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Last active Aug 26, 2018

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A Five-Stage Model of the Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skill Acquisition

/ Stuart E. Dreyfus, Hubert L. Dreyfus, May 21 1980


“A detailed understanding of the stages through which skillful performance develops is essential if one is to design training programs and training materials to facilitate the acquisition of high-order skills. In any such endeavor, it is essential to identify at each stage what capacities the performer has acquired and which more sophisticated capacity he is then in a position to attain.”


Stage 1: Novice

  • decompose tasks in context-free features which can be recognized without experience
  • given rules for actions based on those features
  • monitoring of novice required for improvement (self-observation or instructional feedback)
  • e.g. phonetic rules for producing sounds

Stage 2: Competence

  • comes after considerable experiencee with real situations
  • identification of patterns
  • no longer context-free features
  • Instructions in form of guidelines
  • e.g. usage of phrases with guidelines for applying them

Stage 3: Proficiency

  • exposition to wide variety of typical whole situations
  • focus on goals behind using the skill
  • internalized maxims are used to determine appropriate actions and correct deviations from desired conditions
  • e.g. combination of phrases into whole sentences

Stage 4: Expertise

  • no rules, guidelines, and maxims needed anymore
  • intuition created by repertoire of experienced situations

Stage 5: Mastery

  • intense absorption in work
  • no conscious attention to performance
  • masterful performance, all energy goes into work instead of activities like monitoring
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