Learning and Expertise

In a very broad sense each of us is relatively expert in some content domains, and relatively novice in others. The key word here is “relative” because the concepts of expert and novice are relative to one another with respect to knowledge and skills in a specific content domain.

I am, compared to many people, relatively expert at reciting the times tables and applying these to solving arithmetic problems. My formal education and experience as a mathematics teacher supports my claim to relative expertise. Many of my students, relative to me, were novices in arithmetic.

I am, also, compared to many people, relatively novice at speaking Thai, Khmer, Spanish, and German. There is a long list of natural languages for which, if I heard spoken, I would likely be able to identify the country of origin, but for which I am non-functional for anything beyond “hello”. All of the people who grew up with any of these as their first language (mother tongue) would be more expert in these, relative to me.

Sitting in between these two extremes, for me, is Bahasa Indonesian.  I am by no means fluent and cannot read or write Indonesian, yet I am more than capable at a market level to be polite, request food, obtain directions, chat about the weather and sometimes even share a joke. Whether I am considered to be more novice-like or more expert-like at Bahasa Indonesian will depend on who I am being compared to.

Despite these basic words of caution regarding the use of the terms ‘expert’ and ‘novice’, there is a transition from being more novice-like in a content domain to more expert-like that results from the broad process of “learning”.

This section presents information on the nature of learning, how learning occurs and the drivers of expertise.

The next pages give information about each of the following as they relate to learning and expertise:

Next: Definition of learning