Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Dreyfus model of skill acquisition

In the fields of education and operations research, the Dreyfus model of skill acquisition is a model of how students acquire skills through formal instruction and practicing. Brothers Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus proposed the model in 1980 in an influential, 18-page report on their research at the University of California, Berkeley, Operations Research Center for the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research.[1] The original model proposes that a student passes through five distinct stages: novice, competence, proficiency, expertise, and mastery.


The original five-stage modelEdit

In the novice stage, a person follows rules as given, without context, with no sense of responsibility beyond following the rules exactly. Competence develops when the individual develops organizing principles to quickly access the particular rules that are relevant to the specific task at hand; hence, competence is characterized by active decision making in choosing a course of action. Proficiency is shown by individuals who develop intuition to guide their decisions and devise their own rules to formulate plans. The progression is thus from rigid adherence to rules to an intuitive mode of reasoning based on tacit knowledge.

Michael Eraut summarized the five stages of increasing skill as follows:[2]

1. Novice
  • "rigid adherence to taught rules or plans"
  • no exercise of "discretionary judgment"
2. Advanced beginner
  • limited "situational perception"
  • all aspects of work treated separately with equal importance
3. Competent
  • "coping with crowdedness" (multiple activities, accumulation of information)
  • some perception of actions in relation to goals
  • deliberate planning
  • formulates routines
4. Proficient
  • holistic view of situation
  • prioritizes importance of aspects
  • "perceives deviations from the normal pattern"
  • employs maxims for guidance, with meanings that adapt to the situation at hand
5. Expert
  • transcends reliance on rules, guidelines, and maxims
  • "intuitive grasp of situations based on deep, tacit understanding"
  • has "vision of what is possible"
  • uses "analytical approaches" in new situations or in case of problems

Dreyfus ModelEdit

Instead the original Dreyfus model is based on four binary qualities:

  • Recollection (non-situational or situational)
  • Recognition (decomposed or holistic)
  • Decision (analytical or intuitive)
  • Awareness (monitoring or absorbed)

This leads to five roles:

Skill Level/ Mental Function Novice Competent Proficiency Expert Mastery
Recollection Non-Situational Situational Situational Situational Situational
Recognition Decomposed Decomposed Holistic Holistic Holistic
Decision Analytical Analytical Analytical Intuitive Intuitive
Awareness Monitoring Monitoring Monitoring Monitoring Absorbed

Example uses of the modelEdit

  • Assessing progress in the development of skills.
  • Helping to define a desired level of competence.
  • Supporting progress in the development of skills, by understanding the learning needs and styles of learning at different levels of skill acquisition.
  • Helping to determine when a learner is ready to teach others.

Criticism of the modelEdit

A criticism of Dreyfus and Dreyfus's model has been provided by Gobet and Chassy,[3][4] who also propose an alternative theory of intuition. According to these authors, there is no empirical evidence for the presence of stages in the development of expertise. In addition, while the model argues that analytic thinking does not play any role with experts, who act only intuitively, there is much evidence that experts in fact often carry out relatively slow problem solving (e.g. look-ahead search in chess).

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Dreyfus, Stuart E.; Dreyfus, Hubert L. (February 1980). "A Five-Stage Model of the Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skill Acquisition" (PDF). Washington, DC: Storming Media. Retrieved June 13, 2010. 
  2. ^ Cheetham, Graham; Chivers, Geoff (2005). Professions, Competence and Informal Learning. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing. p. 337. ISBN 1-84376-408-3.  Reprinted from Eraut, Michael (1994). Developing Professional Knowledge and Competence. London: Falmer Press. p. 124. ISBN 0-7507-0330-X. 
  3. ^ Gobet. F. & Chassy, P. (2008). Towards an alternative to Benner’s theory of expert intuition in nursing: A discussion paper. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 45, 129-139.
  4. ^ Gobet. F. & Chassy, P. (2009). Expertise and intuition: A tale of three theories. Minds and Machines, 19, 151-180.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit