CSTD Workshop – Tom Gram

(Tom Gram is a Sr. Consultant with Global Knowledge Canada)

Tom’s session was designed to shed some new light on the concept of “practice makes perfect” and bringing along the concept of the “expert” and what role that individual can play in supporting increased proficiency. The root research into expertise was conducted by Anders Ericsson (The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance).

Expertise separates the novice from the expert. Drawing on the writing of Malcolm Gladwell, Gram says that ‘expertise” in any area is usually something that combines elements of tacit knowledge (unconscious competence) as well as practical intelligence and can take approximately 10,000 hours (roughly 10 years) to develop. This expertise can be fostered through deliberate, authentic practice and a comprehensive feedback system (including reflection and correction).

As time progresses, performance may plateau as the practitioner moves to unsupervised status because the feedback and reflection elements are often absent, and the details of their performance metrics get lost in the simple goal of “get it done”.

Elements of deliberate practice:
• Authentic tasks
• Designed to improve performance
• Highly demanding
• Repetition
• Immediate feedback
• Reflection & adjustment
• 10,000 hours
• Personal motivation

This tacit knowledge and practical intelligence does mean that experts/SMEs can have some difficulty articulating this knowledge to others.

For the most part, CFITES and MilTrg are far ahead of civilian counterparts when it comes to development of expertise and moving people out of the novice stage, so any adjustments made at this end are relatively incremental, but could have far-reaching impacts.

6 approaches to development of expertise include:
• Action learning
• Cognitive apprenticeship
• Communities of practice
• Simulation
• Feedback in the workflow
• Job assignments with coaching

Note that not all of these approaches may be applicable to all learning situations here at the School but I believe that all approaches could be integrated across the slate of offerings. In particular, im intrigued by the idea of establishing Communities of Practice among Aerospace Engineering Officer candidates and the staff instructor cadre alike, as well as with other internal staff resources. We may also be able to make more deliberate use of Action learning, Cognitive apprenticeship, etc. for some of our higher-level courses.

So while the basics of what Tom spoke of weren’t new for anyone with an exposure to military training, his background details on the requirements for ongoing feedback were critical learning points for me. It’s also essential to recognize performance plateaus and how to get people past them.

Im also a little more aware of the challenges of getting that unconscious competence and practical intelligence out to the novices.

What I also liked was the concept (part of the unspoken conference theme) of how experts should be networked so that they can help themselves AND help support the novices.

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