Promoting Depth and Complexity in the Classroom

Addressing the needs of Gifted/Talented (G/T) students within the context of an Advanced Placement (AP) course comprised of learners with a range of abilities can present challenges to busy educators. Fortunately, numerous resources exist for promoting depth and complexity and differentiating curricula for the G/T student.

Complete List of Websites

The Advanced Academics Curriculum Evaluation System (AACES) contains both links to source documents used in defining areas for differentiation, and links to websites to help educators implement these strategies.

References and Further Reading

A complete list of works used by the Advanced Academics Curriculum Evaluation (AACE) Task Force in the development of this toolkit follows:
College Board. (2007). The Advanced Placement Program
Fournier, D.M. (Ed.). (1995, Winter). Reasoning in Evaluation: Inferential Links and Leaps. New Directions for Evaluation, 48.
Gubbins, J. (1998). NRC/GT's Suggestions: Evaluating your Programs and Services.
Hardback book
National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC). (2005). Hot topic: Differentiation of curriculum and instruction. .
Slocumb, P. & Payne, R. (2000). Removing the mask: Giftedness in poverty. Highlands, TX: aha! Process, Inc.
Stake, R. (1973, October). Keynote presentation at a conference on "New Trends in Evaluation" at the Institute of Education at Goteborg University.
Stake, R. & Trumball, D. (1982). Naturalistic generalizations. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Center for Instructional Research and Curriculum Evaluation.
Texas Education Agency. (2004). Gifted and Talented: Questions and Answers on the State Plan.
Texas Education Agency. (2000). Texas Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students.
Tomlinson, C. (1997, May). What it means to teach gifted learners well. Instructional Leader.

Additional Resources for Extending Curricula

Besides resources available throughout this toolkit, educators can check out these additional resources to discover professional development opportunities, Gifted/Talented (G/T) programs, and information on instructional strategies and materials for adding depth and complexity to existing curricula.

Professional Development Opportunities

Siva Kumari at Rice University has initiated a workshop for integrating Gifted/Talented (G/T) education strategies with AP Institute material.
The College Board may include gifted education with official AP Institutes or two-day workshops.
Education Service Centers throughout the state host workshops on curriculum and instructional strategies for educating G/T learners.
Additionally, TAGT workshops on curriculum compacting or creating thematic units can benefit Pre-AP and AP educators.

Instructional Strategies, Curriculum, Assessments, and Online Resources

The Texas Performance Standards Project (TPSP) is a statewide standards and assessment system for capturing the high levels of achievement of Gifted/Talented (G/T) students. The goal of the TPSP is for students to create work that reflects the professional quality that the Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students (State Plan) requires. Student projects are Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS)-based and focus on the core content areas of English language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies, with interdisciplinary connections.
In June 2003, the TEA convened a task force for the purpose of examining trends and practices in G/T programs in Texas. Specifically, this group focused on patterns and trends with regards to identifying students from different racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural groups who are underrepresented in programs for G/T students. As a result of the task force's findings, a G/T Equity Toolkit has been designed to provide educators with the tools and understanding they need to ensure equitable access to G/T services among all populations in Texas.
The first G/T Teacher Toolkit I was developed in 2006 to facilitate the teaching of research skills to G/T students. Originally designed as a CD application, the toolkit is now available through the TEA website.


Many of the terms in this section derive from the Texas State Plan for the Education of Gifted/Talented Students (State Plan) (2009).
See Pacing. Acceleration can also refer to grade skipping.
Array of Learning Experiences
A menu of challenging learning experiences or opportunities that fits the unique interests and abilities of advanced level students
Extending content in, between, and across disciplines through the study of themes, problems, and issues; seeing relationships between and among ideas in/within the topic and disciplines; examining relationships in, between, and across disciplines over time, and from multiple points of view (For additional examples see "Facilitating the Understanding of Depth and Complexity").
Continuum of Learning Experiences
Articulated learning experiences that provide planned experiences that build upon one another each year a student is in school
Exploration of content within a discipline; analyzing from the concrete to the abstract, familiar to the unfamiliar, known to the unknown; exploring the discipline by going past facts and concepts into generalizations, principles, theories, and laws; investigating the layers of experience within a discipline through details, patterns, trends, unanswered questions, and ethical considerations (For additional examples, see "Facilitating the Understanding of Depth and Complexity").
Modifications so that curriculum is presented either more quickly or more slowly than the general classroom pace, in order to accelerate or allow for deep interest that requires more time
Performance Standards
A set of research-based standards and an accompanying assessment system that captures the high levels of achievement that Gifted/Talented (G/T) students are able to exhibit (For complete details, visit the Texas Performance Standards Project website).
The search for truth; systematic approaches to determine a conclusion that can be duplicated with statistical integrity
A unifying or dominant idea
Universal themes are those broad-based ideas or issues that permeate all disciplines (e.g., change, structure, conflict, systems, etc.). A universal theme may be incorporated with a discipline to specify its point of view; for example, historical changes, biological changes, mathematical changes, or language changes.
The question or area of study that is the focus of the project
The topic is narrow enough in scope to allow for an in-depth, original study utilizing some degree of primary sources and analysis.