Albert Ziegler, PhD, is Chair Professor of Educational Psychology and Research on Excellence at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. He is the Founding Director of the Statewide Counseling and Research Center for the Gifted. He has published approximately 450 books, chapters and articles in the fields of talent development and educational psychology. He developed the Actiotope Model of Giftedness, which promotes a systemic conception of giftedness. In his research, his main interests are learning resources and effective learning environments, self-regulated learning, mentoring, and gifted identification. Presently, he serves as the Secretary General of the International Research Association for Talent Development and Excellence (IRATDE), as Vice-President of the European Council for High Ability (ECHA). He is the Founding Chairman of the European Talent Support Network (ETSN) and was in 2017 appointed Director at the World Giftedness Center in Dubai.
Environmental Boosters of Talent Development
Even nativist talent models had recognized early on that talent cannot be developed without a stimulating environment. The view that true talent would always prevail was therefore quickly dismissed as a myth. Nevertheless, disproportionately more attention was paid to the structure of talent and its internal catalysts. In contrast, what specifically characterizes a stimulating environment was never established. To be sure, it quickly became clear that certain people (for example, parents and peers), objects (for example, toys, learning materials), settings (for example, libraries, classrooms), and systems (for example, schools and families) play a crucial role for talent development. However, no elaborate theory has ever been presented that encompassed the elements of such environments, as well as their interaction and the ways in which they can be regulated. Accordingly, the presentation addresses three questions:
1) What exactly distinguishes effective from less effective environments?
2) Are there particularly stimulating environments in which individuals are unequally more likely to develop their talents?
3) How can these insights be used for talent support?
The answer to the first question is educational and learning capital, i.e. exogenous (located in the talent's environment) and specifically corresponding endogenous (located in the talent's person) learning resources. Talents need the latter to exploit the exogenous learning resources.
To answer the second question, an environmental typology is introduced and illustrated with examples. They include the two poles of an “atope” (environments that have no supportive effect at all) and a “megatope” (environments with an extremely high level of support).
To answer the third question, several maxims on the future course of talent education are presented.