Mastery

Mastery

To develop mastery, students must acquire component skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what they have learned.

Let’s start this section by putting yourself in the driving seat. Think back to when you first learnt to drive. No doubt you were used to being a passenger in a car and had no idea just how many skills you needed to master in order to become a competent driver. Then, you sat in the driving seat for the first time and became aware of just how many things you needed to remember; the pedals, gears, checking your mirror, steering. Next, in an empty yard you tried combining these skills together, until you could change gear without bunny hopping. Finally, with your heart pounding, you were let loose on the road. Suddenly you needed to be able to change gear, steer around objects and people, read signs and navigate. It was hard work and you were probably pretty tired by the end of each driving lesson.

But how about now? Assuming you have been driving for a few years, when was the last time you gave any conscious thought to changing gear? Not only do you do all this unconsciously, but you are also able to adapt your driving to meet the changing conditions of the road, traffic and weather – you’ve mastered it!

1
2
3
ACQUIRE COMPONENT SKILLS
PRACTICE INTEGRATING SKILLS
KNOW WHEN TO APPLY SKILLS
  • Learn how to use pedals, gearstick, mirrors, steering
  • Memorise road signs and rules
  • Learn to change gear
  • Learn how to drive on the road with other cars
  • Adapt driving to the road, traffic and weather conditions

Our job is to help design learning experiences that take our students on a journey from unconscious incompetence to conscious competence. By helping them: acquire the component skills, practice integrating them and know when to apply them.

WHERE LEARNING HAPPENS
UNCONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE
CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE
CONSCIOUS COMPETENCE
UNCONSCIOUS COMPETENCE
There’s more to
this than I realised
I can do it with my
eyes closed
I don’t know what
I don’t know
I can do it, but it’s
hard work
Adapted from a model by Sprague & Stuart (2000)

But, it’s harder than you might think. Remember in Principle 2 we looked at the way experts organise knowledge. The very success of our knowledge structures can make it hard for us to break down what we know and why we do what we do, leading to an expert blind spot (Nickerson, 1999; Hinds, 1999; Nathan & Koedinger, 2000; Nathan & Petrosino, 2003).

EXPERT
KNOWLEDGE
STRUCTURES
EXPERT
BLIND SPOT
  • Highly interconnected knowledge structure
  • Knowledge organised into larger conceptual chunks
  • Cross referencing between areas of knowledge
  • Highly flexible and adaptable
  • Fast retrieval
  • Recognise meaningful patterns
  • Find it hard to break down skills into
  • component parts
  • Take short cuts or miss out steps
  • Underestimate time for students to learn and perform tasks
  • Overestimate students' ability to see patterns and connect different areas of knowledge

In order for us to help students learn, we need to find ways of moving ourselves from unconscious competence to conscious competence.

EXPERT
BLIND SPOT
UNCONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE
CONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE
CONSCIOUS COMPETENCE
UNCONSCIOUS COMPETENCE
You need to develop conscious awareness to help students learn
STUDENT JOURNEY
Adapted from a model by Sprague & Stuart (2000)
Elements of Mastery

So how do we do this? We need to become consciously aware of the three steps students need to follow to lead to mastery.

Let’s look at each of these in turn and some of the strategies you can adopt.