Studies Program, which offers high-achieving VCE students the opportunity to study at a university as part of their VCE studies. Eligible students can complete one or more first year university subjects in a wide range of areas, including information technology, philosophy, mathematics and languages. Students who successfully complete the program have an increment added to their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) and may receive credit towards an undergraduate qualification.
  • opportunities to develop high-level technical or vocational abilities through access to workplace learning or learning in a community setting.

Personalised learning

Gifted and talented children and young people often differ from their age-peers not only in terms of their abilities, but in their preferred learning style as well. They have particular learning needs that require specific strategies and approaches that include, but are not limited to:

  • daily challenge in their specific areas of ability or interest
  • learning experiences that reflect a range of learning styles
  • opportunities to socialise and learn with peers of like-ability as well as work independently on areas of interest
  • connections to people and opportunities beyond the early childhood setting or school that support their particular passions and talents while connecting to the curriculum (Rogers, 2007).

While education for the gifted and talented requires specific strategies in terms of curriculum, assessment and teaching method, it also involves consideration of social-emotional development. Some researchers, such as Sisk, suggest that gifted children and young people are more likely to be sensitive, perfectionists and preoccupied with moral issues, and so they may require particular support in terms of social-emotional development .

When high-ability children and young people are in educational settings where their abilities are not recognised and supported, they typically experience boredom, frustration and decreased motivation (Neihart et al., 2002). In some cases, more severe forms of psychological distress can result.

The Education and Training Committee’s Inquiry into the Education of Gifted and Talented Students (June 2012) identified that some learners suffer from a sense of isolation, low self-esteem, anxiety and depression when their ability is not identified, they are insufficiently challenged or they feel ‘out of sync’ with their peers. They may disengage from learning or deliberately under-achieve in order to fit in. Some gifted learners may become disruptive in the classroom or exit early from schooling.

Gifted and talented children and young people have particular learning requirements. Responding to these requirements is not an optional extra – it is a key responsibility of early childhood settings, schools and the Department.

Definitions of gifted and talented

In Victoria, the widely accepted definition of giftedness and talented is adopted from Françoys Gagné’s model (2004), where ‘giftedness’ is understood as outstanding potential and ‘talent’ as outstanding performance.


  • Gifted individuals possess outstanding natural intellectual, physical, creative or social abilities.
  • Importantly, gifted children and young people may or may not be high achievers – while they may have outstanding potential they can be disengaged and under-achieve.
  • While all gifted individuals have the potential to perform at a significantly higher level than their age-peers, their level of ability may be considered on a scale of mildly to extremely gifted.
  • Around 10-15% of people may fall within the full range of gifted abilities, however high to extreme levels of giftedness are only prevalent in a very small proportion of the population


Talented individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding mastery of systematically developed knowledge and skills in one or more areas. They typically develop these competencies through practice and are usually highly motivated and persistent in their endeavours.

Gifted and talented children and young people may have one or more gifts or talents across a wide range of domains, including:

  • discrete academic disciplines, such as mathematics, science, languages or the humanities
  • an area of physical, artistic or technical ability, such as a gift in a sport, the visual or performing arts, agricultural science or software development
  • creativity, innovative thinking and problem-solving ability
  • social, communicative and leadership ability.

Gifted and talented children and young people, like all young people, should be encouraged, challenged and inspired if they are to realise their potential.

More information

For more information, see: