The Expert Learner: Challenging the Myth of Ability

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McGraw-Hill Education, Jan 1, 2014 - Learning - 190 pages
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What do Amadeus Mozart, David Beckham, Marie Curie and Bill Gates have in common? Answer: all excel in their diverse areas of music, sport, science and computing. The Expert Learner looks at what we know about acquiring such expertise and seeks to apply it to education, particularly to classroom teaching. Challenging the widely held belief that excellence is the result of innate ability, it shows how ability is developed through applied learning and deliberate practice.

Drawing on studies about expertise The Expert Learner highlights the importance of:

  • Providing opportunities and support to develop skills
  • Being motivated to succeed
  • Undergoing extensive deliberate practice
  • Building powerful mental models to handle and organise information
  • Receiving continuous and effective feedback to improve performance
  • Developing self-regulation to monitor performance
The Expert Learner takes these findings and applies them to education. What opportunities do our institutions offer to our students and how much choice do we really give them? How do we motivate the unmotivated and how do we stretch our higher achieving students? Are we helping learners to think for themselves and to make sense of what they are learning?

With its rich source of ideas for expert teaching and learning, this book looks at some of the ways we can achieve 'wide-awake' thinking in the classroom.

"Highly readable, plenty of examples, and packed with the power of thinking about learning in a way that can make the difference.

This is a book full of optimism - it offers a way to positively think about learning and schools. We are not determined by birth, social status, poverty, wealth ... but we can invest in our learning if we "think" appropriately. Stobart emphasizes not just practice, but deliberate coached practice, he shows the multiplier effect that comes from seizing opportunities or someone creating opportunities, and he shows the importance of risk taking, deep knowledge, creativity, and developing talk about progress."
John Hattie, Director, Melbourne Education Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Australia

"If I were to recommend just one book that all teachers, parents, employers and politicians who are interested in education should read, it would be this one. Not only is it full of engaging stories, underpinned by important research, but it goes to the very heart of what it is to be a successful learner and effective teacher. It demolishes the myth of inherited ability as the overriding determinant of achievement and provides an alternative account by unpacking the opportunities, experiences and practices that lead to the development of true expertise. Read it and use the ideas to challenge backward thinking."
Professor Mary James, University of Cambridge, UK

"With clear arguments and ample research evidence, Stobart dispels the myth of ability and shows us the harm of society's persistent reliance on repackaged IQ tests. He advocates, instead, for teaching methods and schools that open up rather than close down opportunities. Using research on expertise and compelling examples from sports, science, medicine, and music, this book shows us how good teaching practices - such as rich questioning and supportive feedback - can engage students in the kinds of deep and purposeful practice needed for adept, expert learning. All students can benefit from this model of teaching, not just an elite few."
Distinguished Professor Lorrie Shepard, University of Colorado Boulder, USA

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About the author (2014)

Gordon Stobart is Emeritus Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, UK.

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