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Beginners See Possibilities Experts Miss
Now With Commentary!
Suzuki offers an important counter-argument against expertise and what happens to people who gain expertise. That is, they cannot see things that beginners see—and sometimes that inability of experts to unlearn what they have learned limits their perspective. So a good expert needs to balance their confidence in their knowledge with the limitations of human knowledge about the world.
Still, Suzuki is himself limited, I think, by privileging beginner’s mind. He’s ignoring the power of expertise, to some extent. And educational psychology has found some important virtues of expertise, as outlined in the foundational text, How People Learn.
We consider several key principles of experts’ knowledge and their potential implications for learning and instruction:
Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices.
Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized in ways that reflect a deep understanding of their subject matter.
Experts’ knowledge cannot be reduced to sets of isolated facts or propositions but, instead, reflects contexts of applicability: that is, the knowledge is “conditionalized” on a set of circumstances.
Experts are able to flexibly retrieve important aspects of their knowledge with little attentional effort.
Though experts know their disciplines thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to teach others.
Experts have varying levels of flexibility in their approach to new situations.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2000. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School: Expanded Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/9853.