A Critical Call to Action: Professional Learning

After earning a certificate, licensure, or endorsement in gifted education, educational professionals typically participate in annual professional learning to increase educator effectiveness and enhance results for students with gifts and talents. A major goal is to bring awareness to disparities in identification and services and actions to overcome them. Ideally, preservice teachers and all other educators would be offered similar professional learning since these students are gifted and talented all day long, every day.

The Data

The underrepresentation of racially, culturally, ethnically, and linguistically different (RCELD) students, as well as students with multiple exceptionalities (2e), has been an ongoing discussion in gifted education for decades. The underrepresentation data are persistent, pervasive, and overwhelming; underrepresentation is a loss, not only for the students but for the nation. Effective, ongoing professional learning focused on equity, diversity, and inclusiveness prove critical to move the nation’s schools toward increasing these populations’ participation in gifted education services.

  • Only five states require gifted coursework as part of preservice teacher and administrator training, and only four states require gifted coursework as part of counselor training (Plucker et al., 2018).
  • A 2019 survey conducted by Education Week Research found that “most … general education teachers receive training on working with gifted students but only a minority report that the training is mandatory” (p. 4).
  • There is a “cultural mismatch between our predominantly White, female, middle-class teaching force and our increasingly culturally diverse population of students” (Davis, 2019, p. 52).
  • Many educators feel unprepared to serve and teach students from diverse backgrounds even after having one or two courses on the topic (Nieto, 2013). (If giftedness is added to the equation, educators feel even less prepared.)
  • According to the National 2e Community of Practice, “working successfully with this unique population [2e students] requires specialized academic training and ongoing professional development” (AEGUS, n.d., 2e Community of Practice).


What professional learning strategies for gifted and general education personnel can improve the identification, enrollment, and retention of students receiving gifted services, particularly students who are RCELD or have multiple exceptionalities? Gifted education researchers, theorists, authors, practitioners, and advocates committed to this question have identified recommendations:

  • Develop system-wide equity, diversity, and inclusion policy and framework for professional learning for schools and districts.
  • Provide quality foundational training in special and gifted education to increase the chance of educators meeting the needs of students with multiple exceptionalities (2e) (Baldwin et al., 2015)
  • Incorporate gifted education, particularly training and experiences in differentiating for high ability learners, in educator preparation programs so that preservice teachers are better prepared to address the needs of students with gifts and talents (Brevik et al., 2018).
  • Design professional learning experiences for teachers, counselors, and administrators about identifying and serving RCELD gifted students that are specific to the school’s and district’s student body and includes culturally relevant content, a safe space for candid conversations, and a collaborative approach (Lewis et al., 2018).
  • Conduct an annual evaluation of gifted professional learning practices, including an equity audit.

Resources to Learn More

  • “Reframing Professional Learning to Meet the Needs of Teachers Working with Culturally Diverse Gifted Learners” (2019 chapter by Joy Lawson Davis in Best Practices in Professional Learning and Teacher Preparation Series: Special Topics for Gifted Professional Development [Vol. 2] which is a book series by Angela Novak and Christine Weber)
  • “Administrative Leadership in Gifted Education” (a chapter by Tarek Grantham, Kristina Collins, and Kenneth Dickson in the second edition of the book Critical Issues and Practices in Gifted Education: What the Research Says)
  • Learning Forward (https://learningforward.org/)
Click here for a downloadable document


AEGUS: The Association for the Education of Gifted Underachieving Students. (n.d.). Our work. https://www.aegus1.com/our-work

Baldwin, L., Baum, S., Pereles, D., & Hughes, C. (2015). Twice-exceptional learners: The journey toward a shared vision. Gifted Child Today, 38(4), 206–214. https://doi.org/10.1177/1076217515597277

Brevik, L. M., Gunnulfsen, A. E., & Renzulli, J. S. (2018). Student teachers’ practice and experience with differentiated instruction for students with higher learning potential. Teaching and Teacher Education (71), 34-45. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2017.12.003

Davis, J. L. (2019). Reframing professional learning to meet the needs of teachers working with culturally diverse gifted learners. In A. M. Novak & C. L. Weber (Eds.), Best practices in professional learning and teacher preparation: Special topics for gifted professional development (Vol. 2, pp. 51-70). Prufrock Press.

Education Week Research Center. (2019). Gifted education: Results of a national survey. Editorial Projects in Education. https://www.edweek.org/media/2019/11/25/gt%20survey%20report-final%2011.25.19.pdf

Lewis, K. D., Novak, A. M., & Weber, C. L. (2018). Where are gifted students of color? Case studies outline strategies to increase diversity in gifted programs. The Learning Professional, (39)4, 50-58. https://learningforward.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/where-are-gifted-students-of-color.pdf

Nieto, S. (2013). Finding joy in teaching students of diverse backgrounds: Culturally responsive and socially just practices in U.S. classrooms. Heinemann.

Plucker, J. A., Glynn, J., Healey, G., & Dettmer, A. (2018, March). Equal talents, unequal opportunities: A report card on state support for academically talented low-income students (2nd ed.). Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. https://www.jkcf.org/research/equal-talents-unequal-opportunities-second-edition-a-report-card-on-state-support-for-academically-talented-low-income-students/

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