Dreyfus model of skill acquisition

The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition is a model of how learners acquire skills through formal instruction and practicing, used in the fields of education and operations research. Brothers Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus proposed the model in 1980 in an 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 model proposes that a student passes through five distinct stages and was originally determined as: novice, competence, proficiency, expertise, and mastery.

Dreyfus model

The 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)

The original model included mastery as the last stage, in their book Mind over Machine, this was slightly adjusted to end with Expertise [2]. This leads to the full five stage process:

Skill Level/ Mental FunctionNoviceAdvanced BeginnerCompetenceProficientExpert

Criticism of the model

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 also


  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. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. Dreyfus, Stuart E.; Dreyfus, Hubert L. (1986). Mind over Machine. New York, NY: Free Press.
  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 reading

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