Graduate Certificate Programs in Gifted Education
Gifted education is a teaching specialization that requires advanced pedagogical training on top of the foundational knowledge teachers cultivate prior to initial licensure. Graduate certificate programs in gifted education are non-degree programs designed specifically to provide educators who are interested in working with gifted students a streamlined, less time intensive, and more affordable alternative to a full master’s in education program. These programs consist of a small cluster of graduate-level courses that specifically focus on gifted education rather than the ten or more courses that are typically required to earn a master’s degree.
Graduate certificate programs in gifted education focus on the role of teachers in gifted education in elementary and secondary schools. These programs introduce teachers to the tools and techniques educators employ to conduct assessments and provide classroom guidance and instruction for students who qualify for gifted education. They are designed for working teachers and other educators who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree who wish to work with gifted students at various levels and in an array of instructional settings. Most gifted education graduate certificate programs also help teachers to establish their eligibility for a state-issued endorsement in gifted education, and courses taken as part of a certificate program can generally be counted as continuing education requirements in schools and districts that require and/or reward continuing education.
Gifted Education Explained
Public and many private elementary and secondary schools provide instruction and educational services to students with varied backgrounds and an array of distinct academic and emotional needs. In order to do so effectively, schools employ different types of teachers, including general classroom teachers, subject-area specialists, and specialists who are trained to work with specific student populations. Gifted students represent one of those population groups.
Working in gifted education involves identifying students who meet specific criteria for gifted services; designing and conducting classroom activities and programs of instruction that are appropriate for these students; and coordinating gifted initiatives with other teachers within a school, as well as with school administrators, boards of education, and families. In addition to these functions, teachers trained to work with gifted students commonly provide emotional guidance and developmental support to their students. Finally, gifted teachers may be called upon to work with parents to ensure that gifted students from diverse backgrounds are properly challenged, have access to enrichment materials, and are encouraged to succeed as they matriculate through elementary and secondary school.
Identifying and Classifying Gifted Education Graduate Certificate Programs
Graduate certificate programs that provide formal academic instruction and training in gifted education are typically offered by schools and departments of education within larger colleges and universities, many of which also offer graduate programs in one or more education specializations. While the formal names of these programs vary, programs are generally designated as Gifted Education, Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), or Gifted Education and Talent Development programs. These programs offer a curriculum consisting of a relatively small number of graduate courses (between four and seven is common) that focus on gifted student assessment, programming for gifted students, and the role of the gifted education instructor in elementary and secondary schools. Graduate certificate programs can typically be completed in two or three semesters, depending on the structure of the program and how many courses students are able to take per term.
Graduate certificate programs in gifted education are generally designated as graduate or post-baccalaureate certificate programs, as they require students to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, although they are also suitable for teachers who hold a master’s degree and are interested in specializing in gifted education. However, some graduate certificate programs are post-master’s programs, which means they require students to hold a master’s degree for admission. Finally, while some programs accept students who have a bachelor’s degree in any field, other programs do require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in education and/or a valid state teaching license.
Students who complete a gifted education graduate certificate program and who have already attained initial state licensure may qualify for a gifted education/gifted teacher endorsement, provided they have catalogued a certain number of classroom hours at an elementary or secondary school. However, policies and procedures for teaching licensure and gifted education endorsement vary by state, so it is advisable to review your state’s endorsement requirements prior to enrolling in a graduate certificate program in gifted education. Similarly, licensed teachers who complete a graduate certificate program in gifted education may be able to apply the program’s credit hours toward continuing education requirements in their district or state. Policies regarding continuing education vary by school system.
Note: While many graduate certificate programs in gifted education accept students who hold a bachelor’s degree in any field or discipline, these programs are typically not designed to prepare students to attain their initial state teaching license.
Gifted Education Graduate Certificate Coursework
While requirements and course names vary by program and school, it is possible to make generalizations regarding curricula based on an analysis of graduate certificate programs in the field. In general, programs classified as gifted education graduate certificate programs provide training and instruction in the following six areas:
- Identification & Assessment of Gifted/Talented Learners
- Pedagogy & Program Design for Gifted/Talented Students
- Social, Emotional, & Developmental Components of Gifted Education
- Differentiated & Individualized Instruction for Gifted/Talented Learners
- Research & Evidence-Based Practice in Gifted Education
- The Role of Gifted Programming in the Modern School
Many programs align their curricula with recommendations outlined jointly by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) and the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), which are published in their Teacher Preparation Standards in Gifted Education. The standards suggest that gifted education teachers should be able to: conduct student assessments; recognize and respond to individual student learning styles; design classroom and school-wide gifted programs; and coordinate gifted programs with standard school programming.
In addition, some graduate certificate programs in gifted education, particularly those that are designed to prepare students for a state-level gifted education endorsement, include an instructional teaching practicum. This supervised classroom experience may be waived for students who have one or more years of prior classroom experience as a licensed teacher.
Online Graduate Certificate in Gifted and Talented Education Programs
Gifted education graduate certificate programs are generally designed to accommodate recent college graduates and mid-career professionals who may already be teaching or working as school administrators, librarians, program coordinators, and/or media specialists. As a result, programs commonly schedule courses on weekends or in the evenings in order to not conflict with the school day. Many accredited non-profit colleges and universities now have programs that are offered entirely or mostly online as well. Students interested in pursuing a graduate certificate online should contact an admissions advisor before applying to an out-of-state program, as some programs do not accept online students from all 50 states.
Online graduate certificate programs in gifted education provide the same type of training and instruction as students would expect from traditional, campus-based programs. However, online programs do so via distance learning technologies. Students in online programs access their courses through learning management system (LMSs), a technical term for interactive, multi-functional, web-based platforms that stream lectures, instructional modules, and virtual classroom sessions to students located anywhere with a secure Internet connection. Some online programs utilize synchronous instruction, which means that classes convene at set times during which students must be logged on to the program’s LMS in order to participate. Other programs rely on asynchronous instruction, which describes a broad range of teaching and learning activities that do not require real-time engagement, such as pre-recorded lectures, online discussion boards, and instructional sessions that can be accessed at any time, 24-7.
While there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of online instruction – synchronous instruction provides more structure and interactivity, while asynchronous instruction offers more flexibility – they are generally considered to be equally effective methods of instruction, provided they align with student expectations and individual learning styles. Thus, it can be helpful to research online programs, their format, and their requirements carefully prior to choosing a program, as not all online the programs are the same in their course content delivery. In fact, some online programs require students to attend one or two campus visits, which may include orientation sessions, workshops, seminars, student presentations, and other activities that can enhance the online learning experience. Finally, there are programs that offer a mix of online and campus-based courses. These programs are commonly referred to as blended or hybrid programs.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificates in Gifted Education
The following schools are examples of accredited, non-profit universities that currently offer fully online graduate certificate programs in gifted education:
University of Virginia (UVA) offers an Online Gifted Education Graduate Certificate program through its Curry School of Education that does not require any campus visits. The 12-credit program requires the completion of four graduate courses. Students who want to apply for Virginia’s gifted education endorsement must then complete a 45-hour on-site practicum or have a minimum of one year of prior classroom teaching experience. Visit the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education at curry.virginia.edu to learn more.
Arizona State University (ASU) offers a 15-credit Online Gifted Education Graduate Certificate program that consists of five graduate courses. The program curriculum can be completed entirely online in less than two years both by students who are working as teachers and by students who are concurrently pursuing an online graduate degree in Curriculum & Instruction through ASU. Visit ASU Online at asuonline.asu.edu to learn more.
Rutgers University in New Jersey offers a 15-credit online Graduate Certificate in Gifted Education program that consists of four online courses and a field education practicum. The program’s curriculum is designed for a wide range of students, including classroom teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, administrators, and others who work in K-12 education. Visit Rutgers University at gifteded.rutgers.edu to learn more.
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