I find it intriguing how blogging brings opportunities to think and learn but not always in an expected way. There is a collegiality that impinges on my thinking, how I learn and what I do.
While a lot of it is to do with blogging, it certainly isn’t limited to that practice. I was reminded of this diversity on receipt of a reply to an email, from my blogger colleague and friend, Tony Karrer, who aptly moved from the peripheral to the relevant in saying:
"On a different note - any thoughts on how deliberative practice relates to becoming something less than an expert. It seems like it should be applicable to all levels of achievement, but everything I'm reading is the study of becoming an expert. Is that just aspirational, or is deliberative practice also studied for quick attainment of proficiency?"I assume that by ‘something less than an expert’, Tony means the level of competency that is needed by someone to perform a particular task properly – he uses the word ‘proficiency’.
While I tend to agree with Tony that the emphasis in many studies to do with learning / training / attaining proficiency seems to be prescriptive towards becoming an expert, I wonder if it is the true intent of these studies.
I suspect that the widespread and imprecise use of the word ‘expert’ has caused some erosion of its original meaning. Being highly proficient in tasks that are effected in doing a job properly does not mean being an expert. Nor does it necessarily have to lead to attaining that level of expertise. It’s all according to where the benchmarks lie for ‘proficient’ and for ‘expert’.
Expertise is harder to achieve
With the advancement of technology and associated practices, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for expertise to reach expert level. The matter of change, which can arrive every 6 months to a year, or even more frequently in technology, will limit the efficiency of any aspiring expert in reaching true expert level.
Changes in technology bring changes in business procedures. So the ‘expert’ is more likely to become someone who keeps pace with the latest updates rather than someone who, as in the past, truly reaches an expert level with knowledge of, application of and proficiency in the associated skills to do with these tasks. My impression is that there are fewer true experts in the workplace today than there were even 10 years ago.
Printed manuals, or online help, designed to provide knowledge and give pointers on procedural skills cannot keep pace with these changes, so it becomes even more difficult for the aspiring ‘expert’ to reach a desired level of achievement. What come as a result of this are beliefs associated with the cheapened worth of any textual instruction, any information held in text in fact, be it printed or digitally accessible on a screen – part of the collateral damage that accompanies change.
Confidence and assertiveness, when together, are sometimes mistaken for competence and even higher levels of expertise. Experienced classroom teachers are familiar with the vagaries of confidence and assertiveness of young learners when it comes to acquiring expertise. The same unfortunate combination can often lead to lesser 'experts' among those who should have reached higher levels of achievement.
Expert cover up
But what is even more unfortunate is that confidence and assertiveness are often developed as a cover for lack of expertise. It’s when the so-called expert has more confidence and assertiveness than expertise that incompetence tends to persist, and may even be fostered in the workplace.
However, quick attainment of proficiency is not fictitious. There are a number of strategies that can be used to permit this to happen. They're not new and they’re not rocket science:
- identify the required base-knowledge/skills, foster strategies for these to be recognised as key, and provide avenues for their appropriate acquisition and practice
- cull redundant and/or recursive procedures or procedural loops in workplace routines
- provide incentive for revisiting and refining/updating key knowledge/skills/procedures (used to be called ‘training’) to clarify current understanding
- foster a culture where its acceptable to ask questions to do with key knowledge/skills/procedures - in other words, it's OK not to be an expert.