I am very excited to share my thoughts on Critical Issues and Practices in Gifted Education -What the Research Says, edited by Jonathan A. Plucker and Carolyn M. Callahan. This book is a veritable tome. It contains over 750 pages of up to date information on myriad aspects of gifted development and education. It is a National Association for Gifted Children service publication. Dozens of well qualified professionals contributed to this work, including researchers and educators from all around the United States. You may recognize names like Sally Reis, Joyce VanTassel-Baska, Nancy M. Robinson, Joseph Renzulli, and David Henry Feldman listed among the contributing authors. There are several contributors from the international gifted education community as well, such as Miraca Gross of Australia. Additionally, the book was reviewed by such accomplished people as Edward Amend, Dona Matthews, and Sylvia Rimm, just to name a few. The project was clearly a huge undertaking, and I believe that this book will stand alone for many years as a reliable compendium of gifted research. The book separates fact from fiction with it's dedication to only presenting well documented studies carefully selected for accuracy.
The book is divided into seven main areas of focus: conceptual and foundational issues, curricular issues, cognitive issues, affective issues, programmatic issues, teacher and parent issues, and special populations of gifted students. A total of 50 chapters fall under these subject areas, each designed to clarify what research has been done on a given topic, what questions have been raised, and what conclusions may have been reached. Chapters are modestly sized, ranging from less than ten pages to about 30. References are conveniently noted at the end of each chapter. Topics are arranged alphabetically.
We'll use chapter one as a sample. Chapter one is “Academic Competitions”. It presents a brief overview of different types of competitions, such as spelling bees, science fairs, and academic challenge bowls. The authors, Stuart N. Omdal and M. R. E. Richards, then distinguish the differences between academic fairs and contests. They define the major themes of current research. The questions addressed I have paraphrased here as:
1.What are the immediate benefits for students?
2.What are the long term benefits for students?
3.How do personal characteristics of competitors vary?
4.How do students regard these competitions?
Empirically based conclusions follow, along with a passage on limitations of the research and another on practical implications. A resource list is next, and the chapter ends with references.
The range of topics in this volume is quite diverse. Other chapters involve ADHD, highly gifted children, homeschooling, motivation, policy and advocacy, prodigies, suicide, teacher preparation, twice-exceptional learners, and visual and performing arts, and many more specific areas that are of great interest to those who parent or instruct gifted children.