Iceberg Talent

Posted by SIMON on Feb 22, 2016

I love the concept that everyone can be an expert if they have enough practice….mainly because I am quite useless at quite allot of things! So it’s reassuring to think that I could be good at everything…..if I could be bothered.


One of my favourite videos last year was “Guy Plays Table Tennis Every Day for a Year” (quite fitting with Matthew Syed being one of the speakers on this task) and as the title suggests, he because quite good after a year of really trying hard. The most impactful part of the video for me is “Guy” making mistakes, identifying them and then working on that part of his game, whether is agility training, footwork or his serve and then being able to see considerable improvement in that area.


David Beckham, one of the most talented football players right? Well It shocked me to find out that at the age of 6 he could do about 5-6 keepy ups, 6 months later he could do about 50, another 6 months he could do a whopping 200 and when he was 9? 2003. So how did little David accomplish this? He practiced after school every day and once he had achieved this he turned to free kicks and his dad estimates David practiced this over 50,000 times. This is known as the iceberg effect, people see the end result and assume natural talent, but not all the failure that had to have happened to have that “talent”.

So how do we relate this to learning? Well I think it goes bac

k to letting our students know it’s okay to fail and that to expect to master something at first attempt is very unlikely, it’s all about marginal gain and intellectual honesty, identify what is working and what is not working and adjust and repeat.

What about teaching? This can also be applied to us as teachers, to collaborate and identify what is working for your students, adjust, teach and analyse. This can be done for every aspect of the lessons or teaching styles, do the seating arrangements change the way students are concentrating? No?

Try a different layout. Are students finding it difficult to memorise a certain equation? Try a different cue, research articles like Daniel Willingham’s “What will improve a student’s memory”.

Knowing, accepting and learning from failures is the best way to become “naturally talented”.

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