Advanced beginner: An advanced beginner learns to recognize additional situation-dependent and context-free components meaningful to the situation and which rules to apply to them. The advanced-beginner driver uses engine sounds (situation specific) and speed (context free) to alter speed or change gears.
Competent: When approaching a problem or task, the overwhelming details and components learned through experience cause competent individuals to organize the situation by choosing a goal, plan and perspective. Then, by focusing on the most relevant aspects of that plan, competent individuals can simplify and improve performance.
When approaching a curve in the road, the competent driver considers whether car speed, surface conditions, criticality of time, etc., are appropriate to make the turn safely. The driver then decides to slow down, speed up or step on the brake to make it through the curve without a mishap. If the turn is successful, the driver is comfortable with the action. However, if the turn results in a skid or other mishap, the driver will be shaken or feel discomfort from the result.
Dreyfus and Dreyfus see these actions as forming a consistent pattern. It begins with detached planning, followed by consciously assessing the relevant aspects of the plan, analyzing the rules learned about the situation and then deciding on the action to take. The last step in the pattern is the emotion linked to the outcome of the process. Competent individuals thus begin to develop their own rules based on their past learning and experience.
Proficient: Proficient individuals do not look for rules or principles to apply and are no longer detached observers of the problem situation. Based on previous experiences with the situation, proficient individuals see or understand the whole situation at a glance, and without consciously going through the first several steps, assess the important elements and make a decision to solve the problem.
For example, the proficient driver, fearful of going into a curve too fast on a wet, slippery road, draws on prior experiences and prior patterns of problem solving and schemata, allowing the proficient driver to draw on long-term memory and to immediately make a decision as to what action to take.
Expert: Experts display intuitive problem solving. Unlike the proficient performer who needs to make a decision about what to do, the expert performer makes an intuitive and immediate response. For example, by the feel and familiarity of the results of slowing down and speeding up, an expert driver takes whatever action is needed to make the turn safely. He does not need to consider different actions that might be taken. Based on the familiarity of the situation, the expert performer simply knows what to do.15
One might say that some of what is processed by the novice in a controlled, laborious fashion is now processed by the expert in an automatic fashion. Experts can retrieve information from long-term memory that the novice must actively integrate.16
How Do Novices and Experts Behave Differently?
When faced with the same problem, novices and experts will behave differently. Experts have gained and organized knowledge in a way that creates a deep understanding. The brain changes associated with this organization of knowledge allows them to retrieve information easily within the context of their working situation.1
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