ERIC Identifier: ED455657
Publication Date: 2001-06-00
Author: Feldhusen, John F.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Disabilities and Gifted Education Arlington VA.
Talent Development in Gifted Education. ERIC Digest E610.
The last decades of the twentieth century saw the growth of a large body of
research and development around the concept of intelligence. New concepts have
facilitated new approaches to identifying and developing giftedness in young
people. This digest presents a model for the education of gifted children and
youth based on the concept of talent development. Specific ways to identify and
develop talent are also discussed.
NEW CONCEPTIONS OF INTELLIGENCE AND TALENT
tradition in the field of gifted education assumes it is possible and desirable
to identify children as "gifted" based on high IQ scores and/or high achievement
test scores. Gifted programming developed from a notion of global and fixed
intelligence and often resulted in exclusive one-size-fits-all programs of
study. Such an approach disregarded the individual strengths and potential of
some gifted students.
In contrast, the work of Sternberg (1991) and Gardner (1983) led to a
diagnostic approach to ability, where specific talents or aptitudes became the
focus for identification and services. Sternberg's theory proposed a number of
components of intelligence in three broad categories: metacomponents (planning,
monitoring, and evaluation), performance components (skills and abilities), and
knowledge-acquisition components (processing and encoding). Gardner's theory of
multiple intelligence's (originally linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial,
musical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal) also elaborated on the
view of human abilities as multidimensional.
Gagne's research (1985, 1993) and model for talent development explicitly set
the stage for a focus on talents. He proposed an underlying set of aptitudes or
gifts that are intellectual, creative, socio-affective, perceptual-motor, and
other unspecified abilities. With these basic abilities the child interacts with
catalysts such as teachers or parents and participates in learning, training,
and practice experiences. With encouragement and support, a child's talents
emerge from these experiences.
A MODEL FOR TALENT RECOGNITION AND DEVELOPMENT IN
Programs, curricula, and services for gifted and talented youth can
best meet their needs, promote their achievements in life, and contribute to the
enhancement of our society when schools identify students' specific talent
strengths and focus educational services on these talents. Schools are in a
unique position to identify and develop the talents of students in four major
domains: academic, artistic, vocational-technical, and personal-social. The
academic domain includes science, math, English, social studies, and languages.
Dance, music, drama, photography, and graphic arts comprise the artistic domain.
The vocational-technical areas are home economics, trade-industrial,
business-office, agriculture, and computers-technology. Finally, in the
interpersonal realm, leadership, care-giving, and human services are potential
areas in which identification and nurturance of specific talents can be carried
Several rating scales and checklists are useful in identifying talents in all
four of the domains. These include the ten Scales for Rating the Behavioral
Characteristics of Superior Students by Renzulli et al. (1997), the Purdue
Academic Rating Scales and Purdue Vocational Rating Scales (Feldhusen, Hoover,
& Sayler, 1997). A wide variety of aptitude and achievement tests can be
used to identify academic and some of the vocational-technical talents.
Auditions are the preferred mode of evaluating talent in the performing arts and
portfolios in the graphic arts. Portfolios are also useful in the identification
of talents in academic areas when they contain the results of a child's
projects, problem-solving activities, and creative productions.
However, the process of recognizing and developing talents should not be seen
as a one-shot, one-time determination with tests and rating scales labeling
students as "talented" or "untalented." Rather, it is a long-range process in
which parents, school personnel, and the students themselves recognize,
understand, and work together to facilitate the development of the students'
As a way of involving students, parents, teachers, and counselors in the
recognition and development of student talent, Feldhusen and Wood (1997)
presented a system for "growth planning" in which students, grades 3-12, plan in
late spring their school programs for the coming year. They inventory and review
their own achievements, assess their own interests and learning styles, and
write personal goals (academic, career, and social). They then select courses,
extracurricular activities, and out-of-school experiences that are commensurate
with their prior achievements, reflect the goals they have set for themselves,
and are suitably challenging.
Feldhusen and Wood used the system with several hundred gifted and talented
students and found it to be an effective method for involving children and youth
in the talent development process. Talented students often could engage in
learning activities with little or minimum teacher involvement. Feldhusen
reported that the students' capacity for self-direction in individual and small
group work was very high if their teachers provided good instructional material
and initial directions. The students grew rapidly in their capacity to carry out
self-directed and individualized learning.
STRATEGIES FOR RECOGNIZING AND DEVELOPING TALENT
students at all ages have relative talent strengths, and schools should help
them identify and understand their own special abilities. Those whose talents
are at levels exceptionally higher than their peers should have access to
instructional resources and activities that are commensurate with their talents
(Feldhusen, 1998). They need a great deal of help and emotional support from
parents, extensive educational input and resources from the school, a supportive
peer environment, and mentors who can demonstrate and model advanced levels of
expertise and creativity in their areas of talent potential (Pleiss & Feldhusen, 1995).
Teachers and other school personnel can employ the following strategies to
help implement this model (Feldhusen, 1996).
* Be alert to signs of talent in the four talent areas. Point out strengths
to the student and parents, and test to verify possible emerging talent.
* Structure learning activities that will give students the opportunity to
demonstrate their talent potential.
* Use praise to recognize and reinforce signs of talent.
* Help students who have talent in particular areas set learning goals in
* Locate resources in the school and community that can help foster the
* Enlist parents in identifying and nurturing their children's talents by
providing resources and experiences, and encouraging goal-setting behavior.
The ultimate goal of talent recognition and development is to help students
understand their own talent strengths and potentials, to know how to pursue and
engage in the best talent development activities, and to commit themselves to
the development of their talents.
Feldhusen, J. F. (June 1998). Programs for the
gifted few or talent development for the many? Phi Delta Kappan, 79(10),
Feldhusen, J. F. (1996). How to identify and develop special talents.
Educational Leadership, 53(5), 66-69.
Feldhusen, J. F., Hoover, S. M., & Sayler, M. F. (1997). Identification
and education of the gifted and talented at the secondary level. New York:
Feldhusen, J. F., & Wood, B. K. (1997). Developing growth plans for
gifted students. Gifted Child Today, 20(6), 24-28.
Gagne, F. (1985). Giftedness and talent: Reexamining a reexamination of the
definition. Gifted Child Quarterly, 29(3), 103-112.
Gagne, F. (1993). Constructs and models pertaining to exceptional human
abilities. In K. A. Heller, F. J. Monks, & A. H. Passow (Eds.),
International handbook of research and development of giftedness and talent (pp.
69-87). New York: Pergamon Press.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligence's.
New York: Basic Books.
Pleiss, M. K., & Feldhusen, J. F. (1995). Mentors, role models, and
heroes in the lives of gifted children. Educational Psychologist, 30(3),
Renzulli, J. S., Smith, L. H., White, A. J., Callahan, C. M., Hartman, R. K.,
& Westberg, K. L. (1997). Scales for rating the behavioral characteristics
of superior students. Mansfield Center, CT: Creative Learning Press.
Sternberg, R. J. (1991). Giftedness according to the triarchic theory of
human intelligence. In N. Colangelo & G. A. Davis (Eds.), Handbook of gifted
education (pp. 45-54). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.