Five Stages of Acquiring Expertise - Novice to Expert

Dreyfus, H. L., & Dreyfus, S. E. (1986). Mind over machine: The power of human intuition and expertise in the era of the computer. New York: The Free Press.

Summary: These others are focused on offering a rationale for human cognition and expertise as being superior to the plight of the computer. However, their first chapter is designed to understand expertise. They offer a theoretical explanation for understanding how adults acquire skill and transition from being a novice to an expert. They offer five stages: novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert.

Chapter 1: Five Steps from Novice to Expert

  • Novices acquire know-how, which is the tacit knowledge of how to perform a task or function through practice, and sometimes painful, experience.
  • Mostly a person’s know-how is invisible to that person. It only becomes visible through its absence when the person encounters a new situation where they recognize that they need their know-how and it does not exist because they do not know how to complete this task; it is their first encounter with the task and they are therefore developing their know-how.
  • “Know-that” is bound by logic and a set of specific rules to follow in order to learn; “Know-how” is acquired through experience and cannot be reduced to a specific set of rules.

Five Stages of Skill Acquisition

  1. Novice

    1. Operate by using context-free features and rules
    2. Do not understand that rules are contextually based; context-free rules need to occasionally be violated given the context or situation presented
    3. Do not assume responsibility for the consequences – “As a consequence, they [novices] feel little responsibility for the outcome of their acts. Assuming that they have made no mistakes, an unfortunate outcomes is viewed as the result of inadequately specified elements or rules (p. 26).” Thus the desire to create a protocol or a set of concrete rules results.
    4. Follows rules
  2. Advanced Beginner

    1. Achieved after considerable experience
    2. More sophisticated rules that are situational
    3. Develops the idea that the idea of developing skill is a much larger conception  “Through practical experience in concrete situations with meaningful elements, which neither an instructor nor the learner can define in terms of objectively recognizable context-free features, the advanced beginner starts to recognize those elements when they are present (p.22).”
    4. The advanced beginner begins to ask the question – how? How does one (fill in the blank)?
    5. Can set goals but can’t set them reasonably
  3. Competent

    1. More experience
    2. Possesses a sense of importance and is able to prioritize behaviors based on levels of importance. Behavior is determined by importance and not by context-free rules or merely situational rules
    3. Possess a hierarchical procedure for making decisions
    4. Requires organization and the creation of a plan
    5. Accepts responsibility for choices because they recognize they made choices; they are emotionally invested in their decision-making “The competent performer, on the other hand, after wrestling with the question of the choice of a plan, feels responsible for, and thus emotionally involved in, the product of his choice (p. 26).”
    6. Problem-solving indicates competence
    7. Slow and detached reasoning (problem-solving)
    8. Makes decisions
  4. Proficient

    1. Uses intuition based on enough past experience
    2. Intuition is “...the product of deep situational involvement and recognition of similarity (p. 29).”
    3. Intuitive-based cognition coupled with detached decision-making. The proficient person recognizes intuitively but responds by more calculative decisions. Being proficient means attributing success to the calculative aspects of the success and ignoring the even more brilliant intuition that occurred first.
  5. Expert

    1. Functions or responds as a result of “mature and practiced understanding”
    2. Loss of awareness of intuition and decision-making – operates simply because he does; knowledge becomes tacit
    3. “When things are proceeding normally, experts don’t solve problems and don’t make decisions; they do what normally works (pp. 30-31).”
    4. Experts “see” but sometimes don’t recognize that they “see”
    5. Experts perform without reflecting on every behavior, but experts do reflect and will consider alternatives when presented with time and critical outcomes. When experts reflect, they engage in critical reflection of their own assumptions.
    6. They possess: “An immense library of distinguishable situations is built up on the basis of experience (p. 32).”
    7. Actions are unconscious operating out of intuition and tacit knowledge
    8. Performance is fluid
    9. “But when time permits and much is at stake, detached deliberative rationality of the type described can enhance the performance of even the intuitive expert (p. 40).”

The progression from novice to expert: “What should stand out is the progression from the analytic behavior of a detached subject, consciously decomposing his environment into recognizable elements, and following abstract rules, to involved skilled behavior based on an accumulation of concrete experiences and the unconscious recognition of new situations as similar to whole remembered ones (p. 35).”

“...arational behavior, then, refers to action without conscious analytic decomposition and recombination. Competent performance is rational; proficiency is transitional; experts act arationally (p. 36).”

They present a table on p. 50: