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Servicing 2e and 3e Learners Using Collins’ Culturally Responsive Multi-tiered System of Supports

Updated: May 10, 2021

Voices from the Village: A Teaching Community

By Dr. Kristina Henry Collins.

Among many issues that have plagued educational systems is appropriate, interpretative operationalization and culturally responsive [1] implementation of intervention and enrichment strategies that best serve the educational and individualized needs for a diverse group of students for a variety of developmental aims. In addition, students who require intensive intervention often have other social and emotional needs that impact their ability to be successful in school. All too often social, emotional, and cultural support systems are considered after and/or separate from cognitive supports and academic learning. While schools are increasingly using social and emotional learning (SEL) to provide students with a well-rounded education, as a system, they are not explicitly prioritized. This brief introduces and presents an overview of Collins’ culturally responsive multi-tiered system of supports (CR-MTSS) that may be used to address cognitive, social, emotional, and cultural needs (whole child development) of gifted students with other learning exceptionalities, or twice and thrice exceptional students. Its intellectual merit and broader impact suggest a whole-child, differentiated approach to also counterbalance the shortcomings of unidentification, overrepresentation, underrepresentation, and underserved students in gifted and special education.

Servicing 2e and 3e Students

Students who consistently require intensive intervention (special education) and intensive enrichment (gifted education) beyond the general classroom are traditionally referred to as twice exceptional (2e) students. Gifted education considers other learning exceptionalities to include, but not limited to, Dabrowski’s overexcitabilities, ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and so on [2]. Collins' (2020) [3] introduced a thrice exceptional (3e) model that illuminates the intersectionality of giftedness with other learning exceptionalities and marginalized social categories, conceding that all of these are social constructs and therefore should be approached using a social, emotional, and cultural lens.

Source: Adapted from Collins (2020a). Reprinted with Permission.

Based on this model, every gifted student from a culturally underrepresented group is inherently a 2e learner as well, and therefore, appropriate accommodations and additional support services should be provided. When all three are present, they should more accurately be referred to as 3e.

Collins’ CR-MTSS Framework [4]

Collins’ Culturally Responsive Multi-tiered System of Support (CR-MTSS) Framework offers a systems approach for servicing the whole child. Filling the gaps in traditional MTSS models, Collins’ framework utilizes principles from (a) precision teaching [5] - pinpoint, chart, change, and try again, (b) response to intervention (RtI) model [6], and (c) Ford’s original Bloom-Banks matrix [7]. Each cell describes expected students’ performance for curriculum, teaching approach, and learning objectives within a program and/or classroom. Embedded with it is a differentiated teaching approach (content, process, and product) according to students’ readiness, interests, and learning profile.

Source: Adapted from Collins (2020b) [8]. Reprinted with permission

Collins' CR-MTSS framework promotes a universal support that balances student growth in cognitive (thinking/intellectual ability), affective (feeling/attitudes, values, and interest toward learning) and psychomotor (doing/perceptual ability to interpret appropriately act/react to environment and situation) domains. It offers programmatic guidance to simultaneously strengthen students’ areas of struggle and to nurture their areas of strength. It uniquely maintains the integrity of rigor, complexity, and challenge for 2e and 3e students at every level of intervention. Collins’ CR-MTSS suggests a comprehensive program should support a breadth of knowledge and skills development (Bloom’s taxonomy) that preserve complexity in both remediation and challenge focused teaching strategies through an opportunity for deeper investigation and culturally-relevant application (Banks’ multicultural approach to curriculum reform). See Table 1 below.

Collins’ CR-MTSS tiered infrastructure suggests that universal Tier I requires students to unpack culturally referenced information and cultural themes (taught within a cultural context) as part of the core curriculum at all levels of cognitive development. Tier II is appropriate for targeted support within the classroom, allowing 2e and 3e students to apply their cultural knowledge and personal strengths to demonstrate a diversity of concrete examples to (1) elicit a better understanding (intervention) and to (2) responsively critique more abstract ideas (enrichment). Tier III offers intensive support appropriate for strengthening 2e and 3e students’ area(s) of struggle and opportunities to make personal connections through a social action approach that (1) increases students’ personal value and interest, which subsequently increases understanding (intervention) and (2) fosters student action for justice and systemic change. This subsequently increases multi- and interdisciplinary understanding (enrichment). In addition, Collins’ CR-MTSS encourages a flexible design for lesson planning that can accommodate diverse gifted students with other learning exceptionalities. In its most effective application, it offers a culturally responsive universal design for learning (UDL) – guiding programming, curricula, and lesson development that is accessible by all students and is focused on student outcomes at each level of support.

As a complementary support tool to guide whole-system implementation, please refer to the National Center for Learning Disabilities’ (NCLD’s) seven essential, evidence-based components: leadership, professional learning, empowering culture, curriculum, instruction, data-driven decision making, and assessments. These components, in concert with another, have been used to guide effective implementation of RtI and MTSS processes, in general; they offer guidance for whole-system reform to benefit all students (for more information see

References & Notes

[1] Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students' cultural references in all aspects of learning (Ladson-Billings,1994).

[2] Montgomery, D. (2017, June 17). Dual and multiple exceptionalities. Special World.

[3] Collins, K.H.(2020a). Talking about racism in America and in education: The reflections of gifted Black scholar and mother of a gifted Black young adult. Parenting for High Potential, 9(3), 3, 5-9.

[4] See Collins (2021) full article, Collins’ Culturally Responsive Multi-tiered System of Supports (CR-MTSS) Framework: Evolving from Labels to Services [under review].

[5] Lindsley (1971); McDade (1973); McDade & Goggans (1973).

[6] Formalized in 2004 reauthorization of Individual Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and later referred to as multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS), which was formally introduced in the 2015 Elementary and Secondary Education/Every Student Succeeds Act (ESEA/ESSA).

[8] Collins, K.H. (2020b). Multicultural curriculum development, teaching approach & learning taxonomy: Using Bloom-Banks matrix [Unpublished Resource]. CI 5359 Curriculum for Depth and Challenge, Department of Curriculum & Instruction, Texas State University.


Dr. Kristina Henry Collins is President of SENG. She is a graduate of the The University of Georgia, where she earned a Ph.D. in educational psychology. She also holds an Ed.S. in educational psychology from the The University of Georgia, a M.S.Ed. in mathematics from Jacksonville State University, a B.S. in engineering from the University of Alabama, and a Military Science diploma in cryptology from the United States Navy. Dr. Collins has many years of experience with STEM teaching and leading in Title I middle schools and high schools. Her professional certifications include technology education, AP computer science, and educational leadership/administration. At Texas State University, she teaches courses related to talent development and gifted education.

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