Join me on my journey to investigate growth mindset, student motivation, and brain-based instruction! If you would like to use this book in a book club or as a PLC book study, I’ve included some potential book study discussion questions below.
As I embark on my learning journey to investigate growth mindset, student motivation, and brain-based instruction, I came across Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. The title intrigued me, but the subtitle hooked me.
In his book, Coyle hones in on myelin, insulation of neural circuits in the brain. Coyle shows, through diagrams, brain-based research, and real-life stories, how myelin is developed and preserved.
Coyle divides the book into three major sections, which all play into how he argues talent (and myelin) is grown and fostered: Deep Practice, Ignition, and Master Coaching.
The stories and studies
Oh, how I loved Daniel Coyle’s fascinating series of story after story that peppered this book. From examples of bank robbers to Brazilian soccer players to KIPP schools to piano teaching to the Brontë sisters to UCLA basketball coaching (among many more), I fell in love with Coyle’s interesting selection of anecdotes.
Coyle combined his anecdotes with research studies, which made me realize how much more learning I have to do in regards to student motivation and success.
I found myself putting the book down several times, and saying to my husband, “Did you KNOW?!” or “Have you ever heard of ______?!” or “Listen to this research study!”
Reading Coyle’s writing made me feel like I was having coffee with a really interesting friend or listening to a fascinating conference speaker. Coyle’s writing is conversational, yet formal and professional. He paid attention to seemingly every detail — addressing counterarguments in just the right places and continually tying new anecdotes to old ones.
Through repetition of ideas, Coyle thoughtfully ensures that his seemingly unrelated anecdotes that span space, time, and genre all share the common thread of growing talent. Coyle is clearly passionate about what he’s writing about, and his passion rubbed off on me, the reader.
Food for thought
Coyle’s book left me with A LOT to ponder — not only techniques for my classroom, but also for my piano teaching and my personal pursuit of new skills. I love when a book keeps me thinking long after I close the cover — and this book did not disappoint!
Slow section one (Deep Practice)
The information build up in section one was necessary, but it was slow for me to get through. The idea of deep practice wasn’t something I connected with as much as Ignition and Master Coaching.
Once I got to those sections (2 and 3), I flew through the rest of the book. For those of you interested in deep practice and more of the intricacies of what that deep practice does to the brain, you might connect with section one more than I did.
Reflections for my classroom:
I annotated like crazy in this book — at one point, in the car, my pencil fell between the seats and disappeared, and I nearly had a meltdown 🙂 I had to keep reading without making notes?! While many of the anecdotes had little to do with my English class on the surface, the CONCEPTS were transferable.
My personal rule of thumb when reading professional books or attending conferences is to choose three specific goals I would like to try implementing in my classroom — it helps me stay focused and really assess how the new ideas work before I add more! My three goals (and subideas) are listed below.
Ideas I would like to implement
- Give more frequent, repetitive quizzes/formative assessments
- Make students envision: “That is who I want to be” (Coyle, 2009)
- How I might accomplish this
- Provide more academic role models for students
- Conduct interviews with people in the community who attended our high school and who went on to find success
- Celebrate academic successes of students
- Provide concrete examples of people using English in the “real world”
- Use subtle inspirational cues by hanging motivational posters on wall, writing positive encouragement in assignment directions, etc.
- How I might accomplish this
- Praise students for their hard work/effort, not their intelligence or innate ability
Overall, I felt like I was on a journey of discovery right along side of Coyle, as he traveled the world to seek out experts and talent hotbeds, as he related brain studies, and as he delved into stories of history. I would highly recommend The Talent Code to anyone who is interested in growing talent, improving student motivation, and becoming a more effective “coach” (teacher).
Book study questions:
- Pick one anecdote you connected with in the book. How might you implement the anecdote’s concept into your classroom teaching?
- Pick one research study you connected with in the book. How could you change your instruction based on this research study?
- What concepts from the book challenged you?
- What concepts from the book surprised you?
- Beyond the classroom, which ideas from the book (if any) would you like to apply to your life?
- Are there any concepts from the book that you connected with but that you are having a hard time translating into your teaching field? Brainstorm with the group about potential ways to tie this concept to your classroom.
- What is your overall impression of the book?
Have you read The Talent Code? What did you think of the book? Do you have any brain research books you would recommend? Comment below!