Sunday, July 02, 2006

Communities of practice: expertise in CoPs

While reading my bloglines back in the Netherlands, I came across this post by Anecdote. It was so relevant to me that I decided to crosspost it on my own blog. In Ghana I had the impression my 3 years of work experience in Takoradi, Ghana, is still helping me in my work in Ghana, even though my current work is with different partners and in a completely different field (ICT4D). But I would have a hard time if I'd had to pinpoint to where it changes my practices/interventions. (beyond the occasional encounters during which I drop the fact that I lived in Takoradi, and it immediately creates a enthusiasm- 'oh, so you are a Ghanaian!').

I also had a car conversation during my stay in Ghana about professors and how you recognise a good one. People were impressed with a certain professor in Ghana because he could give clear examples and he could explain things in an easy way, which makes complex things easy to understand.

Here it the anecdote excerpt:
Expertise is more than simply possessing a skill. Summarized from Klein:

  1. Patterns: with experience experts can discern patterns that are invisible to novices. They have a good sense of what’s typical and can therefore detect the extraordinary.

  2. Anomalies: experts are surprised when a key event is absent while novices don’t know what is supposed to happen and therefore don’t pick up on the anomaly.

  3. The way things work: experts have mental models of how things work—how teams are supposed to work, equipment is supposed to function, power and politics is normally wielded.

  4. Opportunities and improvisations: Experts can imagine possibilities that contradict the prevailing viewpoint and data. They can also apply patterns from one context to a new situation creating new approaches and techniques.

  5. Past and future: experts can predict what might happen in the future. Just ask a grade 5 teacher about what the kids will be like at the beginning and the end of the year.

  6. Fine discriminations: experts can see differences which remain invisible to novices. Just think of expert wine tasters.

  7. Self aware: experts are aware of their own thought processes.

  8. Decision makers: experts can make decisions under time pressure.

I wonder if being able to distinguish between the larger picture, what's important and details shouldn't be part of expertise as well? (would that be number 6?)

And also being able to act by intuition without having to think first (and then being able to reason later why it was a good/bad move)?


hoong said...

Re: the professor who can give good explainations ...

Some people can teach, some just cannot. I don't think IF one is an expert of certain subject that means this person can explain things clearly. Teaching is a talent.

My high school biology teacher is a PhD holder, but she would put us to sleep every single time. On the other hand our geography teacher fascinated us with her ways of simplyfying things. Not only she was talented in teaching skills, or her knowledge in the subject, but she could draw... Till this day I could still see the 5 great-lakes she sketched on the blackboard.

Most crucial: expertise takes time to grow. BUT having the knowledge does not mean a person is an expert. To be an expert one has to have other talent/skills on how to make use of the 'accummulated knowledge'.

I have been looking at that list for quite a few weeks now (before you crossed blog here), somehow I just feel something is missing ...

Joitske said...

Hi Cindy, you may be right on explaining, though these people did use it to judge his expertise!

I wonder what you think is missing, I had a similar feeling, which comes from my own observation that when you grow into a job, you preparation some workshops in less detail and find it easier to let go and let things emerge.

hoong said...

Hello Joitske,

I am still thinking 'what is missing'.

BUT, here is something that came to mind yesterday. PERHAPS someone already talks about it ...

We seems to concentrate on what expert would do etc. etc (such as the list of 7 items), but one thing I do know for sure is, if you do not know how to ask question to the expert, the expert might not be able to reveal what he/she has. So, learning how to ask question is, to me, even more important than what an expert know.

Perhaps an expert should have skills to 'entice' learners to ask question? Such as you wrote: 'less details, let go and things emerge'. TO be able to do that first of all the person (expert) is confident to be able to answer all kinds of questions... at the sametime, deliberate giving less details to make learners think ???