Gifted learners: Strategies to support and engage gifted students in the senior high school physics classroom


  • Andrew Roberts Virtual Academy, Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW, 2302, Australia


Gifted, High School, Pedagogy, Physics



The characteristics of gifted students are well established in the literature (Silverman, 2003) yet teacher understanding of these characteristics and their implications are not as widespread (Walsh & Jolly, 2018). These characteristics include learning rapidly, excellent memory, keen observations, good reasoning ability and curiosity. This presentation provides an overview of these key characteristics to take into account when teaching gifted students in the Physics classroom, and outlines pedagogical approaches to help meet the needs of these students (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2019) including examples from the author’s experience. Some of these approaches are a faster pace of learning, increased depth and complexity, and extension. It is important to note that gifted students require scaffolding of learning tasks as much as other students. Additionally, the role of 'pre-testing' as a formative assessment tool to maintain appropriate pace and challenge will be addressed. Lastly, the issue of low participation of girls in physics is visited (Jaremus, Gore, Fray & Prieto-Rodriguez, 2018) with reference to perfectionism and the forced choice dilemma facing gifted girls (Pfeiffer & Stocking, 2000; Gross, 1989). The forced choice dilemma refers to a choice between peer acceptance and the pursuit of academic excellence. This choice is a consequence of the asynchronous development of the social and emotional characteristics and the intellectual capabilities of many academically-gifted students.


Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (2019), Revisiting Gifted Education, NSW Department of Education. Retrieved August 21, 2022, from

‌Gross, M. U. M. (1989). The pursuit of excellence or the search for intimacy? The forced‐choice dilemma of gifted youth. Roeper Review, 11(4), 189–194.

Jaremus, F., Gore, J., Fray, L., & Prieto-Rodriguez, E. (2018). Senior secondary student participation in STEM: Beyond national statistics. Mathematics Education Research Journal31(2), 151–173.

Pfeiffer, S. I., & Stocking, V. B. (2000). Vulnerabilities of Academically Gifted Students. Special Services in the Schools16(1-2), 83–93.

Silverman, L. K. (2003). Characteristics of Giftedness Scale: Research and review of the literature. Available from the Gifted Development Center, 1452(9).

Walsh, R. L., & Jolly, J. L. (2018). Gifted education in the Australian context. Gifted Child Today41(2), 81-88.