This article summarizes 9 of the famous models of training from research to explore if expertise can be accelerated.
Accelerated expertise has been talk-of-the-town in academic circle lately. Now business world has started seeing the need for the expertise of their employees to be accelerated. In general, building expertise takes a long time. In previous posts, I tried to review research perspective on stages one travel during his or her journey towards expertise acquisition. See posts: Mastery Demystified: How Do the Skills of a Novice Develop into Mastery?, Demystifying Stages in Novice to Expert Transition: 7 Models from Research, and 7 Phases of Development of A Newbie To Become An Expert and Beyond. Further, I explored several promising models and approaches to building the expertise of people. See the post: 5 Training Guidelines for Skill Acquisition Towards Unconscious Competence. Several researchers established the possibility to produce professionals at a higher level of proficiency using some special training strategies. But that stays as the possibility to large extent. There is lack of any comprehensive mechanism of accelerating the proficiency either through training or otherwise which instructional designers, training strategists or training experts could use off-the-shelf and apply in organizational context.
As stated by Hoffman, Andrews & Feltovich (2012), “Empirical fact about expertise (i.e., that it takes a long time) sets the stage for an effort at demonstrating the acceleration of the achievement of proficiency.” (p. 9).
Some famous models do attempt to provide “some” insight into how training can be used to build a certain level of proficiency of employees and to accelerate it. I thought I summarize various models from the angle of how expertise development and acceleration of expertise.
The educational theorist Carroll (1963) provided the first complete model of attaining proficiency in her “Mastery learning model”. She challenged traditional educational philosophy stating that ‘the learner will succeed in learning a given task to the extent that he spends the time that he needs to learn the task’ (p. 725). Carroll used certain factors like aptitude, or time needed to learn the task under ideal instruction, ability to understand instruction, and perseverance and external conditions like the time allowed for learning, and the quality of instruction. He speculated that majority of learners will be successful in gaining mastery in learning by a suitable combination of these factors and systematically maximizing time allowed for learning.
Boom further extended this theory and has been mostly known by his name. In the experiment conducted by Blooms (1968) argued that with a proper condition of learning and time given to learner almost all learner were able to demonstrate desired performance. Inherently this approach builds deliberate practice into its training philosophy. The fundamental premise is to continue to allow the trainee to practice until he has demonstrated desired standards of performance. Time is usually not the constraint in such situation but the mastery of some skills to the certain level is the target.
The mastery learning principle has been used and demonstrated mostly in an educational setting by some researchers (Reezigt & Weide 1992; Anderson 1994; Motamedi & Sumrall 2000; Guskey 2001). Recently, several years after its original introduction, this model resurfaced again with the name ‘proficiency-based training’ in several surgical (Stefanidis, Korndorffer, Sierra, et al., 2005; Scott, Ritter, Tesfay, 2008; Brydges, Kurashashi, Brummer et al, 2008) and military (Salas et al., 1998) research to develop proficient performers through training interventions. Pilot training has recently started using this methodology by lifting the restrictions on the same number of hours of practice for all trainees but to actually track progress by task (Stewart and Dohme, 2005).
The outcome of proficiency-based training is that it is possible to achieve a constant level of mastery across several trainees and making it independent of time or number of practice trials. During this learner is engaged in deliberate practice in which learners engage in repetitive performance, receive rigorous assessment, and receive informative feedback (Ericsson et al, 1993). Proficiency metrics for training tasks can provide the external motivation necessary to engage them in the skills acquisition process in ways that simply passing time or performing some arbitrary number of practice repetitions cannot. I will be writing about this model in one of my next posts.
The challenge with this approach is that it completely disregards any limit on the time needed to achieve desired proficient level, thus faster time-to-proficiency is not even the purpose of believers in this philosophy.
Mostly known for 6 intelligence people possess, the theory basically established that people have certain preferred learning styles, as well as their behavioral and working styles, and their natural strengths. The types of intelligence that a person possesses indicate not only a person’s capabilities but also the manner or method in which they prefer to learn and develop their strengths – and also to develop their weaknesses (quoted from Alan Chapman). Most fundamentally Gardner used this theory to define how education should be delivered considering people’s capabilities from 6 different angles.
Gardner’s theory actually established that training can have a dramatic effect on performance provided correct training methods are used to teach the concepts and skills pertaining to 6 different intelligence types. In summary, multiple intelligence can be created using appropriate training methods.
The Dreyfus model is based on the notion that acquisition of skill is a continuous process and skill is transformed by experience and mastery, and that this then brings a change in performance. They propose that a learner will pass through five distinct levels of proficiency in skill acquisition: novice, advanced beginner, competence, proficiency, and expertise. As novice progresses, he acquires more and more situational understanding and able to exert his intuition in several situations. According to Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1986) the most important difference between the levels of expertise is the gradual shift from analysis to intuition and the grade of involvement. See the detailed review of this model in my previous post: 7 Phases of Development of A Newbie To Become An Expert and Beyond.
Through the concept of performance as a continuum, this model established that expertise is on the higher end of the spectrum. According to Dreyfus (1986) model, experts don’t apply rules or uses any maxims or guidelines. He rather has an intuitive grasp of situations based on his deep tacit understanding. One key aspect of this level is that an individual relies on intuition and analytical approach is used only in new situations or unrecognized problems not earlier experienced. Experience-based deep understanding provides him very fluid performance. At this stage, skills become automatic that even expert is not aware of it. Based on priori experience, they can even come up with the solution for new never experienced before situations (DiBello, Lehman, Missldine, 2011). “Experts” adopt a contextual approach to problem-solving and understand the relative, non-absolute nature of knowledge. This ability distinguishes the “expert” from the “proficient” practitioner (D’Youville College, n.d.). Reflection comes naturally and experts solve problems almost unconsciously.
The model, however, does not provide any insight into the mechanism or the training methods to help a novice to move from one stage to another and develop into an expert. There is also no indication how the acquisition of expertise can be accelerated with training techniques.
The Scientific study of exceptional or expert performance in various domains, Ericsson’s Expert Performance Model theorizes that deliberate practice is the fundamental mode of achieving expertise – and from expertise, he meant ‘world class’ expertise. Ericsson, Krampe, and Tesch-Romer (1993) explain that deliberate practice is highly individualized training on tasks selected by a qualified teacher for the purposes of building expertise in an individual. They further hypothesized that individual differences in expert performance could be attributed to the amount of deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is not just practice or any other domain related activity like work or on-the-job training event (Ericsson & Charness, 1994). Ericson (2006) distinguishes between routine practice and deliberate practice. “The core assumption of deliberate practice is that expert performance requires the opportunity to find suitable training tasks that the performer can master sequentially….typically monitored by a teacher or coach” (Ericsson, 2006, p.692).There are four components: focused goals which are determined by a teacher in order to improve a specific aspect of performance; concentration and effort; feedback from a teacher comparing actual to desired performance; and further opportunities for practice.
The theory further postulated that it takes 10,000 hours or 10-years (20 hours for 50 weeks a year for ten years = 10,000) of intense training and ‘deliberate practice’ to become an expert in almost anything.
The model mostly provides some scientific observations on how someone becomes an expert rather than how someone can be “made” expert through training. In earlier attempts, Ericsson (1994) highlighted this gap by stating that: “Although these studies [on expertise] have revealed how beginners acquire complex cognitive structures and skills that circumvent the basic limits confronting them, researchers have not uncovered some simple strategies that would allow nonexperts to rapidly acquire expert performance.” (p.737).
Its basic premise of this theory is that it takes longer to build expertise through correctly designed deliberate practice. Some later works on this model did indicate how intense training could build a deliberate practice to develop an individual into an expert. However, the journey is still believed to be very long with no shortcuts.
Among several models for training design, the developing expertise model by Sternberg (1999) is quite useful to define the training strategies. He presented a model of developing expertise have five key elements: metacognitive skills, learning skills, thinking skills, knowledge, and motivation. Fundamentally his model is based on cycling and interactions of several skills together to achieve expertise Motivation is believed to drive metacognitive skills which in turn activate learning and thinking skills, which then provide feedback to the metacognitive skills, enabling one’s level of expertise to increase (Sternberg, 1985). The declarative and procedural knowledge acquired through the thinking skills and learning skills also contribute toward acquisition of expertise.
Talking about expertise, Sternberg (1998) disagrees that deliberate practice is the exclusive aspect of acquisition of expertise. He adds that 5 skills drive the cycle time to expertise. Sternberg states (1999) that “the novice works toward expertise through deliberate practice. But this practice requires an interaction of all five of the key elements. At the center, driving the elements is motivation”.
I wrote about this model in my other post: 6 Practical Training Strategies from Sternberg’s Developing Expertise Model.
Though model does not explicitly say it, an important postulation of this model is that all of these skills are modifiable and trainable. And there are some postulations that can be extended to accelerate expertise. Read my post on this topic.
Jacob’s S-OJT model is believed to be an explicit and direct training approach to build expertise through on-the-job training of the employees as opposed to classroom training. S-OJT, short for structured on-the-job, is a structured process of defining, tracking, monitoring and managing OJT to develop workplace expertise.
Typically, organizations arrange for on-the-job training for the employees. On-the-job training is one of the ways to provide an employee with needed field experience and time to practice ensuring that employees have the competence to meet current and future work expectations. Employee learns several tasks during on-the-job training. He learns at a rate which is determined by a number of cases, issues, time to practice and opportunities to further his skills (Jacobs & Bu-Rahmah, 2012). However, when OJT is not planned it usually happens on a “spur of the moment” basis leaving inexperienced employees to trial-and-error, imitation of others or in some other way attempt to acquire the knowledge and skills to accomplish the task or do the job. This model was an attempt to streamline the informal and out of the class learning at the workplace.
“Specifically, structured OJT is a planned process of developing task-level expertise by having an experienced employee train a novice employee at or near the actual work setting” (Jacobs, 1999, p. 608). S-OJT model fundamentally asserted the need to develop high levels of employee competence, or expertise, in the workplace. The model provided six-step process used to design and implement S-OJT programs.
The important postulation of this model is that by correctly structuring the OJT, workforce expertise can be build and even can be accelerated.
I will be soon writing about the design of OJT and implications of OJT in one of my next posts as well.
Alexander (2003) in her studies to develop proficiency in undergraduate students in educational setting postulated that by using correct synergy of three components namely: knowledge (domain and topic), strategic processing (surface and deep), and interest (long-term and situational) suitable training interventions can be designed to move learner to proficiency /expertise stage (as cited by Baker, 2006). Knowledge component is subdivided into domain knowledge (breadth of knowledge within a field) and topic knowledge (specific items or instances of knowledge within the scope of domain knowledge). Strategy processing component addresses the development of more sophisticated learning strategies from surface-level strategies as he/she progresses towards expertise. The third component interest has two forms individual interest, which are long-term interest in a domain and the situational interest which is short-term and relates to the immediate situation.
She asserted that knowledge, strategic processing, and interest are the three components interact with each other as the individual progresses towards the expertise.
This study was an important study extending the postulation that it is possible to teach proficiency using correct training strategies. The main use of this model is managing student’s progress and providing them with a practical instructional environment.
Fadde (2009) positioned Expertise based Training as instructional design theory that draws upon theory, findings and methods of expertise research to create methods to hasten the development of advanced learners into experts. The model integrated several concepts of training for complex learning and expertise such as part-task approach and representative tasks and drawn upon novice-expert studies to develop Expertise Based Training (XBT) Model.
He states that two main principles of XBT are that instructional activities can be designed by repurposing expertise-novice tasks to systematically train key cognitive sub-skills of expertise and that targeted training of key cognitive skills can hasten learners along their individual paths to expertise. The key to success is underline the key cognitive sub-skills which represent the expertise,
This study established that training strategies could be positioned to develop proficiency through training interventions. The application of the training model, as asserted by Fadde, is mostly in intuitive expertise domain, more specifically intuitive decision making an aspect of expertise such as pattern recognition. This model has good training implications that expertise can be trained.
Leaning paths, a proprietary approach developed by William and Rosenbaum in 2004 fundamentally asserts that by aligning the training, on-the-job assignments and supporting infrastructure upon the hiring of an employee, organizations can reduce time-to-proficiency by 30% (Williams and Rosenbaum, 2004).
Learning path, by definition is a chronological representation of an individual’s learning journey from Novice to Expert in a specific job role. Learning Paths outline the step-by-step learning process learners should follow to achieve the required level of job proficiency. They also include timing and completion checkpoints. They support the actions performers need to take to acquire and demonstrate specific job competencies. The learning Paths model guides them through what they need to do in order to complete the learning activities assigned in their learning path, when they need to complete each learning activity and in what recommended order and how long it will take them to complete the learning activities (LearnwareDesign.com)
The model emphasizes the upfront analysis to understand where an individual is in his journey of learning in the company, use that information to design a sequence of pre-requisites and assignments and learning events, and seek associated support from stakeholders to make the learning path from novice to expert a success. By taking this approach, designers can figure out which skills they can influence in which mode and they can identify how to leverage informal learning opportunities for coaching and mentorship and also build interactions with other experienced employees.
This model, fundamentally grounded in training methods in the learning journey of an individual is said to be applied at several organizations with up to 30% improvement in time-to-proficiency. The research grounds of this commercial model are not known– therefore it has not picked up the attention of researchers yet. Nevertheless model does establish that it is possible to accelerate proficiency of employees, not solely by training but by aligning all the activities, environment and other variables in the journey of learning.
In 2012, in their paper ‘Accelerated Learning’, Hoffman, Feltovich and Andrew (2012) appealed to research community that: “Our vision is that methods for accelerating the achievement of proficiency, and even extraordinary expertise, might be taken to new levels such that one can accelerate the achievement of proficiency across the journeyman-to-expert span post-hiring.” (p. 9).
Latest in the research and hot on the shelf is the book on ‘Accelerated Expertise: Training for High Proficiency in Complex World (2014)’ by Hoffman, Ward, Feltovitch, DiBello, Fiore and Andrews. The work has consolidated practical implications of various research studies by leading expertise researchers like Alexander, Benner, Dreyfus, Ericsson, Dibello, Hoffman, Feltovich, Fadde, Fiore, Klien, Chi, Clark, Sternberg, Mayer etc. to name a few.
This book is basically a collection of several ways expertise could be accelerated through training. Though the work does not advocate a single specific model to accelerate the expertise, it establishes that there are many facets to accelerating the expertise in a complex world and it may need a range of strategies including accelerated learning, team-based approaches, practice, transfer, retention strategies etc. Most importantly it opens the door for training professionals to think how training techniques and strategies can be developed and implemented to ‘Accelerate Expertise’.
I have explored several aspects of accelerating expertise and proficiency from the research point of view. While I argued the need for accelerating proficiency for business world in Time To Proficiency Metrics: Why Should It Matter to Business?, lately I have explored several different aspects of the process of accelerating expertise/proficiency and challenges associated with it. For example, three posts deal with training based solutions or methods to accelerate expertise as described in 4 Cognitive Training Methods To Build and Accelerate Expertise, 6 Training Strategies to Accelerate Expertise from Sternberg’s Model and Accelerated Expertise with Mentoring and Tough Cases. In recent times, several break-through models like 70:20:10 have evolved with the potential to accelerate proficiency of employees. See post 9 Guidelines To Accelerate Time To Competence with 70:20:10 Framework.
Stay tuned for more!!!
Attri, RK (2017), ‘Exploring 9 Training Models That Answer The Question: Can Expertise be Accelerated?’, [Blog post], Speed To Proficiency Research: S2PRo©, Available online at <https://www.speedtoproficiency.com/blog/can-expertise-be-accelerated/>.
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