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  • This blog is written by specialists from the Education Division of the Inter-American Development Bank. Its objective is to provide arguments and ideas that will spark debate about how to transform education in Latin America and the Caribbean. This blog is a call to action for the reader. An idea, a project, or a question can make a difference.

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    Las opiniones expresadas en este blog son las del autor y no necesariamente reflejan las opiniones del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo, sus directivas, la Asamblea de Gobernadores o sus países miembros.

    The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Inter-American Development Bank, its Management, its Board of Executive Directors or its member Governments.

    Talent is neither necessary nor sufficient for top quality education

    By - 11 May 2011

    When one reads The Genius In All of Us by David Shenk (I recommend it), it is impossible to avoid stepping into the high wire debate over talent versus experience. And from there, the jump to the subject of excellence in education is inevitable.

    Looking at the results of the PISA test, only 1 percent of participating Latin American youth achieved a level of excellence. Clearly, this is alarming. However, anyone who interprets these figures as an indication that our students are less talented is wrong. In fact, talent does not even enter into it, because talent is overrated.

    Excellence in education has to do with what Geoff Colvin calls “deliberate practice.” In education, “deliberate practice” rests on the teacher’s ability to help students achieve the following:

    Increase their own knowledge beyond the skills they have previously acquired. To achieve this, lessons must be designed with “entry” and “exit” points tailored for individual students, both for content and the time required for its acquisition. Teaching the same lesson to all students ultimately discourages the ones who learn more quickly while hurting those who learn at a slower pace (but I’ll leave this for a future blog post).

    Self-regulate themselves to establish their own goals―but not any kind of goal, nor the most obvious. It’s not enough to set goals for future results—which are necessary but not sufficient. It is also necessary to set immediate goals to put in place the process needed to achieve those results. The steps that students must take today are not a mere word game, but a strategy for success.

    Monitor and evaluate themselves. This is related to the concept of meta-cognition, or the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking, i.e., self-assessment. This idea throws overboard the standardized assessment schemes―but not the need for evaluation. In a scheme of “deliberate practice,” says Colvin, individuals choose to compare their performance with their own best results, with that of competitors who they can expect to encounter, or with those who are the best in their field.

    Receive and utilize feedback that is qualitatively different. Meta-cognition puts on trial the traditional notion of feedback. It’s not enough that the teacher analyze the student’s work to provide guidance; the analysis must be performed in terms of the goals that students set for themselves.
    The best educational systems in the world already use these tools to help increase the number of top-performing students. Will do our region do so as well? What do you think?

    2 Responses to “Talent is neither necessary nor sufficient for top quality education”

    • Ybiskay Gonzalez :

      Estoy de acuerdo con esta manera de enseñar. Creo que en definitiva está en manos de los maestros tal habilidad para recibir información de los niños y saber dar un feedback, así como animar a los niños a tener metas y lograrlas. Tal calidad de maestro pasa por reconocer el trabajo del educador, de manera de que sean personas valoradas y no desprestigiadas, y asi puedan estar motivados a ser cada vez mejores maestros. También pasa por formar el maestro en algo que para mi es un arte, y no solamente en los contenidos y herramientas de enseñanza. Me paree genial esta página. Gracias

    • The problem is that, for the individual, “talent” is important whether in athletics, academics or life. In these blogs, it has been pointed out that the educational system must adjust to the student’s capabilities. Also, the discussion with Kahn points out that schools need to invert, lessons at home and help in the classes to optimize the human resources of other students, teachers and the physical resources. The emphasis in the world of work on results and competencies as opposed to time on the job or in class reinforces the same idea. David Snowden’s ASHEN model recognizes the importance of these components in order of ranking, Artifacts,Skills,Heuristics, Experience and “N” for natural talent.

      The problem lies in the regulations which license teachers and the university programs which established the training of the teachers. The two, interlocked systems yield teachers based on past knowledge which puts the teachers in the classroom already obsolete and thus frustrated. It’s like a bad road design/construction which needs constant repair because of initial faults built into the system. It also lies with the communities and families who realize the need of their children but are unable to provide the support for a problematic system. BRAC, the NGO has come the closest to addressing these issues in severe poverty situation. China has recognized the issues and is making these shifts

      The world is just beginning to understand how to address these issues and the rapid changes which we are all facing, not just in education.

      dr. tom p abeles, editor
      On the Horizon

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