The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

The Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition postulates that when individuals acquire a skill through external instruction, they normally pass through five stages. This model, first proposed by Stuart Dreyfus and Hubert Dreyfus in 1980 proposes that the five stages of skill acquisition are: Novice, Advanced beginner, Competent, Proficient and Expert.

In the novice stage a person follows rules that are context free and feel no responsibility for anything other than following the rules. Competence develops when the number of rules becomes excessive so organizing principles need to be developed and information sorted by relevance. Competence is characterized by active decision-making. Proficiency is shown in individuals who use intuition in decision making and develop their own rules to formulate plans.

1 Novice
* rigid adherence to rules
* no discretional judgment
* no desire to learn; but rather to accomplish an immediate goal
* needs recipes

2 Advanced beginner
* situational perception still limited
* all aspects of work are treated separately and given equal importance

3 Competent
* coping with crowdedness (multiple activity, information)
* now partially sees action as part of longer term goals
* conscious, deliberate planning, problem solving

4 Proficient
* holistic view of situation, rather than in terms of aspects; needs the big picture
* sees what is most important in a situation
* uses maxims for guidance, meaning of maxims may vary according to situation
* can self-correct

5 Expert
* no longer reliant on rules, guidelines, maxims
* intuitive grasp of situation, based on tacit knowledge
* vision of what is possible, permanent innovator

The progression is thus viewed as a gradual transition from rigid adherence to rules to an intuitive mode of reasoning that relies heavily on deep tacit understanding.


- Experts aren't always the best teachers. Teaching is an expertise in its own right; just because you are expert in some subject is no guarantee that you can teach it to others. Also, given the phenomenon that experts are often unable to articulate why they reached a particular decision, you may find that someone at a competent level might be in a better position to teach a novice than an expert would be.

- Once you become an expert in one field, it becomes much easier to gain expertise in another. At least you already have the acquisition skills and model-building abilities in place.