By Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
I’m thrilled to announce the release of my new book, Unlocking Student Talent: The New Science of Developing Expertise.
As the chief academic officer at Renaissance, one of my top priorities is helping educators understand how advances in learning science can be applied in the classroom. To keep up with things, I have to read a lot. Nearly every publication adds a bit of new information or insight, but a precious few change the way I view the world. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle is one of those precious few.
The book profiles the experiences of world-class performers—people who stand out in various fields. Through a combination of research, site visits, and stories, Coyle attempts to illuminate “the talent code”—a series of experiences and factors that turn generally ordinary people into world-class performers.
I stumbled upon the book on the way to a meeting. While waiting in an airport, it caught my eye and I purchased it on a whim. I started reading it during the flight and found it impossible to put down. When I landed, I couldn’t wait to tell others. In fact, during the meeting, eyes began to roll as I continually referenced the book.
One of the three elements Coyle identifies as essential to eventual success is “deep practice.” Since its formation, Renaissance has stressed the vital importance of students practicing essential skills. Coyle’s insights shed new light on why we’ve seen such great success with our practice programs, Renaissance Accelerated Reader 360® and Renaissance Accelerated Math®.
After The Talent Code, I transitioned to similar works: Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, and Bounce by Matthew Syed. I also became aware of Dr. Anders Ericsson’s seminal research and the book he recently co-authored along with Robert Pool, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. I even had the fortune to host Ericsson’s webinar on the secrets of deliberate practice.
Dr. Gene Kerns
As much as I enjoyed all these works, something pained me about them. Most were written for a general audience, and none of them were expressly written with educators in mind. After years of reflecting on how to best distill this research with educators at the forefront, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Robin Fogarty, internationally renowned education consultant and author, and Brian Pete, adult learning and professional development expert. The result of our collaboration is Unlocking Student Talent: The New Science of Developing Expertise, which presents this research in meaningful terms for educators.
We’re very excited by the book’s early reception. Dr. Ericsson and Mr. Pool graciously reviewed the text and, in the forward, they heralded the book as “offer[ing] revolutionary proposals for transforming general education.” Leading assessment expert Dr. Rick Stiggins provided an endorsement and called the book “a guide book for all who wish to use assessment for learning and other strategies in partnership with talented learners in the service of their success.” (I also had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Stiggins’ webinar on the perfect district assessment system.)
We hope this book will change the way educators like you view daily work and that it has a profound impact on you, much like The Talent Code did on me. The science of expertise reveals that we are all gifted. We are “all endowed with a brain so flexible and adaptable that it [can], with the right sort of training, develop a capability that seems quite magical to those who do not possess it” (Ericsson and Pool, 2016).
So much talent is yet to be tapped.
Gene Kerns, EdD, is a third-generation educator with teaching experience from elementary through the university level, in addition to his K–12 administrative experience. As Vice President and Chief Academic Officer at Renaissance, Dr. Kerns advises educators in both the US and the UK about academic trends and opportunities. Previously, he served as the Supervisor of Academic Services for the Milford School District in Milford, Delaware. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Longwood College in Virginia and a doctor of education degree from the University of Delaware. His first publication, Informative Assessment: When It’s Not About a Grade, focused on using routine, reflective, and rigorous informative assessments to inform and improve teaching practices and student learning.