Home | In The Classroom | Basics to brilliance: part 1

Basics to brilliance: part 1

When children are at play, what are they doing? They are constantly testing themselves, testing others, they are competing and they are developing.

When sport is taking place, what is the process? Sport is about tests and competition. When the arts auditioning process (in any of its forms, music, acting, ballet etc.,) is taking place, what is the purpose and point (pun intended) of these auditions? To select the best and most talented artist. What is that artistic auditioning process actually called? Testing for artistic competence, and it is also about artists competing against each other. That means this artistic auditioning process is a competition.

Examination scores are taking place

When academic examinations and associated academic examination scores are taking place for university entrance placements, for example, what is it that is actually taking place? This process is an analysis and an examination of intellectual competence. The purpose of which, self-evidently, is to determine if the students in question have the academic and intellectual skills and knowledge to progress to their profession of choice. If they are not chosen, the students will need to present and compete for their second, or third, or fourth etc., choice. Or they may need to leave academia, and do something else for another year.

The medical profession

When, for example, in the medical profession, the ‘best,’ i.e., the highest skilled and most knowledgeable brain, heart, or any surgeon is selected to operate, on what basis is the selection of this surgeon made? Self-evidently, and again, the selection of this surgeon will be based on their intellectual competence, knowledge and associated surgical skills.

Space exploration

When a spacecraft is to be constructed to carry astronauts, for example, what is the process of selection for the planners, builders, engineers, the astronauts, and all of the other required disciplines and specialised personnel that will be essential so as to ensure that the universal truths of mathematics, physics, engineering and more will be understood and correctly applied?

The selection processes

Selection in this discipline of space aeronautics, and all other disciplines, are based on a process where intellectual, physical and skill acquisition testing continually take place. The purpose of which is to ensure that all of the required intellectual competencies, skills and knowledge are continually met, and are continually up to date. This process has been the evolutionary criteria which has advanced and taken human beings from their caves and into creating what is now referred to as the twenty-first century.

What happens when…

What happens when, during a storm for example, the electricity grid is damaged? Obviously, repairs will be immediately required. Who will the administration choose to send to undertake these important and usually highly dangerous repairs? The people selected will be highly skilled and knowledgeable. During these repairs, these electricians will be competing against the weather and associated difficult conditions. Their skills, abilities, knowledge and their resolve will be tested. If these electricians are not highly skilled, knowledgeable, resilient and determined, and if they have never undertaken any exams or have never been tested for their skills, abilities and knowledge, then clearly and irrefutably the repairs will not – and in fact – cannot take place.

It is a competitive world which needs to be acknowledged and taught

In terms of evolutionary, biological and social universal truths, Bruce McInnes points out how the world has always been and still is highly competitive and, as history informs, how the social world can also be ruthless. Even in the world of fauna and flora, the “weak and ill are culled by predators or exposure, and plants smother or feed off other plants".

Archeological evidence

History and archeological evidence prove, as noted by McInnes, that “previous civilisations have built on and improved upon previous societies that have fallen due to weakness or an inability to adapt to new stressors”. In terms of skills and abilities, the most competent will tend to have better living conditions than others, and, more often than not, the most competent and skilled will also be rewarded for their work and efforts.

Collaboration and competition are not mutually exclusive

It is the pursuit of excellence, in all of its forms which advance individual and social potential. As McInnes points out, accepting and/or rewarding incompetence only tends to encourage the continuation of incompetence. Added to this, McInnes also makes the point that collaboration can and is found in competitive situations. In fact, “collaboration is a valuable tool in competitive situations. Collaboration and competition are not mutually exclusive”. What is it that takes place in a team? Mutual collaboration! The word teamwork is all about collaboration. When teams compete against each other (whatever the discipline), each team is internally collaborating, while, at the same time, each team is externally competing against the other. Concomitantly each individual team member (and collectively the team) will be highly skilled, knowledgeable and competent, with all of the associated (and required) self-motivating capacities.

Mistakes, neurobiology, hard work, practice, learning and knowledge

Further to this, effort, application, competition, achievements, hard work, mistakes and errors advance brain and body potential, and these universal truths also develop resilience. From a neurobiological perspective, Coyle points out that "each time we work hard and each time we deeply practice … we are slowly installing broadband [myelin] in our circuitry… Struggle is not optional – it’s neurologically required: in order to get [our] skill circuit to fire optimally, [we] must, by definition, fire the circuit suboptimally; [we] must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; [we] must slowly teach [our] circuit. [We] must also keep firing that circuit – i.e., practicing – in order to keep myelin functioning properly. After all, myelin is living tissue".

Mistakes are an inevitable universal certainty

Mistakes must be thought of as being a universal certainty on the road to gaining mastery experiences and success in all spheres of life, which students need and must know. The important thing on this journey of learning is to know that mistakes are an absolute inevitability. It is then imperative to know that one needs to then learn from these mistakes. Accepting that mistakes are a universal inevitable truth is what helps to lead to mastery, and it also helps with developing self-efficacy and resilience.


It is Albert Bandura who points out that self-efficacy is an extraordinarily powerful and self-empowering construct which allows students to realise and to appreciate that they are responsible for their motivations, their thoughts, their behaviours, what they say, the choices they make, and their achievements. Self-efficacy is about a person’s beliefs about their capabilities to produce designated levels of performance that exercise influence over events that affect their lives. Beliefs concerning self-efficacy, according to Bandura, “determine how people feel, think, motivate themselves and behave. Such beliefs produce these diverse effects through four major processes. They include cognitive, motivational, affective and selection processes”.

This concludes part 1. Part 2 will introduce the reader to the following: resilience; success typically requires ongoing effort; the student will grow in their knowledge; intelligence in the flesh; the brain and body is designed to blend all; all for one and one for all; tests and competitions are and have been a forever part of the universal human condition; sport; the basics of reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic; basics to brilliance; and highly skilled and knowledgeable educational psychologists.

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Dr Ragnar Purje is adjunct lecturer in the School of Education and the Arts at Central Queensland University. Under the supervision of Professor Ken Purnell, Purje’s doctoral dissertation focused on the success of his neurologically focused acquired brain injury rehabilitation therapy.

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