This information was produced by the staff of the Belin-Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development (B-BC) at the University of Iowa ( The resources and information listed here are for informational purposes; there is no direct or implied endorsement by the B-BC. Services provided by the B-BC include programs for academically talented K-12 and college students, professional development for teachers, the Assessment and Counseling Clinic, the Acceleration Institute (, and graduate programs and research in gifted education.

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Annotated Bibliography

Articles are listed in descending order by year (most recent first), and then by first author's last name.

Differentiation and Grouping

Steenbergen-Hu, S., Makel, M. C., Olszewski-Kubilius, P. (2016). What one hundred years of research says about the effects of ability grouping and acceleration on K-12 students’ academic achievement: Findings from two second-order meta-analyses. Review of Educational Research, 86, 849-899. doi:10.3102/0034654316675417  

Steenbergen-Hu, S., Makel, M. C., Olszewski-Kubilius, P. (2016). What one hundred years of research says about the effects of ability grouping and acceleration on K-12 students’ academic achievement: Findings from two second-order meta-analyses. Review of Educational Research, 86, 849-899. doi:10.3102/0034654316675417. [Keyword: Program Model]

Two second-order meta-analyses synthesized approximately 100 years of research on the effects of ability grouping and acceleration on K–12 students’ academic achievement. Outcomes of 13 ability grouping meta-analyses showed that students benefited from within-class grouping (0.19 ≤ g ≤ 0.30), cross-grade subject grouping (g = 0.26), and special grouping for the gifted (g = 0.37), but did not benefit from between-class grouping (0.04 ≤ g ≤0.06); the effects did not vary for high-, medium-, and low-ability students. Three acceleration meta-analyses showed that accelerated students significantly outperformed their nonaccelerated same-age peers (g = 0.70) but did not differ significantly from nonaccelerated older peers (g = 0.09). Three other meta-analyses that aggregated outcomes across specific forms of acceleration found that acceleration appeared to have a positive, moderate, and statistically significant impact on students’ academic achievement (g = 0.42).

Shaunessy-Dedrick, E., Evans, L., Ferron, J., & Lindo, M. (2015). Effects of differentiated reading on elementary students' reading comprehension and attitudes toward reading. Gifted Child Quarterly, 59(2), 91-107.

This study examined the effects of the Schoolwide Enrichment Model -- Reading (SEM-R) on fourth graders' reading comprehension and attitudes toward reading. Students in the SEM-R schools had significantly higher comprehension scores, but no significant differences were found regarding attitudes toward reading. 

Vogl, K., & Preckel, F. (2014). Full-time ability grouping of gifted students: Impacts on social self-concepts and school-related attitudes. Gifted Child Quarterly, 58(1), 51-68.

Positive socioemotional outcomes and developments represent important educational goals. Full-time ability grouping of gifted students has been criticized for potentially detrimental socioemotional effects. Therefore, in the present longitudinal study, we investigated whether or not social self-concepts and school-related attitudes and beliefs are affected by full-time ability grouping of the gifted. Students in regular classes and students in special classes for the gifted were paralleled for cognitive ability, sex, socioeconomic status, and school. By doing so, we studied 99 “statistical twins” (N = 198) from the beginning of fifth grade to the middle of sixth grade. Data were analyzed through repeated-measures multivariate analysis of covariance (within-subject factor: time; between-subject factors: class type—gifted vs. regular—and cognitive ability as covariate). Cognitive ability had hardly any effect on the variables under study. Attending a gifted class had initially positive effects on students’ social self-concept of acceptance but no effects on social self-concept of assertiveness. Moreover, children in gifted classes exhibited more interest in school and reported better student–teacher relationships than their counterparts in regular classes.

Tomlinson, C. A., & Jarvis, J. M. (2009). Differentiation: Making curriculum work for all students through responsive planning & instruction. In Renzulli, J. S., Gubbins, E. J., McMillen, K. S., Eckert, R. D., & Little, C. A. (Eds.), Systems & models for developing programs for the gifted & talented (2nd ed.) (pp. 599-628). Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press, Inc.

This is a chapter in a book that presents major systems and models for gifted program development. The chapter includes a discussion of the model, theoretical underpinnings, research on its effectiveness, and considerations for implementation. There are also discussion questions following each chapter.

Heacox, D. (2008). Differentiating instruction in the regular classroom: How to reach and teach all learners, grades 3-12. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit Publishing.

In this timely, practical guide, Diane Heacox presents a menu of strategies for any teacher faced with a spectrum of student needs and styles. The 2008 edition includes a CD with reproducible forms.

Al-Lawati, F. A. K., & Hunsaker, S. L. (2007). Differentiation for the gifted in American Islamic schools. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 30(4), 500-518.

A brief narrative description of the journal article, document, or resource. This research focuses on teacher instructional and curricular practices in gifted students' experiences in Islamic schools in the United States. Surveys were administered at private, full-time Islamic elementary schools to determine the extent to which differentiation practices for meeting the needs of gifted students and the integration of Islamic values were employed. Findings suggest that Islamic schools in the United States have limited programs for gifted students. A majority of teachers in Islamic schools differentiate little between gifted and average students in instructional strategies. When differentiation occurs, it is very basic. Further, teachers at Islamic schools generally do not integrate Islamic values into other academic areas and present them to all students without differentiation.

Lee, S.-Y., & Olszewski-Kubilius, P. (2006). A study of instructional methods used in fast-paced classes. Gifted Child Quarterly, 50(3), 216-237.

This study involved 15 secondary-level teachers who taught fast-paced classes at a university-based summer program and similar regularly paced classes in their local schools in order to examine how teachers differentiate or modify instructional methods and content selections for fast-paced classes. Interviews were conducted with the teachers during the summer sessions with a brief survey used as supplemental data. Overall, teachers in this study used a varied set of instructional strategies and in-class activities for their fast-paced classes including lectures, presentations, group activities, demonstrations, frequent tests and quizzes, timed writing, essays, and discussion. The shorter time frame (3 weeks versus 9 months) and teachers’ perceptions about students’ academic abilities were the two major reasons given for the differentiated instructional strategies and content in the fast-paced classes. In the survey data, less repetition in course content, advanced-level readings and questions, and more independence in learning were found for the fast-paced classes. Yet, the teachers were not likely to move beyond the textbook for enrichment materials or individualize homework or assignments for students in their fast-paced classes. They also expressed concerns regarding depth versus breadth of the material covered in the 3-week courses.

Reis, S. M., & Renzulli, J. S. (2005). Curriculum compacting: An easy start to differentiating for high-potential students. Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.

Curriculum compacting allowslearners to move successfully through the curriculum at their own pace. This book focuses on the nuts and bolts of this effective method for differentiating classroom content, process skills, and creative products of gifted learners.In this concise introduction, Dr. Sally M. Reis and Joseph S. Renzulli discuss the research on curriculum compacting and the steps employed in implementing it in any classroom. Case studies of its effectiveness on schoolwide enrichment are also included.This is one of the books in Prufrock Press' popular Practical Strategies Series in Gifted Education. This series offers a unique collection of tightly focuses books that provide a concise, practical introduction to important topics concerning the education of gifted children. The guides offer a perfect beginner's introduction to key information about gifted and talented education. (From book cover).

Brody, L. E. (Ed.) (2004). Grouping and acceleration practices in gifted education. In S. Reis (Series Ed.), Essential readings in gifted education: Vol. 3. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Articles in Volume 3 of this series are reprints of highly cited articles from Gifted Child Quarterly.

Coil, C. (2004). Standards-based activities and assessments for the differentiated classroom. Marion, IL: Pieces of Learning.

This book includes 49 units in three of the most popular formats for differentiated instruction. Each activity has a corresponding mini-rubric for assessment, so teachers can assess each differentiated activity fairly and accurately.

Brighton, C. M. (2003). The effects of middle school teachers' beliefs on classroom practices. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 27(2/3), 177-206.

The students in 21st century public middle schools are increasingly diverse in terms of language proficiency, cultural and ethnic representation, and varied levels of poverty, and yet, they are being educated in a political climate that encourages mainstreaming special education and gifted services in the regular classroom. Given this context, this study sought to examine 48 middle school content-area teachers' beliefs about teaching in diverse classrooms to determine how these beliefs affected their willingness and capacity to differentiate their instruction and assessment.Four teacher beliefs emerged from interview, observation, and document data that conflict with the philosophy undergirding differentiation. Each belief is presented with supporting evidence from the data and discussed in terms of its relationship to effective differentiated classroom practices.

VanTassel-Baska, J. (2003). Differentiating the language arts for high ability learners, K-8. Arlington, VA: ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education, Council for Exceptional Children. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED474306)

This digest discusses the need for differentiating language arts instruction for gifted students in grades K-8. It begins by describing differentiation approaches, including acceleration, depth, complexity, challenges, and creativity. It then explains how teachers can differentiate the language arts curriculum in the following five areas: (1) literature, including providing many experiences for students to read quality texts and emphasizing critical reading; (2) writing, including empathizing the development of skills in expository and persuasive writing; (3) language skills, including emphasizing the understanding of word relationships and origins, and the development of an appreciation for semantics, linguistics, and the history of language; (4) oral communication, including developing skills in evaluative listening, debate, and discussion; and (5) foreign language, including promoting early foreign language study and acceleration of language study. The final part of the digest explores individual differences among verbally talented students and presents two vignettes to portray the differences that exist in gifted learners who are the same age and exhibit aptitude in verbal areas. It is concluded that educators responsible for planning language art programs for high ability learners need to consider multiple variables in the areas of differentiation approach, content, and individual differences among gifted learners.

Fiedler, E. D., Lange, R. E., & Winebrenner, S. (2002). In search of reality: Unraveling the myths about tracking, ability grouping, and the gifted. Roeper Review, 24(3), 108-111. (Original work published in 1993)

The main purposes of this article are to dispute commonly held myths about grouping students by ability, differentiate ability grouping from tracking, and question the allegation that gifted programs are elitist. Rather than presenting new data, the authors interpret existing studies to provide support for their assertions that ability grouping can be an appropriate method to provide instruction to gifted students and that other venues within a school utilize grouping without being labeled as elitist.Specifically, the authors argue against the myths that tracking and ability grouping are the same thing; ability grouping is elitist; ability grouping inevitably discriminates against racial and ethnic minority students; gifted students do not benefit from grouping; providing heterogeneously grouped experiences is most effective for all students; and assuring that there are some gifted students in all classrooms will provide positive role models for others and will automatically improve the classroom climate.

Rogers, K. B. (2002). Grouping the gifted and talented: Questions and answers. Roeper Review, 24(3), 102-107.

Five questions about the academic, psychological, and socialization effects on gifted and talented learners of grouping for enrichment, of cooperative grouping for regular instruction, and of grouping for acceleration are addressed. Analysis of 13 research syntheses supports sustained periods of instruction in like-ability groups for gifted and talented students.

Shields, C. M. (2002). A comparison study of student attitudes and perceptions in homogeneous and heterogeneous classrooms. Roeper Review, 24(3), 115-119.

Despite arguments advocating mainstreaming and heterogeneous grouping as the best option for most, if not all students, the findings of this study suggest that homogeneous classes may serve the needs of academically talented and gifted students without detrimental effects to other students served in heterogeneous classrooms. The researcher compared a number of different measures for fifth and eighth grade students in both types of classrooms. These measures included student academic achievement as well as students’ perceptions of themselves as learners, of their school experience, and of their teachers’ behaviors and attitudes. Anticipated differences in academic achievement, consistent with initial placement criteria, were found. Statistically significant differences were identified for students’ perceptions of teachers’ behaviors and attitudes, but the anticipated differences in students’ attitudes towards themselves and their school experiences were not present.

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

This brief Merrill/ASCD text provides guidance, principles, and strategies for teachers who are interested in creating learning environments that address the diversity typical of mixed-ability classrooms. This text will help educators understand what differentiated instruction is, why it is appropriate for all learners, how to begin to plan for it, and how to become comfortable enough with student differences to make school comfortable for each learner in the classroom.

Guerrero, J. K. (1995). Serving the advanced middle school learner in the heterogeneous classroom. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

This study examined the extent to which trained teachers could effectively implement advanced instructional techniques and curricula for gifted students in a heterogeneous middle school environment.

Archambault Jr., F. X., Westberg, K. L., Brown, S. W., Hallmark, B. W., Emmons, C. L., & Zhang, W. (1993). Regular classroom practices with gifted students: Results of a national survey of classroom teachers. Storrs, CT: The University of Connecticut.

The Classroom Practices survey was conducted by The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) to determine the extent to which gifted and talented students receive differentiated education in regular classrooms across the United States. The survey samples included a general sample of 3,993 third and fourth grade teachers working in public school settings. A survey instrument called the Classroom Practices Questionnaire (CPQ) was developed to obtain background information on the teachers, their classroom, and their school districts as well as their perceptions of their teaching behavior related to gifted and average students in their classes. The major finding of this study is that 3rd and 4th grade teachers make only minor modifications in the regular classroom to meet the needs of gifted students. Some classroom teachers also attempt to eliminate material that students have mastered, provide the opportunity for more advanced level work, give students some input into how classroom time is allocated, and expose gifted students to higher level thinking skills, however, these modifications are not used widely. The survey also revealed that the regular classroom services provided to gifted students in schools with formal gifted programs are similar to those provided in schools without formal programs.

Kulik, J. A. (1993). An analysis of the research on ability grouping. NRC/GT Newsletter, Spring, 8-9.

This research review summarizes two major sets of meta-analyses on five kinds of ability grouping programs: (1) XYZ classes (high, middle, and low classes); (2) cross-grade grouping; (3) within-class grouping; (4) accelerated classes; and (5) enriched classes. One group of meta-analyses concluded that the strongest benefits from grouping were found in programs in which there was a great deal of adjustment of curriculum for highly talented learners. The other meta-analysis did not find any strong positive benefits of grouping, but did not examine grouping programs designed for highly talented students. Re-analysis of all studies included in both sets of meta-analyses confirmed that higher aptitude students usually benefit academically from ability grouping. Benefits are in proportion to the amount of curriculum adjustment, with programs entailing acceleration of instruction resulting in the most gain on standardized tests. Grouping was found to have less influence on the academic achievement of middle and lower aptitude students. Analysis of noncognitive outcomes suggests that the effects of grouping on self-esteem measures measure for all ability groups are small and may even be rather positive. Results are contrasted with the conclusions of J. Oakes ["Keeping Track: How Schools Structure Inequality" (1985)]. The review concludes that American education would be harmed by the wholesale elimination of programs that group learners for instruction by ability.

Feldhusen, J. F., & Moon, S. M. (1992). Grouping gifted students: Issues and concerns. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36(2), 63-67.

This article reviews the literature on grouping and argues for flexible grouping of students according to ability and achievement levels and maintains that grouping gifted students heterogeneously and providing cooperative learning leads to lowered achievement and motivation and poorer attitudes toward school for gifted students.

Kulik, J. A., & Kulik, C. L. C. (1992). Meta-analytic findings on grouping programs. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36(2), 73-77.

Meta-analytic reviews have shown that gifted students gain little from programs of minimal instructional modification (multilevel classes), more from greater modifications (cross-grade and within-class programs) and the most from those involving the greatest amount of curricular adjustment (enrichment and acceleration).

VanTassel-Baska, J. (1992). Educational decision making on acceleration and ability grouping. Gifted Child Quarterly, 36(2), 68-72.

This article provides an overview of key issues emanating from research and practice on acceleration and grouping. The author focuses on the fundamental importance of these two provisions for the gifted, examines them in the current context of school reform, and recommends a set of decision-making guidelines for practitioners to adopt for each issue. Acceleration guidelines include an emphasis on progressive development of learning based on mastery in content areas, flexibility in entrance and exit requirements for courses, and opportunities for telescoping and grade skipping. Grouping guidelines stress flexibility, opportunities for various forms of grouping, and independent learning options.

Rogers, K. B. (1991). The relationship of grouping practices to the education of the gifted and talented learner (Executive Summary).Storrs, CT: National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.

This executive summary reports on a study which utilized meta-analysis and best-evidence synthesis techniques to evaluate 13 research studies on the academic, social, and psychological effects upon learners who are gifted and talented of three grouping practices: (1) ability grouping for enrichment; (2) mixed ability cooperative grouping for regular instruction; and (3) grouping for acceleration. It concluded that the research showed strong, consistent support for the academic effects of most forms of ability grouping for enrichment and acceleration, but that the research is scant and weak concerning the socialization and psychological adjustment effects of these practices. Claims for the academic superiority of mixed ability grouping or for whole group instructional practices were not substantiated for gifted and talented learners. Guidelines are offered suggesting that: students who are gifted and talented should spend most of their school day with others of similar abilities and interests; cluster grouping of gifted students within an otherwise heterogeneously grouped classroom can be considered when a full time gifted program is not feasible; a cross-grade grouping option could be offered in the absence of a full time gifted program enrollment; gifted and talented students should be offered a variety of acceleration and enrichment based options; and mixed ability cooperative learning should be used sparingly for students who are gifted and talented.

Schatz, E. (1990). Ability grouping for gifted learners as it relates to school reform and restructuring. [Monograph]. Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

This monograph uses a question-answer format to address issues concerned with meeting the needs of gifted students as Wisconsin schools restructure and change grouping practices as part of raising standards of learning for all students.

Slavin, R. E. (1987). Grouping for instruction in the elementary school. Educational Psychologist, 22(2), 109-127.

Focuses on two major categories (between class and within class) found in research on the achievement effect of grouping. Among between-class ability grouping plans, research supports the achievement effects of the Joplin Plan (described by C. Floyd, 1954) and related programs in which students are regrouped across grade lines for reading and/or mathematics only. In contrast, research on ability-grouped class assignment, where students are assigned to self-contained classes by ability, consistently fails to support this practice. Research on special programs for the gifted and for students with mild academic handicaps tends to support acceleration and mainstreaming, respectively. Use of cooperative, heterogeneous learning groups also has consistently positive achievement effects if the groups are rewarded based on the learning of all group members.