Using Cluster Grouping with Gifted Students

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will discuss a gifted education strategy that is growing in popularity: inclusive classrooms with cluster grouping, in which all gifted students in a grade level are placed in the same class with a trained teacher who differentiates instruction.

Sara's Suggestion

Sara is part of the work group that assigns teachers each year. Most of the time, students are assigned to teachers to evenly distribute students in a class according to ability. The students in each class approximate the bell curve with a few struggling students, a few high achievers and the majority of students in each class having more or less average grades and performance. Sara's summer in-service training was about providing quality education for the gifted based on research-driven best practices. One of the ideas she learned there was cluster grouping students to help gifted students.

A standard distribution of student scores resembles a bell curve. Cluster grouping divides the class differently.
image of a bell curve

Cluster Grouping

Cluster grouping means to group gifted students together in clusters, usually within the same classroom. These groupings should be flexible rather than the rigid tracking that tends to label students for life as high or low performers. Clustering is not the same as tracking because cluster groups are flexible and should evolve based on the needs of the student or a particular project.

Sara proposes this idea to use cluster grouping to her team in order to facilitate some of the educational benefits to the underserved gifted students in her school. She knows there are several factors to consider when considering cluster grouping as a means of educating the gifted.


Students who are gifted require a different approach to instruction and deserve to have teachers with specialized training. This training should cover information about how to provide the best possible education to gifted students including strategies and research-based best practices.

Sara has had some of the training needed, and the school would save money by assisting her in getting additional training to specialize in working with gifted students in a cluster group. Otherwise, the school would need to provide for training to all teachers so having specialists teaching a cluster group is a more efficient use of school resources.

Group Structure

There are several ways cluster groups can be organized to fit the needs of students. Interest based grouping works well for enrichment activities. Performance-based groupings would keep students with similar output quantities together. Ability groupings would be based on grades or test scores.

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