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Steven Pfeiffer: Second Edition of Handbook of Giftedness in Children: Psychoeducational Theory, Research, and Best Practices (2018)

Jun 14, 2018 by

Steven Pfeiffer

An Interview with Steven Pfeiffer: Second Edition of Handbook of Giftedness in Children: Psychoeducational Theory, Research, and Best Practices (2018)

Michael F. Shaughnessy

1) I understand that the second Edition of Handbook of Giftedness in Children was just published this week. What was your involvement in this edition?

Springer invited me to serve as Editor of the First Edition of Handbook of Giftedness in Children, published by Springer back in 2008, ten years ago. The First Edition was published with psychologists, school counselors, school social workers, and other school ancillary staff in mind. At the time, as you know, there were many excellent books for educators of the gifted, but very few resources on the gifted explicitly written for psychologists. That was the intention of the First Edition, Mike.

Contributors to the First Edition recognized that there was a growing concern in American society that the gifted and talented were an underserved and even unserved special-needs population. In the Preface to the First Edition, in fact, I noted that the great majority of psychologists and educators—and other healthcare providers—were ill equipped to meet the unique and challenging needs of the gifted and talented.

Well, about two years ago, at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, I proposed to Judy Jones, my publisher at Springer, that it might be time for us to think about a Second Edition for the Handbook, with the timeline for publishing a Second Edition ten years following publication of the First Edition. Springer thought that this might be too ambitious of a goal, but I thought it was doable! …and we did accomplish it! The Second Edition is now available, exactly ten years following publication of the First Edition!

Much has changed in 10 years. The discouraging fact remains, however, that gifted and talented children and youth, both in the USA and globally, are an often misunderstood and frequently unserved special-needs population. This is a primary reason why Springer agreed to publish an updated and revamped, Second Edition of the Handbook.

A second reason for publishing a new edition is the fact that there is much new science to share that has appeared quite recently. My hope and expectation, and goal was that these new scientific findings and these new ideas across multiple domains could infuse gifted education and the gifted field with fresh ways of looking at how to best serve high ability kids. …and how to best promote talent development in the schools, and in the home!

2) What kinds of things have changed since publication of the First Edition?

The Second Edition combines the disciplinary perspectives and research findings of those authorities on the front lines of research and practice. With the success of the First Edition, it was relatively easy for me to approach the leading experts across many different fields and secure their enthusiastic support to contribute to this new, Second Edition.

The scholarly work of experts across a wide range of fields are well-represented in the new edition. I intentionally broadened the net to include authors from fields typically outside of gifted education. For example, I invited authorities in the fields of human expertise and individual differences, perfectionism, emotional intelligence, suicide and depression and career counseling to contribute chapters on their work. My only requirement and challenge was that each author provide, in their respective chapter, linkages to the world of the gifted.

The Handbook includes chapters by well-knows authorities in the gifted field, including David Yun Dai, Albert Ziegler, Robert Sternberg, Anne Rinn, Jonathan Plucker, Barbara Kerr, Paula Olszewski-Kubilius, Linda Silverman, and Del Siegle. However, the Handbook also includes chapters by authorities outside of the gifted field, making the volume, I believe, uniquely valuable within the gifted community. At least I hope so! The Handbook includes chapters by authorities such as Phillip Ackerman (on expertise and individual differences), Moshe Zeidner (on emotional intelligence), Kenneth Rice (on perfectionism), and Carol Klose Smith (on career counseling).

3) There seems to be much more concern in the field about cross cultural issues. Has this revision addressed this concern?

That’s a real good question, Mike! With the second edition, I invited authors from outside of the USA to intentionally provide a more international, cross-cultural, and nuanced perspective on giftedness and gifted education. I also requested that each contributor consider including cross-cultural factors that would be important to mention in their respective chapters. …so the answer to your question is a resounding, “Yes”!

I hope that the reader will quickly appreciate that each chapter provides a succinct, contemporary, highly readable, and authoritative summary of important material related to better understanding the world of the gifted- with attention to diversity, international, and multi-cultural considerations. One example is the excellent chapter by Christian Muller and Denise Winsor on, “Depression, Suicide, and Giftedness: Disentangling Risk Factors, Protective Factors, and Implications for Optimal Growth.” In this chapter, the authors speak directly to the influence of cultural factors that impact, moderate, and mediate the risk for suicide among gifted kids and youth.

4) Can you tell us a little about the new Edition?

The new Edition consists of twenty chapters. It is a bit longer than the First Edition, in part because I wanted to include the latest research from cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology. The first chapter is a great overview on the history of giftedness, including paradigms and paradoxes, written by David Yun Dai, a rising star in the gifted field. It really does a terrific job of setting a scholarly and comprehensive tone for the entire Handbook. Dai’s chapter is followed by Albert Ziegler et al. chapter on an international view on gifted education, Bob Sternberg and Scott Barry Kaufman’s chapter on theories and conceptions of giftedness, and Anne Rinn et al. chapter on the social and emotional world of the gifted.

The next five chapters focus on expertise and individual differences (by Phil Ackerman), creativity (by Jonathan Plucker et al., emotional intelligence (by Moshe Zeidner), gender and talent development (by Barbara Kerr et al., and the role of the family in talent development (by Paula Olszewski-Kubilius). There are also chapters on: curriculum for gifted and talented students by Elizabeth Shaunessy-Dedrick; federal and state policy, law and legal considerations, by Kristen Stephens; assessment of giftedness by Linda Silverman; recruiting and retaining underrepresented gifted students, by Frank Worrell et al.; perfectionism, by Ken Rice et al.; depression and suicide, by Christian Mueller, et al.; underachievement, by Del Siegle; career counseling for the gifted, by Carol Kloe Smith et al., ethical practice issues, by Kristin Thompson et al.; serving the twice-exceptional student, by Megan Foley-Nicpon et al.; and finally, a chapter on counseling the gifted, that I coauthored with Renata Muniz Prado, my postdoc from Brazil.

5) I know that you are an active academic researcher. What are you and your research team presently working on? Anything interesting?

In my research while a Professor at Duke University, I investigated emotional intelligence as a possible preventive remedy or intervention in dealing with the general malaise affecting a significant number of gifted youth. I thought that if we could help all gifted youth develop strong levels of emotional intelligence, then perhaps this might be the generic and all-encompassing prophylactic or cure-all to protect gifted youth from social and emotional problems that all adolescents are at risk for.

Based on accumulated clinical experience and a growing body of research on emotional intelligence, however, I modified my view on emotional intelligence. I came to view emotional intelligence is important. Emotional intelligence certainly helps explain a wide range of positive outcomes. ..but I came to realize that emotional intelligence isn’t the overall cure or panacea that I naively thought it might be. My colleagues and I, first at Duke University, and more recently here at Florida State University, have come to recognize that it takes more than just emotional intelligence for adolescents to be successful in life.

Our careful review of the empirical research literature also informed us that it isn’t that easy or simple to increase a person’s level of emotional intelligence. This was initially disappointing, but nonetheless very helpful findings from the research literature on emotional intelligence, as we pondered how we could be helpful in enhancing the well-being and success of gifted youth.

We came to recognize in our lab and in the clinic that gifted adolescents who are successful, who have friends and academically perform at high levels, adolescents who see meaning in their lives, and adolescents who report high levels of subjective well-being, all have three things going for them. These three things I call, “the strengths of the heart triad.” The triad consists of:

– Well-developed social skills;

– Robust character strengths, such as empathy, compassion, optimism, a sense of humor, love-of-learning; openness to experience; and

– Clear-cut ability to understand, read, and control one’s own, and others’ feelings– what we had been viewing as emotional intelligence.

All three of these important psychological constructs, the triad of well-developed social skills, sturdy and robust character strengths, and clear-cut evidence for emotional intelligence, make a huge difference in the lives of gifted adolescents. This is a bit overstated, but we felt like we had found what we believed was the ‘Holy Grail” to ensure the success and psychological well-being of gifted youth! …and perhaps all youth!

My graduate students and I began investigating, and then calling, this triad of three constructs by the almost mystical term, “strengths of the heart.” …and as I shared this concept in talks, both in the USA and globally, with psychologists and other mental health practitioners, educators, parents, and policy makers, the term caught on. People seemed to resonate to the idea that “strengths of the heart” made sense and were important to talk more about, investigate, and nurture. …and we have been investigating and learning more about the power of “strengths of the heart” ever since! So in answer to your question, Mike, we have been researching various components and combinations of strengths of the heart, and their impact on the lives of adolescents, for 15 years now!

6) Do you have a web site and what would we find there?

I do have a website, Mike. I just really launched it this year! It is https://steven-pfeiffer-psychology.com. I hope that those who are reading this interview will take a few minutes to visit my website! I created the website to inform the public a little about myself professionally. Quite frankly, I created the website with the goal of promoting my experience and my availability as a speaker, consultant, and therapist. Both here in the USA and internationally, where I have been doing some exciting work over the last 5-6 years. For example, I have been working with an Italian Foundation to pilot a school-wide gifted program in the beautiful city of Milan. This led to an invitation to testify before the Italian Parliament in Rome on behalf of the unmet needs of gifted Italian students. Actually, I was the only American invited to testify. It was a powerful experience, advocating on behalf of gifted children in another country!

On my website, visitors can learn more about my professional training and experiences as a speaker, consultant, teacher, and therapist. They can also access and read some of my more popular articles! Finally, on the website, visitors can learn about the types of child and family counseling, and workshops and talks that I offer. Thanks for asking about the website, Mike! It is rather new, still-as they say-a bit ‘under construction’, and I’m proud of it! If truth be told, one of my doctoral students at Florida State University, Kelly Godfrey Berthiaume, did the lion’s share of work on the design of the site! Thanks, again, Kelly!

7) What have I neglected to ask?

This has been a great interview, Mike. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about the new Handbook that Springer published, and about some of my own work and the new website. I don’t think that you neglected any questions. Thanks for your interest in my new Handbook by Springer!

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