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Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools

reviewed by Jennifer Ritchotte - March 08, 2019

coverTitle: Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools
Author(s): Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Rena Subotnik.& Frank Worrell (Eds.)
Publisher: Prufrock Press, Austin
ISBN: 161821814X, Pages: 325, Year: 2018
Search for book at Amazon.com

In 2011, Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, and Worrell proposed a unified vision of giftedness and gifted education through a talent development lens. Their seminal article, Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools, resulted in eight commentaries (many critical) from scholars in the fields of gifted education and psychology published in a special issue of Gifted Child Quarterly in 2012. Seven years later, Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools, edited by Olszewski-Kubilius, Subotnik, and Worrell, offers a more detailed discussion of how the talent development framework can be applied equitably to gifted education practices at the school and district levels.

As Stambaugh so eloquently states, “Talent development is not a program or a service, but a philosophy—a way of investing in human capital and developing strengths” (p. 96). This philosophy guides the thirteen chapters in this book and is the basis for the practical recommendations and examples provided by each of the authors. Many readers will be familiar with the work of several of the chapter authors. Four of the chapters are actually authored by the book’s editors and provide a richer understanding of the thinking behind their talent development framework.

In Chapter One, Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, and Worrell provide an overview of the major tenets of their talent development framework, propose compelling reasons for a shift in focus from general cognitive ability to domain-specific skills, and discuss potential challenges to acceptance and implementation of the framework in schools and districts. Throughout this chapter, the authors emphasize a new focus on talent development within domains (e.g., math, music) that have their own trajectories; the critical need for development of psychosocial skills; the malleability of both ability and psychosocial skills; and the role of significant accomplishments during adulthood in determining giftedness.

In Chapter Two, Calvert thoughtfully describes what identification and assessment should look like in a K-12 talent development framework. He proposes a developmental approach to assessment that aligns with the stages of talent development (i.e., potential, competency, and expertise). Rightfully critical of the current “one-size-fits all” approach to assessment that many schools, districts, and states employ, Calvert posits that identification practices must be purposeful, differentiated, and ongoing, taking students’ unique backgrounds and experiences into consideration. Further, identification practices must be firmly grounded in the belief that ability is ever-evolving and may emerge later in schooling when students are given opportunities to demonstrate their potential talents. The latter is especially important for our students from underserved populations.

Chapters Three and Four focus on programming for talent development inside and outside of school, respectively. In Chapter Three, Krisel provides examples of how programming should change as students develop from one stage of the talent development framework to the next. In her discussion of programming options for primary grades, she emphasizes the need for talent recognition and cultivation in young children from underserved populations. Krisel also proposes “an intentionally inclusive focus on recognizing and developing both general cognitive ability and domain-specific talent” to ensure children are exposed to more advanced opportunities in the subsequent stages of the talent development process (p. 48). Given that most schools are unable to provide the deep, authentic learning needed for specific talents to develop into expertise, Corwith, in Chapter Four, offers numerous examples of supplemental programming outside of school that can be used to address this critical need. Consideration is given to the barriers underserved gifted learners may face when attempting to access supplemental programming opportunities outside of school, and possible solutions are offered to help students overcome these obstacles to participation.

In Chapter Five, Stambaugh describes eight principles that should guide curriculum in a talent development framework. For example, curriculum should focus on the long-term goal of expertise and creative production; it should be strength-based and content-specific; and it should embed opportunities for students to develop psychosocial skills. Stambaugh also explains how the features of talent development are integrated into existing curriculum models in gifted education, provides domain-specific lesson plan examples, and outlines eight principles that educators should consider when designing lessons for students using a talent development approach.

A prior critique of Subotnik, Olszewski-Kubilius, and Worrell’s (2011) proposed talent development “megamodel” focused on “a void of an equity vision” (Grantham, 2012). While many of the chapters in this book offer special considerations and recommendations for students from underserved populations, Chapter Six, by Carol Horn, specifically addresses how low-income students and students from culturally diverse backgrounds can be served in a talent development framework. She explains that students from underserved populations need to be able “to visualize a world in which they can and will be leaders and experts in a chosen field” (p. 130). Further, Horn emphasizes the need for early identification of potential and early programming opportunities designed to identify talent in underserved learners and prepare them for more advanced learning opportunities in the future. Several specific components of interventions for underserved gifted learners are also shared that focus in part on strengthening psychosocial skills and providing culturally relevant learning opportunities that connect with students’ lived experiences.

In Chapter Seven, Portenga applies the psychology of high performance to the development of talent. He contends that the process of talent development often leads to performance pressure and describes several psychosocial skills that can be developed in students to positively influence their experiences and achievement. In Chapter Eight, Rosen and Jarvin propose a model for the development of talent within the visual arts. They highlight the importance of parent-provided exposure to varied visual arts activities for young children, opportunities outside of school to supplement intermediate visual arts programming, the creation of authentic products by students during their high school years, and the need for young artists to learn tacit knowledge from mentors in the field. Further, Chapter Nine is devoted to informal and formal mentoring and the characteristics of productive environments that nurture talent development. Knotek and Babinski explain that as students move past the potential stage in the talent development framework where parents and teachers typically act as mentors, they require interaction with individuals who not only have content expertise, but who can also provide invaluable advising and necessary psychosocial support.

Creativity is needed at every stage of talent development. In Chapter Ten, Starko contends that through the intentional development of creativity over time, gifted students have the potential to advance their discipline of interest and make meaningful contributions to society. Motivation is also viewed as a critical component of talent development. In Chapter Eleven, Worrell provides an overview of several motivational constructs that are influential during the talent development process. He distinguishes these constructs as either push factors that motivate individuals from within (e.g., self-regulation, mastery orientation, intrinsic motivation) or pull factors that are external to the individual (e.g., belonging, teacher expectations, extrinsic motivation). Worrell notes that these constructs are all interconnected and provides research-based recommendations for fostering student motivation.


Chapters Twelve and Thirteen are authored by the book’s editors. In Chapter Twelve, Worrell, Olszewski-Kubilius, and Subotnik provide recommendations for evaluating talent development programs at the student, program, school, and district levels. The authors present measurable outcomes for students (academic and psychosocial) and educators for the different stages of talent development (i.e., potential, competency, expertise). Appropriately, the final chapter of the book addresses eight misconceptions about the talent development framework. Just as Olszewski-Kubilius, Subotnik, and Worrell welcomed input about their proposed model back in 2012, they conclude with an openness to revise the model in the future based on insights from both research and practice with the intent of making this approach the most impactful it can be for gifted learners.


Grantham, T. C. (2012). Eminence-focused gifted education: Concern about forward movement void of an equity vision. Gifted Child Quarterly, 56(4), 215–220.

Subotnik, R. F., Olszewski-Kubilius, P., & Worrell, F. C. (2011). Rethinking giftedness and gifted education: A proposed direction forward based on psychological science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 12, 3–54.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 08, 2019
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22703, Date Accessed: 5/27/2022 1:24:29 AM

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About the Author
  • Jennifer Ritchotte
    University of Northern Colorado
    E-mail Author
    JENNIFER RITCHOTTE is an associate professor of gifted and talented education in the School of Special Education at the University of Northern Colorado. Her current research focuses on gifted underachievement and the application of single-subject research design to support effective practices for underserved gifted learners. Prior to this, she was a teacher of gifted and talented students at the middle and secondary levels. Through publications, conference presentations (state, national, and international), and workshops, she advocates for the needs of gifted students, especially students at risk for adverse educational outcomes.
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