The Stages of Expertise

Posted by in Articles | September 23, 2011

It is neither talent nor an inherent set of characteristics that determines one’s level of expertise. Rather, expertise is the result of extensive knowledge and years of experience and practice. Further, one does not make a casual leap from novice to expert. Expertise develops in stages or levels. In this article the characteristics the define a particular level of expertise are identified, with the goal of helping you understand your current level of expertise and providing guidance on attaining the next level, and the next level beyond that.
• Behavior: rational, inflexible, procedural
• Rule bound and conforms to norms
• Does not take responsibility for outcomes
• Lacks comfortable, efficient routines
• Learns best from experience and demonstrations
• Begins to see similarities across context
• More responsive to situation, and less rule bound
• Strategic knowledge begins to develop (knows when to follow and when to break rules)
• Learns best from experience, but gains some knowledge from other sources
• Uses contingencies in planning
• Distinguishes important from unimportant
• Develops a sense of timing, and maintains momentum in practice
• Depends on rational goals and long term plans to guide learning
• Learns more from others, and less from experience
• Highly developed skills
• Responds instinctively in situations, rather than relying on rational analysis
• Established routines permit a natural, easy flow to practices
• Learns most from others and outside sources (e.g., reading, seminars)
• Intuition is highly developed
• Behavior characterized by high levels of automaticity
• Sharply attuned to the atypical
• Extensive knowledge is highly organized and easily recalled
• Has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and will look to any resource.

© Copyright Performance Matters, Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author – Paul G. Schempp

Dr. Schempp, president of Performance Matters, Inc., is a professional speaker, coach and consultant. Paul has more than 25 years of experience in the fields of research, teaching and professional development. Individuals and organizations in business, education and sport have elevated their expertise and achieved exceptional performance by working with Dr. Schempp.

5 comments on “The Stages of Expertise

  1. Paul,

    I like this page (‘Stages of Expertise’). You’re dead on. Thanks.

    I am developing my Lynn Blake Certified Instructor program. To date, more than 70 PGA professionals have been through my Associate training (the first level of four). I am officially introducing the program on Thursday evening, January 26th, the first day of the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.

    I need help.

    I know what a beginner looks like, even when accompanied by a strong golf game and a PGA membership. I also know the finished product (me, and a handful of professionals who have walked the walk for some time now). Hence, my admiration for your model.

    I want to incorporate your defined benchmarks into my program (at the very least, its syllabus) and earnestly seek your guidance. Please contact me by phone or text at 770-527-3841 or by email at



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  4. Paul:

    I really like your articles. After a long while I found someone who writes in niche area of expertise and grounding the writing into research. Really good. I like your second stage calling it ‘capable’. I guess in organizations there is no room for anything less than that. Also, I see that you did not include mastery stage probably because in organizational context, it is not a realistic stage.

    Recently I wrote two articles on my blog. I will appreciate if you could have a look and provide your expert feedback. 1) “6 Phases of Skill Acquisition in Towards Mastery: Combining Multiple Views of Dreyfus Model” at 2) “12 Models of Skill Acquisition and Development: From a Novice to Expertise and Mastery” at

    Raman K. Attri
    Researcher: Training strategies for speed to proficiency
    Check my research at Personal Resonance©: Accelerating Time-to-Expertise

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