Posted by: phynbarr | July 14, 2008

Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition

Don’t you love Twitter

Now, it could be that I just love to talk – even with a keyboard.  And it could be, as a homeworker, having a random selection of people to talk to might just stop me climbing completely up the wall.  But I think one of its greatest strengths as far as I’m concerned is where those links and ideas lead you to.  Completely new ideas and philosophies come to my door.

I can’t remember now who posted what the other day, but whatever they posted contained a link to Agile Project Management and referred, in passing to Dreyfus & Dreyfus 1980.

A little more digging on Google led me back to an article which appeared to be related to a shortage of nursing skills in the 1970’s and 80’s.  So this piece of research originated in a clinical nursing environment

AND appears to have been vigorously adopted by the Project Management and Agile communities.  Other blogs (,, ) will tell you more about it and the basic levels as outlined below

  • Novice governed by rules
  • Advanced Beginner beginning to rely on previous experience
  • Competent have a plan
  • Proficient learner can modify their responses
  • Expert can see the contextual whole (unconscious competence)

What I want to consider is that there may be a stage beyond. 
Going back to my daughter’s Speech Day (which I have referred to before), we learned of one child who, at the age of 14 had achieved a Grade 8 with distinction in both Violin and Viola – an almost unheard of achievement at any age –  and had just been offered a place at the Royal School of Music.  Followed by an awe-inspiring demonstration by said child.  Remember the name of Matthew Crook, I suspect you will hear it often in musical spheres in years to come.

What it made me think was that – to achieve that level  he must have pracised something in the order of 3 hours a day.  And whilst there are, no doubt, pushy parents who will drill their children in music or tennis or whatever arena they want their little one to excel in at this level, that alone would not be sufficient. 

There must be a desire in the child or the Tiger Woods or whoever, to learn the skills because they want to know more.  They want to go to the edge of this skill and then take it further.  Explore every way known or unknown in which this skill can be used and stretched.

This, to me, goes beyond expertise.  This is learning because the subject is integral to the identity of the learner.  Which links me in with Robert Dilts Logical Levels. 

Robert Dilts' Logical Levels

Robert Dilts' Logical Levels

And you could compare the various Dreyfus levels with the equivalent Dilts levels.  and equates my “new” level with Identity.  It would also equate

  • Environment = Novice
  • Behaviour = Advanced Beginner
  • Capabilities = Competent
  • Proficient = Belief
  • Expert = Values

And those who seek to extend their learning in the way I’ve described are learning about the subject because it is in some way, associated with their identity

I’d love to hear your points of view


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