Gifted Learners

Enriching the learning experience for gifted and talented students. SchoolAdvice provides insight and specialized services for families, educators and schools

We are excited and fortunate to welcome Camelia Birlean, PhD to our team! Dr. Birlean is a recognized expert in the field of gifted education and a member of the Faculty of Education at McGill University.

Dr. Birlean has extensive (2008-present) experience in teaching, mentoring, and training both,
pre-service and in-service teachers on a wide range of topics, including but not limited to:

  • effective teaching and learning strategies as well as assessment practices for mainstream as well as special education learners;
  • addressing the needs of gifted and talented learners through curriculum engagement in
    respectful learning tasks that are commensurate with learners’ cognitive ability.
Dr. Camelia Birlean - Expertise

Since the beginning of doctoral studies, Dr. Birlean engaged in authentic supervisory experience mentoring teacher-practitioners enrolled in the Masters of Education (Inclusive Education) Program at McGill. In her work with the MEd students, Dr. Birlean invested particular effort to expand her students’ curiosity for research in gifted education and its implication to teaching and instruction.

In her former role (January 2016 – July 2018) as Consultant of Research, Faculty Development and Student Experience at Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s (ECS), Dr. Birlean engaged in various initiatives that focused particularly on Professional Development (teacher training and mentoring) and Students Experience. Some of the major initiatives she led include: (a) developing ECS’s Guiding Policy for Special Education; (b) developing the educational philosophy of the school that emphasizes student-centered instruction (Inquiry-based) and pedagogical flexibility (UDL and Differentiation); (c) designing, piloting, and implementing the new IEP form for the Middle and Secondary school students; (d) founding and coordinating the Junior School Enrichment Program, offered to high ability students and identified gifted students; developing in alignment with the educational philosophy the teacher growth plan (based on three pre-validated measures) that identifies clear teaching standards as well as criteria for teaching excellence; (e) pioneering the curriculum compacting strategy (based on Renzulli’ School Wide Enrichment Model) with identified bright learners; (f) mentoring teachers with curriculum planning, effective teaching strategies (Bransford’s IDEAL heuristic for problem solving, inquiry, reciprocal teaching, concept mapping, etc); (g) designing and implementing a comprehensive blueprint for the Independent Study elective, offered to self-selected students, grades 10 and 11, (h) coordinating the Independent Study Elective; (i) (Co)designing and delivering workshops on Differentiated Instruction and Assessment (e.g., RtI, UDL, Differentiation, Learning Profiles) to ESC staff and faculty; (j) conducting Needs Assessments with the Department Heads and designing interventions to address the identified needs; (k) developing in alignment with the educational philosophy the teacher growth plan (based on three pre-validated measures) that identifies clear teaching standards as well as criteria for teaching excellence; and, (l) leading the design and development of research grants and coordinating research projects (e.g., Active Learning Centers grant).

As independent educational consultant (July 2018-Present), Dr. Birlean conducts professional development initiatives (e.g., plenaries, seminars, workshops) on various topics related to gifted education (e.g., TAG characteristics, acceleration, enrichment, and differentiation). She offered consulting services to schools on various portfolios related to Teaching, Learning, and Assessment. For example, Dr. Birlean facilitated the hiring of a learning specialist for junior school at ECS and assessed the quality and implementation of Individualized Education Plans in Junior School and designed various curriculum programs for gifted learners (e.g., Affective Curriculum and ELA).

Currently, in collaboration with Michael Hayes–the CEO & Lead Education Consultant at School Advice, Dr. Birlean works on: (a) designing a series of seminars for parents of gifted children, (b) launching a gifted program framed through the lenses of Renzulli’s SEM, and (c) training teachers and professional specialists about the needs, identification and curriculum options for gifted and talented learners.  Dr. Birlean also works in private practice with gifted learners while also offering expert guidance to parents.

Dr. Birlean values a collaborative approach to professional development and work with other lead members on designing, enacting, and evaluating school wide initiatives aimed to support and enhance learning and instructional expertise within the teacher and student bodies.

Dr. Camelia Birlean - Credentials

Dr. Birlean completed a Bachelor of Psychology & Linguistics in Romania and a Master of Education (Inclusive Education Stream) at McGill University followed by a Doctorate in Educational Psychology (Learning Sciences Stream) at McGill University. More than anything, Dr. Birlean is a teacher at heart, with a wealth of experience teaching learners of various ages and ability levels. Dr. Birlean began her career teaching Language Arts to high school students in Romania and also served on several commissions of examination at the elementary and secondary levels of education.  In Montreal, Dr. Birlean pursued her graduate studies at McGill University and conducted research examining the relation between pedagogical and subject-matter knowledge, in the context of inquiry-based science instruction, and their relation to instructors’ performance in the instructional process. Dr. Birlean has been an active member of the High Ability and Inquiry Research Team at McGill’s Faculty of Education since 2001, with whose members she has collaborated on various research grants, publications as well as national and international conferences (See a complete list in the enclosed Résumé).  Since 2010, Dr. Birlean teaches in the Educational and Counselling Psychology Department at McGill and engages in teacher education initiatives, providing professional development to both pre- service and in-service teachers on a wide range of topics from learning sciences to instructional processes (e.g., planning, enactment of interactive teaching, and assessment) including effective strategies for various types of learners and the process of designing and implementing effective IEPs. From among the numerous courses taught over the past ten years (e.g., Theories of Teaching and Learning, The Learning Sciences, Assessment for Learning in Inclusive Education, Educational Psychology, Education of Gifted and Talented Students, Educational Measurement: Intro to Statistics, Assessment and Evaluation, the Independent Reading Course, the Special Activity, etc.), Dr. Birlean continued to teach the Gifted and Talented Children course, the only course dedicated to this special population of learners offered by the Faculty of Education at McGill University. Aside from mentoring teachers with respect to research-best practices for gifted and talented learners, Dr. Birlean offers consulting services within Montreal area to schools as well as to gifted children and their parents.

Selected Scientific Contribution and Awards

Birlean, C., & Shore, B. M. (January 2018). Taking account of the cognitive development of high ability. In Inman, T., Robins, J., & Roberts, J. L. (Eds.), Gifted education for practicing teachers. Waco TX: Prufrock Press. Recognized with the 2018 Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented (TAGT) Legacy Book Award in the Scholar category. The Scholar category honors books that guide graduate students or advanced educators to understand and expand upon the latest research on giftedness and gifted and talented education.

External Fellowships and Academic Awards

  • Fonds Québécois de la Recherche sur la Société et la Culture (FQRSC), Bourses de doctorat en recherche, $60,000 over three years (2007-2010)
  • Graduate Student Stipend, $60,000 over three years (2005-2008), The McGill Educational Initiative on Interprofessional Collaboration: Partnership for Patient and Family-Centered Practice (2005-2008)

Professional Services

Gifted Education: Specialized & Interactive Plenaries, Workshops, and Webinars

Audience: Parents and Teachers

Characteristics of Giftedness and Curriculum Options
Identifying Gifted and Talented Learners
Problem Solving: The gifted and the typical learner
Program Options: Acceleration and Enrichment for Gifted and Talented Learners
Gifted Girls, Gifted Boys
Twice Exceptional Learners: Gifted Children with Disabilities


Audience: Teachers

Matching Instruction with Needs
Differentiating Curricula, Instruction, and Assessment for Bright Students
Teaching for Creative Growth
Teaching Thinking Skills
Leadership, Affective Learning and Character Curriculum for Gifted and Talented
Designing an effective IEP for the Gifted 


Audience: Parents

Learning with our Children
Parenting the Gifted Child
What is an effective IEP for your child?

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