New book on student talent and expertise

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.

Gene Kerns

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.

Do you plan on picking up a copy of the book? Let us know in the comments below, post on our Facebook page, or tweet us at @RenLearnUS.

Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
Gene Kerns, EdD, Vice President and Chief Academic Officer
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.


  1. Melissa Berry says:

    Would love to!!!

  2. Liana Ferrer says:

    I think it sounds like a good book and will recommend it to others.

  3. Dvawn Maza says:


  4. Nicole Erwin says:

    I’m reading a similar book now, Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham. I’ll be curious to compare your interpretation of brain science applied to education.

  5. Jason says:

    Heard him speak at a local Renaissance Session, the man knows his stuff! Looks like a good title to add to my Professional collection.

  6. Alecia Walkuski says:

    The ideas behind the book sound really intriguing. I can’t wait to read it!

  7. Belinda says:

    It seems like a very interesting book, would love it!

  8. Lauren Thrahser says:

    This sounds interesting. I am waiting for it to go on sale on my prime account 🙂

  9. Andrea says:

    Sounds great!

  10. Jody Steinhaus says:

    Very interesting.

  11. Debbie Compton says:

    I will share this with someone who might be interested in joining the conversation.

  12. carly says:

    Would love to read it, but a bit pricey for me at this time.

  13. Laura shultz says:

    I love that phrase that we are all gifted. That is already my teaching philosophy. Use their strengths to encourage growth in other areas! I need to read this book.

  14. M Browm says:

    Would love to read this….have enjoyed his webinars!

  15. Cathy Kelley says:

    Would love to read if I had the extra time!

  16. P R says:

    This would be a great PLC book study selection!

  17. Maria E. Martinez says:

    I’m intrigued. I will definitely look for it.

  18. Patricia Hodges says:

    I will be looking for this book. I will use the knowledge while working with my students and my grandchildren,

  19. Thonisha Davis says:

    Sounds interesting!

  20. Trinette Frazier says:

    Sounds like a great read!!! I would love to receive a copy as a gift.

  21. Doug Abend says:

    I do love a good review of the literature!

  22. Joanne Oliver says:

    I have had the pleasure of working with Gene. His insight into how we teach our students is helpful to both new and veteran teachers. I will certainly buy the book.

  23. Mr. Sanchez says:

    I agree with you 100% on the fact most works are for a general audience and not just focused on the educator. I will surely check this out and hope to have a positive impact like it has on you.

  24. Krystal Dozier says:

    This looks like a good read for our school’s leadership team.

  25. Ami Edwards says:

    This sounds interesting!

  26. s. bellomo says:

    Consistent continued practice is necessary to improve and expand knowledge and vocabulary.

  27. Damaris Perez says:

    Sounds amazing! Will add to my wish list!

  28. Katie Wiltz says:

    I am very interested in reading this book!

  29. Katie Peugh says:

    Very interesting!

  30. David Keech says:

    Sounds like a good book to purchase.

  31. Laura Torres says:

    Sounds interesting to read and grow professionally.

  32. Virginia Travis says:

    I hope to purchase the book!

  33. Rita Platt says:

    Can’t wait to read it!

  34. Virginia Wiedenfeld says:

    I want to read this book! I was hoping I could purchase it with my reward points!!

  35. Lynn Humphrey says:

    Looks like a great read!

  36. Terri says:

    Sounds like an informative read.

  37. Lisa Capon says:

    Sounds interesting! Would love to read

  38. CW says:

    This book sounds like it would be a very beneficial to the classroom

  39. RENEE P GRAHAM says:

    Intriguing! Adding the book to my reading list.

  40. Jane Roach says:

    This is a very encouraging read that should be on every educators list. All students deserve deliberate practice rather than busy work. I’ve worked with Dr Kerns and participated in Robin Fogarty & Brian Pete’s workshops. All three are truly dedicated to helping educators. A great book!!