Dreyfus model – let novices and experts be

I’m currently reading the book Pragmatic Thinking and Learning: Refactor Your “Wetware” and I’ve just read about the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. It basically outlines the five stages from novice to expert, and the chapter discusses the need to be more cognizant of the differences between each skill level in order to encourage growth and productivity. How you perceive things or approach a problem at the novice level is definitely different from how it would be for someone at the competent or expert levels. Without understanding the differences, we might be putting novices at situations that are simply too much for them or we might be deterring experts from being experts.


Stage 1: NovicesNovices need recipes.

  • Novices have little or no previous experience in a particular skill area.
  • They don’t particularly want to learn; they just want to accomplish an immediate goal.
  • They need context-free rules to follow e.g., “Whenever X happens, do Y.”
  • They don’t know how to respond to mistakes.

Stage 2: Advanced BeginnersAdvanced beginners don’t want the big picture.

  • Advanced beginners work on things on their own relying on their recent experiences and without being given step-by-step instructions.
  • When problems arise, they have difficulty troubleshooting.
  • They want information fast — without the lengthy theory or without being spoon-fed the basics.
  • They start formulating some principles.
  • They have no holistic understanding and aren’t that eager about it yet.

Stage 3: CompetentCompetents can troubleshoot.

  • Competents develop conceptual models of how things work (or should work).
  • They can troubleshoot most problems on their own — including those they haven’t faced before.
  • They seek out expert advice and are able to use it effectively.
  • They are often described as “having initiative” and being “resourceful”.
  • They can take on leadership roles or mentor the novices.

Stage 4: ProficientProficient practitioners can self-correct.

  • Proficient practitioners want to see the big picture.
  • They are frustrated by oversimplified information.
  • They can correct previous poor task performance, reflect and revise their approach to perform better next time.
  • They learn from the experience of others.
  • They know when to not follow the plan, and can identify what needs to be done instead.
  • They understand and apply maxims, which are proverbial, fundamental truths that have to be applied within a certain context.

Stage 5: ExpertExperts work from intuition.

  • Experts are the primary sources of knowledge and information.
  • They continually look for better ways of doing things.
  • They can be amazingly intuitive but may also be completely inarticulate as to how they arrived at a conclusion.
  • They know which details to focus on and which details can be safely ignored.
  • They are stifled by iron-clad rules.

The book graphically illustrates the 3 most important changes that transpire when moving up from novice to expert.

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  • Moving away from reliance on rules to intuition.
  • A change in perception, where the problem is no longer a collection of equally relevant bits but a complete and unique whole where only certain bits are relevant.
  • Finally, a change from being a detached observer of the problem to an involved part of the system itself.
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3 thoughts on “Dreyfus model – let novices and experts be

  1. Pingback: More from Pragmatic Thinking & Learning « testkeis

  2. Pingback: Constant Random Change » Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

  3. Pingback: 3 stages; shu-ha-ri « testkeis

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