Expert and Novice

Model of Mastery

At the end of this session you should be able to:

  1. Describe how an expert in a particular field approaches a problem.
  2. Describe how a novice in a particular field would approach the same problem.
  3. Identify key differences in the way that an expert and a novice think about problems.
  4. Set a goal for what you would like to be able to do with respect to [whatever brought you here].
  5. Write down how you will know when you have reached the goal.
You are an Expert
Expert and Novice

Take a couple of minutes to think about a subject that you know really well (you are an expert), and how you go about solving problems that come up in that subject.


Next, think about how someone new to that subject (beginner/novice) might think about solving a problem.

How are these thought processes different?

How did you learn to go from thinking like a beginner/novice, to thinking like an expert.

Image:Expert Blindspot.png

Figure: Stages in the Development of Mastery (recreated and adapted from “How Learning Works: 7 research-based principles for smart teaching” by Susan Ambrose, Michael Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha Lovett, and Marie Norman)


This model outlines a development process involving dimensions of competence and consciousness. The state of unconscious competence refers to the novice student who has not yet developed skills in any particular domain nor are they aware of what they need to learn. Moving to the right a bit, as the students obtain knowledge and experiences they advance to the state of conscious incompetence. This stage refers to a student who is now beginning to be aware of what they do not yet know and they determine what they need to discover. The third stage, conscious competence, refers to the student who has advanced competence in any one discipline, yet they still must think deliberately and consciously about the content. The final stage is unconscious competence where a student/expert can exercise their knowledge and skills without being consciously aware of what they know or do.

Expert Blind Spots
Expert Blind Spots

Expert blind spots, and an interesting model of understanding

Image:Conscious Competence Model.jpg

Wiggins & McTighe describe the expert blind spot as a failure to think critically about foundational ideas. Once we accept an idea and begin to build on it, it becomes that much harder to change that idea. It’s difficult to reach pipes that we have poured a concrete foundation around. But, I’d like to explore another aspect of the blind spot.
I ran into an interesting article called the Conscious Competence Model. Imagine that you have learned a skill, but do not remember learning that skill.
Read the rest — Expert blind spots, an interesting model of understanding


Learning Reflection


Source: Reflection

As students participate in a service-learning[1] class and do the related community work, they should ask themselves these questions: What? So What? Now What? The reflection process begins with a defining and sharing of the “What” of the student’s experience, and follows a continuous cycle towards “So What?” and “Now What?”

  • What? Report the facts and events of an experience, objectively.
  • So What? Analyze the experience.
  • Now What? Consider the future impact of the experience on you and the community.

Examples of Reflection Questions based on the Experiential Learning Cycle


  • What happened?
  • What did you observe?
  • What issue is being addressed or population is being served?

So What?

  • Did you learn a new skill or clarify an interest?
  • Did you hear, smell, or feel anything that surprised you?
  • How is your experience different from what you expected?
  • What impacts the way you view the situation/experience? (What lens are you viewing from?)
  • What did you like/dislike about the experience?
  • What did you learn about the people/community?
  • What are some of the pressing needs/issues in the community?
  • How does this project address those needs?

Now What?

  • What seem to be the root causes of the issue addressed?
  • What other work is currently happening to address the issue?
  • What learning occurred for you in this experience?
  • How can you apply this learning?
  • What would you like to learn more about, related to this project or issue?
  • What follow-up is needed to address any challenges or difficulties?
  • What information can you share with your peers or the community?
  • If you could do the project again, what would you do differently?

Reflection Questions Based on What? So What? Now What? Model

And yes, we could talk about Shoshin “beginner’s mind” but that’s a different course.

Shoshin (??) is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind”. It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. The term is especially used in the study of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts.

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