Critical Issues and Practices in Gifted Education: Author Q&A
Critical Issues and Practices in Gifted Education: Author Q&A
PUBLISHED: Monday, November 23, 2020 by Andilynn Feddeler

Critical Issues and Practices in Gifted Education: A Survey of Current Research on Giftedness and Talent Development (3rd ed.) is the definitive reference for a summary and evaluation of the literature on giftedness, gifted education, and talent development. This book provides an objective assessment of the available knowledge on each topic, offers guidance in the application of the research, and suggests areas of needed research. Learn more about the book and the research inside in this interview with the editors, Jonathan A. Plucker, Ph.D., and Carolyn M. Callahan, Ph.D.

Q: What is new to this third edition that wasn’t included in the second?

A: The third edition includes both updates on topics where there has been significant research that advances our understanding of gifted students’ development and effective curricular and programmatic interventions. In addition, topics that have emerged in the field of gifted education as important considerations for parents, educators, and policymakers have been added. These include topics such as autism spectrum disorders, bullying, differentiated instruction, excellence gaps, mind and brain, and talent development, among many others. Selection of topics was guided by consideration of topics of historical interest and importance in the field (e.g., identification), topics that are currently popular or “hot topics” in the field (e.g., autism spectrum disorders), and topics that we anticipated are likely to become more important or we felt should be more important (e.g., rural gifted students).

Q: Who is the ideal audience for this book, and how can they use it to enhance their understanding of gifted students and gifted education? 

A: There are three audiences who would find this compendium useful. First, administrators who are looking for research-based information in making decisions about identifying and serving gifted students will find clear and succinct summaries of the research across those two areas of interest. Other educators, including teachers and counselors, will find information that will guide them in consideration of choices about curriculum and interventions in areas of social and emotional counseling. Finally, parents will be able to identify summaries of research on issues their gifted children may experience with references to sources to consult for further guidance as they seek to maximize the development of their children across academic, social, and emotional domains. Our hope is that these audiences can use the book as a quick reference to the key research. If they desire additional information, each chapter includes lists of additional, key resources recommended by authors, in addition to the references in each chapter.

Q: How is the book structured? What is included in each chapter?

A: The 40 entries in the book are organized alphabetically by topic beginning with academic acceleration and ending with writing and the gifted learner. Six areas are represented: conceptual foundations including policy, curricular issues, cognitive issues, programmatic issues, teacher and parent issues, and special populations of gifted students. Each author was asked to identify key terms used in the research on the topic, identify the major/important research questions of interest on the topic, summarize defensible conclusions that can be drawn from the research, identify potentially false assertions about the topic that cannot be defended based on research, identify limitations of the research, and identify key resources for those who wish to pursue further reading on the topic.  

Q: Why is it important for educators to stay up-to-date on the research on these critical issues in gifted education?

A: The current educational climate is one in which assertions are made based on very limited understanding of the existing research and/or emotional appeals that cannot be justified by the existing research. For example, school officials often want to attribute negative outcomes to acceleration or to assert that if we just teach a growth mindset, all children’s needs will be met. As new fads emerge and administrators and teachers are lured into beliefs that are not based on research, the options and opportunities for gifted students are likely to be greatly diminished.

Q: What topics do you wish there was more research or information on?

A: One of the most serious deficiencies is the lack of research on the fine points of most topics we consider in planning for gifted students. For example, when and under what conditions and for which type of gifted students will a particular grouping or instructional strategy or curricular implementation work best? Creating a deeper research base won’t necessarily give educators and parents better tools, but it will give them a much better sense of how we should be using the good tools that have already been identified. A second deficiency is the lack of new research in some areas. For example, research on very young gifted children has not evolved, and research on teacher and administrator effectiveness is still relatively undeveloped. Put colloquially, our takeaway from the book is that we know so much, but there’s so much more to know!

Jonathan A. Plucker, Ph.D., is the Julian C. Stanley Professor of Talent Development at the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University. He is the current president of the National Association for Gifted Children. Carolyn M. Callahan, Ph.D., is Commonwealth Professor of Education at the University of Virginia. Both are recipients of the NAGC Distinguished Scholar Award.