Designing Services and Programs for High-Ability Learners: A Guidebook for Gifted Education
Purcell, J. & Eckert, R. (Eds.)
ISBN: 1-4129-2617-3
Corwin Press
2005

BOOK REVIEW (Davidson Institute) - This book is a joint publication between Corwin Press and the National Association for Gifted Children NAGC. It is edited by Jeanne H. Purcell & Rebecca D. Eckert.

Reviewed by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development.

Designing Services and Programs for High-Ability Learners: A Guidebook for Gifted Education is a comprehensive guide and must-have reference manual for any educator who is committed to serving the needs of gifted and talented students. The guidebook is composed of 21 chapters written by an international panel of contributing authors, each of whom brings a wealth of research, experience, and expertise to this wide-ranging educator’s guide. Each research-based chapter is designed to offer practical, concrete information; strategies; and advice on how to design, develop, and implement cohesive gifted programs and policies.

Chapter 1 includes several case studies of gifted children, which serve to focus the reader’s attention on the unique learning needs of gifted and talented students. Purcell and Eckert identify common traits among these students, while simultaneously recognizing their unique learner profiles, strengths, and needs. In addition, the successful educational interventions implemented for each student are discussed.

Each chapter thereafter, incorporates a common format which includes the following ten elements: a definition, a rationale, guiding principles, traits or attributes that define high quality, an example in need of revision, strategies for improving the example, a revised example, a strategic plan for designing or remodeling the key feature, resources, and references. It may sound like an overwhelming amount of information; however, each chapter is so well organized and user-friendly that the reader will find it extremely easy to follow.

The 21 chapters contained in this book cover every aspect of gifted programming, from the idea phase through implementation and maintenance:

  1. Identifying Student Cognitive and Affective Needs
  2. Developing a Mission Statement on the Educational Needs of Gifted and Talented Students
  3. Developing a Definition of Giftedness
  4. Providing Programs for Special Populations of Gifted and Talented Students
  5. Constructing Identification Procedures
  6. Articulating Gifted Education Program Goals
  7. Comprehensive Program Design
  8. Curriculum for Gifted Education Students
  9. Services That Meet Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Children
  10. Creating a Comprehensive and Defensible Budget for Gifted Programs and Services
  11. Selecting Learning Resources in the Education of the Gifted
  12. Managing a Communication Initiative in Gifted Education
  13. Roles, Responsibilities, and Professional Qualifications of Key Personnel for Gifted Education Services
  14. Designing a Professional Development Plan
  15. Developing a Plan for Evaluating a Program in Gifted Education
  16. Connecting Program Design and District Policies
  17. Aligning Gifted Education Services with General Education
  18. Planning for Advocacy
  19. State Policies in Gifted Education
  20. Using Scientifically Based Research to Make Decisions About Gifted Education Programs, Services, and Resources
  21. Strategic Planning and Gifted Programs

Appendix A: Establishing Gifted Education Advisory Committees Appendix B: Pre-K–Grade 12 Gifted Program Standards

As the above chapter titles suggest, Designing Services and Programs for High-Ability Learners guides the reader through every step in the process of defining, identifying, and nurturing the academic, social, and emotional needs of gifted students. While the book reads wonderfully from cover to cover, each chapter has been carefully authored to stand alone for the educator who may only be in need of suggestions and strategies for certain parts of the process.

Clear and effective communication is of critical importance for effective advocacy and program development. Chapter 12: Managing a Communication Initiative in Gifted Education by Kelly A. Hedrick, struck this reviewer as a particularly useful analysis of this important, yet often overlooked, ingredient. So often individuals have clear ideas of what they want to accomplish, but fail to accurately convey those ideas to others. A communication initiative, according to Hedrick, will not only serve to establish a need for the program before inception, but will also serve to align goals, prevent misconceptions, encourage trust and openness, and promote program ownership (and many other functions) among all shareholders and constituencies involved. The chapter concludes with a graphic organizer to be used by readers in designing or revising a communication initiative for gifted education programs of their own.

In Designing Services and Programs for High-Ability Learners, Purcell and Eckert have done a terrific job of de-mystifying the extremely complex issues faced by teachers and administration who are attempting to create and implement gifted programming in K-12 education. Broad enough to be applied by schools large and small who are facing a variety of concerns and constraints, yet specific and practical enough to be used as an everyday handbook, this guide would be a nice addition to every gifted educator’s desk. In addition, the must-read resources and references at the back of each chapter offer a wealth of supplemental information for the motivated reader.


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