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Getting Smart Podcast

Jan 31, 2018

Today, Tom sits down with Gene Kerns, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Renaissance Learning, to discuss his recently published book Unlocking Student Talent: The New Science of Developing Expertise. The book is based on the growing body of evidence around purposeful practice and implications for K12 education and is made up of three main sections: student engagement, how deliberate practices can be incorporated into general education, and the process of developing independent learners.


Throughout today’s episode, Gene and Tom discuss each section of the book in-depth, covering topics such as: coaching for excellence, the importance of motivation when it comes to deliberate practice, bringing purposeful practice back to education, striving for higher levels of expertise, and Gene’s recommendations for implementing deliberate practice from the elementary to the high school level.


Key Takeaways:

[1:42] Where Gene first began teaching.

[2:05] Educational Leadership: The focus of Gene’s studies at Delaware.

[2:33] How Gene became Chief Academic Officer at Renaissance Learning.

[6:00] When Gene’s interest in deliberate practice formed.

[8:00] Gene’s goal when creating his book: bringing purposeful practice to education.

[9:55] What Gene learned about deliberate practice, motivation, and striving for higher levels of expertise while writing his book.

[12:50] Diving into the second section of the book: Gene summarizes what he learned about practice and its role in education.

[14:45] The importance of coaching deliberate practice.

[17:20] The challenge of gathering a deeper understanding of each learner’s motivational profile.

[19:03] Helping teachers find the balance between ‘drill vs. scrimmage.’

[22:31] The magic of myelin: Not just psychology; but biology.

[25:03] Resistance, results, and the new term: reachfulness and its meaning.

[27:40] The importance of recovery (between deliberate practice).

[29:31] Gene’s recommendations for deliberate practice from the elementary to the high school level.

[32:34] Coaching for excellence: What it means in education.

[34:25] The importance of student agency.

[36:52] The implications for Gene and Renaissance as a result of writing his book.

[39:47] It’s all about feedback: The importance of providing feedback to teachers and learners to improve performance.

[41:17] Where to learn more about the work Gene is doing.


Mentioned in This Episode:

Renaissance Learning

Unlocking Student Talent: The New Science of Developing Expertise, by Gene Kerns

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How., by Daniel Coyle

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else,

by Geoff Colvin

Anders Ericsson

Brainology (Carol Dweck)

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, by Daniel Pink

Steven Pinker

Doug Lemov

Mike Schmoker


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