March 14, 2011
eCoaching Tip 86 Four Strategies for Supporting Learners on Their Expertise Journey
Practice, Practice, Practice
You have probably all heard the classic tale about the tourist who asked a New Yorker, ”How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” And the response — in some versions of the story —by Arthur Rubenstein was, “Practice, practice, practice.”
Four “Practice” Strategies
Here are four “practice” strategies that will aid learners on their journey from novice to expert from Peter Fadde and Gary Klein, two researchers on expertise and decision-making. They describe these strategies in a 2010 article on “deliberate performance.” The strategies are:
This eCoaching tip first defines each of these strategies and then gives some examples of each of them. The expertise framework developed by K. Anders Ericsson over the last 20 years usually focuses on the need for deliberate practice for developing world-class expertise. Fadde and Klein use the term “deliberate performance” as a way of contextualizing practice into the world of management, leadership and other complex cognitive professions.
What is the skill of estimation? Estimating requires making judgments of probable time, resources or likelihood of success based on incomplete information, sometimes using rules of thumb that have developed over time. Estimation is a skill that is fundamental to project planning, resource planning and budget planning and task planning. Professionals in all fields including business, health, military, engineering and creative endeavors all depend on knowledge and experience in making estimates.
Estimating time for learning can also be part of your course. Estimating and then recording time for doing various elements of learning projects can be incorporated into a course. This builds knowledge about the time for complex cognitive tasks that are usually part of professional responsibilities, such as writing reports, memos, project plans and doing research.
Experimenting is the process of defining and implementing various means of achieving the same goal. Practitioners often try out a new process, procedure or strategy; then they observe the outcomes and may keep, adapt, or reject the process.
The learners in most online courses are already at some point in their journey from novice to expert. Sharing experiment strategies from within their organizations and previous experiences can provide a whole set of experiences that learners can incorporate into their own knowledge. In this way, shared experiences provide risk-free environments for vicariously experiencing experiments of all types.
Extrapolation is the process by which we deduce, derive, or generalize from vicarious or experienced cases to add to the knowledge base of our particular domain of expertise. The process of extrapolation, according to Fadde and Klein, uses surprises, failures and potential or near failures to reflect on and add to our understanding of potential causal relationships. Some of the examples cited by these authors include learning from the many near misses recorded by controllers and pilots. Other examples include learning from errors in resource, time or budget planning.
Extrapolation is another area in which there are rich opportunities for learners to learn from each other’s experiences both within the course and from learners’ current and previous experiences. Expertise grows out of a series of many years of experience. These types of exercises serve to compress years of experience to develop the knowledge database of expertise more quickly.
In the expertise framework, explanation of any performance or learning event is similar to our familiar process of reflection. Learners take time to process, reflect, examine, analyze why any particular performance happened in the way it did. Explanation as a process is well established in most professional practices. Doctors reflect on cases; pilots reflect on flights; managers reflect on their businesses, researchers reflect on their studies; businesses reflect on strategies for communicating with consumers, and teachers reflect on the success, or not, of their courses.
One of the challenges of searching for explanations for deliberate performance exercises is that explanations are not available or accurate and most explanations are a combination of related elements. It is this complexity that drives the need for the multiple experiences over time.
Background on the Journey from Novice to Expert
Many of these eCoaching tips have referred to the building of expertise as a desired learning outcome. We know that few of our students will become experts while in a program due to the ten-year rule of thumb. But again, many of our learners are not exactly novices, either. Here are the major phases of building expertise to help you estimate where your students are and the next step that you want to help them to achieve. This phase description (2006) is from Michelene. T. H. Chi, now at Arizona State University.
For more detail on these strategies and background on the expertise framework, be sure to download and read a copy of the 2010 Fadde and Klein article. Gary Klein is also the author of a couple of other interesting books on decision-making that many of you may find useful, if you are not already familiar with them.
Chi, M. T. H. (2006). Two approaches to the study of experts' characteristics. In K.A. Ericsson, N. Charness, P.J. Feltovich, & R.R. Hoffman (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of expertise and expert performance (pp. 21-30). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Note: These eCoaching tips were initially developed for the professional development of online faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2010 in a book The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by designingforlearning.org.
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