Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.
The Handbook of Secondary Gifted Education is a highly readable collection of scholarship with contributions from several leading researchers and theorists in the field, such as Nicholas Colangelo, Susan Assouline, Sally Reis, Donna Ford, Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Carolyn Callahan and many more. The text, divided into twenty-five chapters and four major sections, offers a comprehensive examination of the complex intersections between secondary education, adolescence and giftedness. While handbooks of academic research can sometimes lose their cohesive grasp of the intended subject or the attention of readers searching for practical applications, this one auspiciously does not.
Section I is devoted to a broad exploration of the multifaceted nature of gifted adolescence. Here the reader encounters an array of social, emotional and cognitive conceptions of giftedness rendered through the lens of adolescent development. Throughout these chapters compelling issues such as gender, ethnicity, identity/career development and twice exceptionality converge with a discussion of what it means to be a gifted teen. As the authors note, common models of giftedness may not provide a full understanding of secondary gifted education because the research is largely comprised of studies about younger children.
The broad context for conceiving of gifted adolescence in social and emotional terms is established in Section I while the remainder of the text examines additional facets of responsive programming for gifted secondary education .The chapters comprising Section II deal with characteristics of talent development among highly able adolescents. The range of possible talents considered for optimal cultivation here are social, artistic, academic and athletic. In keeping with the broad context of the previous section, this section examines components of the gifted adolescent’s distinctive developmental trajectory alongside other relevant considerations, such as inhibitors and facilitators of burgeoning talent. Overall, this section provides a comprehensive examination of what caring and informed adults may do to recognize and nurture a broad spectrum of emergent talents among gifted teens.
Sections III and IV discuss what schools and programs of teacher education can do to effectively serve gifted adolescent learners. Section III opens with an overview of quality curriculum and instruction for gifted secondary students and then moves on to consider particular discipline areas (science, English, history, math), as well as general concerns like creative and critical thinking. Section III also includes a very informative overview of special schools for the gifted and a discussion of the effects extracurricular activities may have upon the development of gifted adolescents.
Section IV wraps up with several chapters documenting the relationship between initial teacher training, ongoing professional development and effective (gifted) secondary instruction. The chapters in this section combine to form a very concrete practical assessment of programs and practices that have succeeded with talented teens. While Section IV remains mindful of the theory, which has preceded it in sections I-III, the focus here is a more concrete account of various dispositions, practices and understandings that can facilitate the success of educational professionals working with gifted adolescents. While this text might be somewhat difficult as a first read on giftedness, it has a great deal to offer anyone with a little background in gifted theory who may be in the position to affect gifted secondary learners. The scope is ambitious yet at no point does the text lose site of the theoretical cohesion or practical applicability that characterize genuinely inspired interpretations of research. Regardless of whether or not a reader shares all of the views presented by these authors, he or she will undoubtedly come away from this book feeling considerably more informed about the central issues of gifted secondary education and more capable of serving the needs of gifted adolescents.
This article is provided as a service of the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to supporting profoundly gifted young people 18 and under. To learn more about the Davidson Institute’s programs, please visit www.DavidsonGifted.org.
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