CTD Director’s Book Wins National Honor

CTD Director’s Book Wins National Honor

Paula Olszewski-KubiliusPaula Olszewski-Kubilius, director of Northwestern's Center for Talent Development

Paula Olszewski-Kubilius’s latest book, which details a talent development approach to gifted education, was named the 2019 Book of the Year by the National Association for Gifted Children

Among gifted educators, the term “talent development” can be a controversial notion because it redefines “gifted learning.” But in Talent Development as a Framework for Gifted Education: Implications for Best Practices and Applications in Schools,” Olszewski-Kubilius and her co-authors argue that the field of gifted education must seek new ways to identify and serve all gifted learners to remain viable and relevant.

The book, recognized by the National Association for Gifted Children as a "trustworthy and research-based resource," provides a framework to help teachers better serve high-achieving students in their schools and districts. It was co-edited by Olszewski-Kubilius, director of Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development; Rena F. Subotnik, director of the Center for Psychology in the Schools and Education at American Psychological Association; and Frank C. Worrell, professor in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley.book cover

The authors stress that talent development is not a program or a service; it’s a philosophy. This concept “guides the 13 chapters in this book and is the basis for the practical recommendations and examples provided by each of the authors,” Jennifer Ritchotte wrote in Teachers College Record. Four of the chapters were authored by the book’s editors, which “provide a richer understanding of the thinking behind their talent development framework,” Ritchotte wrote.

The talent development movement first emerged in the late 1980s when some leaders in the field began pushing to focus gifted education more on “recognizing and nurturing students’ talents, rather than focusing on identifying and labeling them as gifted,” said Olszewski-Kubilius, who has been working in gifted education for 28 years.

These early views on talent development looked at intelligence and ability beyond IQ, recognized that non-cognitive traits play a role in gifted achievement and focused on serving a broader range of gifted students with varied program models and services, especially typically under-identified students.

“Talent development puts a greater focus on developing emergent talent and potential and therefore offers more opportunity and direction to address the needs of a wider range of gifted children, especially low income and culturally and linguistically diverse gifted students,” Olszewski-Kubilius said.

In the traditional gifted child approach, exceptional ability and high intelligence are viewed as static traits like eye color – you either ‘have it’ or you don’t.

The talent development perspective views ability and talent as malleable and changing over time, which is consistent with recent research on the changing nature of ability and intelligence. As children develop and grow – with nurturance, opportunity, effort, study and practice – their potential develops into competence and expertise. The final stage, typically in adulthood, is creative productivity, staged artistry and or eminence within one’s field. 

To illustrate successful approaches, the authors use examples from academic domains -- as well as sports, music and other visual and performing arts -- to help teachers, school administrators, school psychologists, social workers and counselors, graduate students, and parents develop gifted students' talents.

Fields like music and athletics are “way ahead of academic fields in terms of understanding and documenting talent development trajectories,” Olszewski-Kubilius said. “We have much to learn from them about helping talented students acquire the psychological skills necessary to deal with competition or setbacks, and we have much to share with them.”

A focus on talent development also provides a platform to help think about how schools can be restructured to raise achievement for all students, produce more innovative creative thinkers, engage and motivate more learners and how to close achievement gaps among groups of students,” Olszewski-Kubilius said.

By Julie Deardorff
Last Modified: 7/30/19