PublicationsSystematic reviewsGifted & Talented ed achievement
A systematic review of interventions aimed at improving the educational achievement of pupils identified as gifted and talented

What do we want to know?

Which types of classroom-based interventions improve the educational achievement of pupils identified as gifted and talented?

What was our focus?

There is an expectation that all English schools and local authorities support the education of pupils identified as gifted and talented. In part, these requirements are a response to parents and schools requesting greater help in meeting the needs of these pupils. The validity and urgency of these concerns was confirmed by those government inspections which reported that sufficient challenge for gifted and talented pupils was uncommon in many mainstream schools (Hansard 1999, Freeman 1998)

What did we find?

  • The review supports the use of personalised learning and differentiation. There was evidence in favour of the appropriate use of streaming, differentiated provision within mixed ability classes, and individualised programmes. However, effective provision within mixed ability classes presumes a positive classroom climate.
  • The quality and character of group interactions was identified as a significant factor in the effectiveness of support for gifted and talented pupils. There was evidence that collaborative and group activities helped gifted and talented pupils perform better at some tasks. The role of the teacher was highlighted as especially important in promoting and maintaining positive group work.
  • Studies indicated that enrichment programmes that help gifted and talented pupils develop self-regulation and higher order thinking skills had a positive effect on their achievement and engagement

What are the implications?

  • The review endorses the policy of focusing support for gifted and talented pupils in mainstream settings. The Classroom Quality Standards materials, which emphasise personalised, differentiated learning, are therefore generally well-placed to offer specific guidance.
  • It is suggested that the Classroom Quality Standards take account of the review findings in future manifestations, especially emphasising the importance of class organisation, group interaction and enrichment strategies that develop skills such as self-regulation and higher order thinking.
  • Teachers and schools should be cautious about over-generalising, and of treating gifted and talented pupils as a homogeneous group. It is vital to be sensitive to individual needs and the mediating effects of the teacher, the curriculum and the classroom context.
  • Likewise, there is no one strategy or approach to social interaction that will work all of the time with all gifted and talented pupils.
  • Most forms of provision for gifted and talented pupils occur in social settings, and pupils’ abilities to deal with such contexts are likely to be important factors in academic success and personal motivation. The teacher has an important role to play in generating and sustaining contexts for appropriate social interactions.
  • There is an urgent need for funded research focused on English and on educational settings. In particular, studies are needed that explore the distinctive needs of individual gifted and talented pupils, their social interactions and their pedagogies.

How did we get these results?

In total, 20,947 studies were identified for screening through systematic searches of 18 bibliographic databases of published literature, specialist websites and hand-searching sources. Of these, 101 studies were included for the mapping stage of the review. After the further revision of the review question and additional exclusion criteria, the remaining 15 studies were subjected to in-depth synthesis.

The EPPI Centre’s reference numbers for these reports are 1612R (Report) and 1612T (Technical Report). The full citation is:

Bailey R, Pearce G, Winstanley C, Sutherland M, Smith C, Stack N, Dickenson M (2008) A systematic review of interventions aimed at improving the educational achievement of pupils identified as gifted and talented. Technical report. In: Research Evidence in Education Library. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

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