Is there such a thing as talent?

Posted by Marcus on Feb 15, 2016

Matthew Syed poses some interesting points in his talk about talent, he believes that there is no such thing as talent and he goes a long way to prove his point by talking about some of his personal experiences. Although I agree with Syed that there is no such thing as talent, I feel that his notion of practice makes perfect leaves a lot to be desired. Willingham talks about the right kind of practice needed in order to commit information to memory, he states that “memory is the residue of thought” and I feel it’s important to consider that just because someone puts a lot of time and effort into something, it doesn’t mean that they have learnt it, or even committed it to their memory.

Syed talks about recognising ‘growability’ which links in with the idea of Growth Mind-set; something passionately discussed by John Hattie. This idea is something that I continue to toy with as I feel that it’s really important that students have the courage to think that anything is possible if they put their minds to it. I seem to come back to this point all the time, but it’s true when I say that I get so disheartened when I hear students saying that they will never be good at maths because their parents weren’t, Willingham has also discussed research that shows we’re all born with two ways to appreciate number… So how can we get young people to see that being good at maths isn’t about their genes?!  

On another note, I found Syed’s thoughts on the significance of feedback to be really interesting. He talks about how feedback contributes to improvement. This is a topic that has had a lot of thought put into it within the school that I work in and I think that ultimately feedback is really important, however I have one problem with it and that’s the way it’s used by students.  The reaction to feedback can be so different… Some students love it whereas some students couldn’t care less! I often find that it’s a battle to get students to respond to feedback and I can see why teachers become frustrated when they know they have spent a lot of time giving personalised feedback when ultimately it just doesn’t get fully appreciated. Another idea posed by Syed is how being stretched can contribute to one’s improvement. I agree that for some people, being stretched would help them to improve, but then again how many students are content with just doing as well as expected? Some students don’t want to do any better than what’s expected of them… I guess what I’m getting at is – Does it all boil down to the students themselves? It’s all very well trying to implement all these different techniques and trying to find the best way to teach them but how do we get away from the fact that in some cases you can’t make a leopard change its spots?!


  1. Laura
    16 February 2016

    I think you make a really good point at the end here Marcus. So much of what we are talking about seems all well and good in an ideal world, with ideal students but this does not always reflect what we are met with in the real classrooms today. Is the attitude towards eduction in this country the real first port of call for true reform perhaps?

  2. pepsmccrea
    19 February 2016

    Some great thinking here. You are asking lots of relevant questions and trying to put the pieces together to make sense of it all. Your argument about it being ‘all about the student’ is a powerful one. However, I guess teachers still have a significant role in ‘shaping’ the student…

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