Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Pragmatic Thinking & Learning - Notes

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Jul 28, 2009

Originally posted on Half an Hour, July 28, 2009.

1. Journey From Novice to Expert

Dreyfus model of skills acquisition
- expert knowledge is intuitive, complex, difficult to describe, often vague - contrast with the novice who often wants to know exactly how it's done
- in becoming an expert, you don't just 'know more' or gain skill; you change how you see things, how you approach problems, how you model the world
- expertise can have limited domains or skills; you can be a novice cook and an expert sky-diver, or vice versa

Dreyfus Model - five steps
- novice - have little experience, need to follow rules
- advanced beginner - can begin to perform on their own, but need information & aids, and don't see the 'big picture' yet
- competent - can seek out and solve problems, but not reflective and self-correcting
- proficient - will seek out the big picture, can correct own errors, can learn from the experience of others, can understand and apply maxims
- expert - have a vast body of knowledge, work from intuition rather than reason

All you have to do to derail an expert and ruin their performance is to force them to follow rules. Use rules for novices, but allow experts to rely on their own intuition.

Skill Distribution and Promotion of Expertise
- most people rarely advance beyond the second stage in most things
- because they are not self-aware, they tend to overestimate their own skill levels
- our goal: to learn how to use intuition and recognize patterns (SD - to become experts generically?)

Stages in the erosion of a profession:
- practitioners are thought of as commodities, have no say, are underpaid
- because of this, experts leave the profession
- education in the profession begins to falter; an over-reliance on formal methods results
- finally, they lose sight of the real goals or outcomes of the profession

We need to raise the bar, to prevent erosion of skills. Three phases of learning:
- imitate (Shu)
- assimilate (Ha)
- innovate (Ri)

Expertise develops out of practice, akin to a musical group or baseball team:
- novices can be part of a group, but the incompetent are cut - put the best in the group and relegate others to the 'farm team'
- keep the group membership consistent so they can jell
- timing is everything (??)
- make the group safe for talent

The Tool Trap
- although tools and models have their place, none of them is a panacea
- the misapplication of tools and models can do more harm than good

Deborah Gordon:
- don't confuse the model with reality
- don't devalue traits that cannot be formalized
- don't legislate behaviour; don't over-rely on formal models
- don't target methodology (exclusively) to novices
- don't spell out particulars in too much detail
- don't oversimplify the complex
- don't demand excessive conformity
- don't treat everything as the typical case; context is important
- allow judgment
- don't mystify and sloganize speech

There is an inherent danger in decontextualized objectivity.

2. This is Your Brain

R-Mode & Intuition

In this chapter, we'll see where intuition comes from.

The analogy, that 'the brain is a computer', is just a metaphor. In many ways, the brain is different from a computer:
- it never performs the same action the same way twice
- it's as though you have two CPUs
1. a slow, verbal, linear chatterbox (the voice in your head) - linear mode
2. a fast, non-verbal, non-linear digital signal processor - rich (R) mode

- search and retrieval for long-term memory, but doesn't express verbally
- images, feelings and overall experience are R-mode things
- perception & recognition are R-mode - again, non-verbal (try to describe the face of your loved one)
- not under direct conscious control; a bit like peripheral vision that way
- always capturing input (but always discarding the trivial & unimportant)
- asynchronous - works on things in the background

Capturing Insight

R-Mode might pop up with an insight or a solution at any time (which it might then promptly filter out as irrelevant to the current context) so it's important to learn to capture insights:
- keep a notepad handy to jot things down
- or, keep index cards
- or, use a PDA, or voice memos
- or, PocketMod -
- And, a larger notebook for longer thoughts

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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