Book Review: Robin Fogarty, Gene Kerns & Brian Pete’s Unlocking Student Talent

by | Aug 9, 2018

Forget everything you know! This book challenges widely held beliefs that talent and expertise are a result of genetic predisposition.

In fact, the authors’ propose that education needs a new model for understanding the “science of expertise” that necessitates a change in deeply held beliefs. The first change requires us to dispel the myth of gene-based, predestined talent. Then, we must understand how talent develops through physiological changes in our brains!

Think like an elite sports coach!

We have much to learn from expert coaches and their capacity to identify and develop specific skills that will increase a player’s proficiency when playing the whole game. Understanding that deliberate practice causes the build-up of myelin around neural circuits that metaphorically speaking transform “narrow alleyways into broad, lightening-fast super-highways”, effectively explains “how” expertise and talent grows from a brain perspective. The myelination process that occurs in the brain during deliberate practice is literally mind-blowing, and helps explain why it takes thousands of hours to develop expertise and talent in any field.

Fogarty, Kerns and Pete take the reader on a journey that is both exciting and mind-changing. The exploration begins with an examination of intrinsic motivation, then transitions to understanding how to grow expertise through deliberate practice, and finally focuses our attention on master coaching that supports ongoing development through constructive feedback. What I believe teachers will find most helpful about this book is the clever weaving of research and practical application, particularly using techniques employed by elite sports coaches – it simply makes sense, and crosses seamlessly to the classroom learning context.

An easy to read format together with Classroom Teaching Ideas at the end of each section, allows teachers to access examples of how the critical skills of motivation, deliberate practice and coaching can be integrated into their classroom practice. The authors encourage us to courageously take our students to higher levels through deep, deliberate practice and masterful coaching.

This book has the potential to transform our practice, increase learning expertise and inspire greatness by knowing how to bring out the very best in all our students.

Bern Nicholls Bern Nicholls is an authentic and passionate learner who over the 
span of her career in education has consistently kept students at the centre of all her thinking and research. Read more articles by Bern Nicholls

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