Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Suggestion: Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin

I am in the middle of the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin; I think it's an excellent book for ASPer's, students, and other law professors.  I will probably using this book as part of my class for freshman in college next fall. If I could require it for incoming law students or an ASP course, I would.

Amy and I write extensively in this blog and give presentations on the things lower-ranked and at-risk students do and don't do compared to their more academically successful peers.  Much of what we find academically successful students do is researched and discussed in the book.  Experts have better memories than novices in their field of expertise. Memory is a learned skill. The research on memory is particularly fascinating because it implies that memory is built on understanding the task and giving it context; we tell law students it's about understanding, not memorizing, and struggling students frequently disagree with us. However, the research is saying we are both correct. If law students don't understand, they can't memorize the essential, foundational concepts that in turn build deeper understanding necessary for success on exams. All struggling students are seeing is that their classmates who understand the material have foundational concepts committed to memory, and they blame their struggles on memory, not a lack of understanding. Understanding builds context, which aids in memory.  Law school is a spiral curriculum, where concepts build and interact with each other, and if students can't get their foot on the first step, they can never climb higher.

Deliberate practice, distinguished from hard work, is another key idea I think law students need to understand. We in ASP always hear from struggling students that they are working as hard as they can, and we find that their hard work is not the type that produces learning.  Helping students see that number of study hours alone does not help them understand the material is one of our first hurdles as ASPer's. The next step, learning what type of study produces understanding of the material, is known as deliberate practice. Where I find this book to be helpful is that it shows law students it's not just law school; they type of practice they need is relevant to any field where they want to succeed. I think it takes some of the vitriol out of their law school experience.  (RCF)

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