Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Education Bookcast

Apr 15, 2023

Benjamin Bloom is best known for Bloom's Taxonomy, a scheme for categorising ways of thinking about or interacting with learning content on a scale from less to more sophisticated. However, the project he led investigating the lifelong development of expertise should be much more famous.

The book's full title makes it feel as though it was published in 1685 rather than 1985: The dramatic findings of a ground-breaking study of 120 immensely talented individuals reveal astonishing new information on Developing Talent in Young People. Bloom's team looked at extraordinary achievers in six domains: pianists, sculptors, swimmers, tennis players, mathematicians, and neurologists, so that he had two each from artistic, athletic, and academic pursuits. He was trying to understand the life circumstances during childhood and adolescense - particularly the practice routines and social milieu - which led to the development of the subjects' expertise.

Their research methods were unusual. Rather than using a large sample and taking quantitative data (which would have been difficult anyway due to the lack of a large number of exceptional people, by definition) or presenting qualitative interviews of individual case studies, Bloom's team interviewed around 20-30 people from each domain and then summarised the findings of these interviews. It leaves us with a sense of the qualitative experience of going through their learning processes, while also reducing the chances of over-generalising from a single case.

Pianists were the main focus of discussion where Bloom and his colleauges tried to generalised the findings, although all six categories had a full exposition as to the findings for their domain in particular. The pianists followed an especially clear pattern which is worth starting from, and subsequently comparing with the others.

In the context of an abundance of information about how people think and learn on shorter timescales (from seconds to weeks), having information about how people develop over the lifespan is invaluable. I will definitely be referring to this book a lot in future.

Enjoy the episode.



This book is related to the development of expertise, which I talk about on a lot of episodes, but the one specific one I mentioned in the recording was:

22. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle


You can support Education Bookcast and join the community forum via Buy Me a Coffee using the following link: