Twice-Exceptional Learners: Effects of Teacher Preparation and Disability Labels on Gifted Referrals

Nov. 10, 2010

Source: Teacher Education and Special Education, v. 33 no. 4, p. 319-334. (November 2010).
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The current study had two goals: (1) to examine the differences among three groups of teachers (special education teachers, general education teachers, and gifted education teachers) on their perceptions of students with disabilities; (2) to examine the teachers' willingness to refer students with disability to a gifted and talented program.

The authors investigated three questions:
Do referral ratings for gifted programs differ among general education teachers, special education teachers, and teachers of the gifted?
Do referral ratings for gifted programs differ among teachers who believe that the student has a LD, an EBD, or no exceptional condition? and
Is there an interaction between labeled conditions and teacher certification type?

This mixed methods study employed a fully mixed concurrent equal-status design (Leech & Onwuegbuzie, 2009). This design involves mixing qualitative and quantitative approaches at the stages of data collection, analysis, and interpretation.
This study comprised of 277 participants: 52 special education teachers, 195 general education teachers, and 30 teachers of the gifted. All the teachers were working in one south Florida school district. All were working at the elementary school level and had completed at least a bachelor's degree in education.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions: no exceptionality label, LD label, or EBD label.


In this follow-up to an earlier work (Bianco, 2005), data reveal that all teachers are much less willing to refer students with disability labels to gifted programs than identically described students with no disability labels.
However, the authors observed significant differences among teacher groups.
When compared to teachers of gifted students and general education teachers, special education teachers are least likely to refer students with and without disabilities to a gifted program.

Implications for Practice

These findings hold several important implications for teacher training at the college and university level, as well as the state and local district professional development level.
Preservice teacher preparation does not adequately prepare teachers to identify or serve gifted students. Information concerning the unique needs of gifted learners should be part of every teacher's training. Specifically, general education and special education teachers may benefit from training that includes learning the characteristics and needs of gifted students.

Furthermore, teacher educators, state departments of education, and local school districts are encouraged to collaborate on creating professional development opportunities and practitioner-friendly resources focusing on twice-exceptional learners.

Finally, course work and/or in-service training could help teachers understand a multidimensional view of giftedness and increase awareness and identification of under-identified gifted students, including twice-exceptional learners.

Bianco, M. (2005). The effects of disability labels on special education and general education teachers' referrals for gifted programs. Learning Disability Quarterly, 28(4), 285-293.

Leech, N. L., & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2009). A typology of mixed methods research designs. Quality and Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, 43, 265-275.

Updated: Jan. 23, 2011