10.01.2010

expertise

Expertise is gold. You do your job all day long and you want to know what you are doing. You want to understand as much as you can about the cause and effect of the decisions you make. You want to have a base of understanding that feeds all of the complexities that spring forth.

Developing expertise is an ambiguous slide rule ranging from BS on one end to complete fluency on the other.

A lack of expertise is not simply a lack of knowledge, it is compounded by not possessing the frame of references needed to learn new facts. We can construct our own framework for the new knowledge we are attempting to retain but this forces us to make assumption for the parts we are unsure of. These assumptions erode our own trust in this new knowledge.

Expertise passes from one person to another not passively, but with hard work. The very nature of expertise makes passive transfer from one person to another nearly impossible.

  • The development and retention of new knowledge depends in large part on the relationship between what one is learning and what one already knows. Because novices in a field typically don’t know much of the content in that field, they have little to which they can relate the things they’re attempting to learn. So they retain less.
  • Since novices typically don’t grasp the fundamental principles in a field, they don’t see the patterns grounded in those principles. They tend therefore to adopt anidiosyncratic organizational scheme for what they are learning. This organizational scheme might function well enough in a particular context (e.g., in the particular unit they’re covering in a part of a class) but it doesn’t serve them well in other areas of the field. It doesn’t transfer well.
  • The expert’s fluency can conceal the very principles and strategies that the novice must learn in order to become more expert. These principles and strategies are often invisible even to the expert precisely because they are second nature. And they’re invisible to the novice observing the expert because they’re implicit in the expert’s work.
http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/teaching-guides/pedagogical/how-people-learn/


Until we trust that what we believe to be true is actual truth, we feel the internal tension.

We only trust our knowledge once we have put it to practical use and proved our assumptions. This action often uncovers the reasoning behind the rules we have been trying to memorize. Once we understand the reasons, we can forget about memorizing the rules. We can put ourselves in the mindset of the "architect".

Teachers are often the least trusting of their knowledge. They aren't comfortable until they get their brain wrapped around a concept well enough to explain it to others.

I am a teacher.

I'm not saying this is best way to do it, but if you want to try a winning formula...
  1. Read the manual
  2. Tinker
  3. Read the manual again
  4. Wait till you have a chance to put that knowledge into a real world scenario
  5. Wait for the light bulb to go off
  6. Explain it to yourself in the car on the way home
  7. Explain it to patient spouse and/or friend
Allow me to conclude by stretching the light bulb analogy. After #7 the light gets brighter and brighter until it burns out. Only then can we trust the knowledge in that light bulb and see right through it mapping it's relationship to all of the other light bulbs around it. Everytime a bulb burns out, an architect gets his wings.

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