Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Learning: from 'novice' to 'expert' from John Edwards

This is one of the key slides from John Edward's keynote presentation to the 1400 educators who attended the recent Inspired Impact Conference held in Palmerston North.

For principals, teachers, and their students who are beginning a new year, this particular slide has an important message -a message for anyone helping another person to learn anything.

The white horizontal line at the bottom shows the growth of a learner from 'novice', to 'beginner', to 'competent', 'proficient' and finally 'expert'.

The vertical line at left shows the appropriate basis for the level of help ( rule governed behaviour).

When anyone undertakes new learning ( including first appointment as a principal or teacher)one starts in the 'novice' position. At this point individuals need to know clearly what is expected of them and how to go about it.

As learning progresses the need for rule governed behaviour decreases as shown by the rising orange line. When the 'expert' position is realised then people are able to use their experience ( having internalised rule governed behavior). Such 'experts' are able to 'read' the context and make decisions intuitively. If I remember they have reached a personal professional knowledge (PPK).

The vital transition is from 'competent' to 'proficient' leading to becoming an 'expert'.

At this point the helper needs to pull back from providing explicit 'rule governed behaviour' otherwise people get stuck at the competence level.

This idea of 'puling back' is in line with the concept of 'scaffolding' where, as learners become effective, the 'scaffolding' is removed. If this is not done the learner becomes forever controlled by the rule governed behaviour. As learners, including teachers, develop 'competence' they need to be thrown on their own resources and encouraged to use their creativity, imagination, and intuition. For example insisting that expert teachers need to provide detailed lesson plans actually decreases such teachers effectiveness. In classes over use of teacher assistance leads to all students work looking the same.

As one old principal once told me it is possible to help people to death - others call it 'learned helplessness'. This,I believe, occurs all too frequently in our current surveillance culture and over planned classrooms. We need to give all learners space to be creative.

The time required to progress from 'novice' to 'expert' will depend on the situation and what is to be learnt.

The progression from a novice to an expert performer in such a complex situation as teaching some say is a 'journey of a thousand days'. Others have written it requires 10000 hours. We need to think, depending on the entry ability of the individual, of a three year progression to become an 'expert' teacher.

In a class the 'journey' will take from term one to four for most students and, in my experience, well over six terms for some. This is one reason why I favour 'family' or mixed aged classes.

For a classroom teacher it means not to be frightened to provide students with all the help they need at the beginning of the year ( or any learning experience) but to keep in mind that the vision ought to be to develop 'confident independent life long learners' equipped with skills and attitudes ( 'key competencies') to become 'seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge'.

The artistry of the teacher is to judge when to assist and when to trust the learner to strike out on their own.

This liberation of the learner is the real challenge of a creative teacher. Unfortunately too many teachers( and learners) never progress beyond the competence level.

Thanks John for sharing the model. Good advice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bruce - great stuff. Schools are full of competent conformists.