Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Moving from Novice to Expertise and Its Implications for Instruction

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Moving from Novice to Expertise and Its Implications for Instruction

Article excerpt


Your child wants to play baseball. As a parent, you are weighing options on how to get your child to the goal of becoming a professional baseball player. Option 1 is to go to a local major sports university and have the pitchers throw 90 mph fastballs at your child to improve his or her hitting or hit line drives until he or she adapts or fails at fielding. Option 2, do the same thing but start with little leaguers who are a few years older than your child. Option 3, start with T-ball. Remove the barrier of pitching error. Make sure the basics of hitting and running the bases are down--that first base is down the right field line, not the left field line. You help them learn to catch with two hands and build confidence and skill to prevent from being hit in the face with a pop-up. Once they manage T-ball, progress to little league, you let them go to camps and then advance them to higher leagues as their skillset and competency in baseball develops. Most people would say option 3 makes the most sense. We intuitively understand expertise requires experience and the importance of strategically increasing the challenge of the task. The sink or swim mentality does not work. However, do we do this when teaching? What differentiates a novice from an expert and how does that impact how we teach our classes or design the curriculum?

First, we can accomplish skills with some degree of automaticity, but it does not mean we are experts in that skill. We can acquire most everyday skills at an acceptable level of performance over a short period (eg, driving), maybe as little as 50 hours of practice. (1-3) After this time, we can maintain an acceptable level of performance with a minimal amount of cognitive effort. Expertise, however, is more than just performing at an acceptable level semi-automatically.

Experts have built substantial knowledge bases that affect what they notice, and how they organize, represent and interpret information. These adaptations lead to better problem solving and performance. Researchers have investigated the differences between experts and novices in a variety of fields and from this research, we have learned that expertise is more than an accumulation of knowledge or experience. We also learned experience alone is insufficient to guarantee the development of expertise. (1,4,5) The idea that 10,000 hours ofpractice is needed to develop expertise is a fallacy; (6) it may require much more practice and a specific type of practice. The purpose of this review is to discuss differences in experts and novices and based on that development process, identify areas of how instruction, course and curriculum development can be used to educate future health professionals effectively. In addition, we will discuss how being an expert could be a hindrance when training novices and how to overcome the expert-novice divide.

How does expertise develop?

We develop expertise through years of experience, but years of experience do not guarantee an individual will become an expert. Only a small fraction of people become experts; the rest remain as "experienced nonexperts." (1) Ullen and colleagues recently found that expertise might have a genetic component which may explain why only a few people become experts in their domain. (7) Experts excel mainly in their domains, and there is little evidence that a person highly skilled in one area (eg, medicinal chemistry) can transfer or teach the skill to another (eg, pharmacotherapy). (7)

The development of expertise occurs over several stages. (8) As a rule, a learner cannot directly move from novice to expert; he or she must progress through each stage and may demonstrate characteristics of two stages simultaneously. For instructors, it may be helpful to stage learners to optimize or personalize instruction. There is no clear way to stage a learner, but there are key features and behaviors which may assist in the staging process. …

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