The Death of Expertise

Yesterday I borrowed the image on the right in this next graphic and posted it on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

On both Twitter and especially LinkedIn it got quite a reaction. Some of those reactions from yesterday – and then getting a good night’s sleep – followed by reading more of the reactions this morning before the sun came up – have spurred me to write this post.

Although my friend Alex Salas did comment: Stop supporting learning styles and we can talk 🤓 – and he’s right. NOT EVERY TEACHER has mastered the art and “science” of teaching – falling prey to Learning Styles nonsense – often because their College of Education taught them such nonsense – such as my alma mater – the University of Kansas where I got my Radio-TV-Film degree back in 1979 – where both their School of Education and their School of Medicine teaches that LS nonsense.

So – some universities haven’t mastered the science part either. Their Expertise can be challenged – by those who have looked into THE SCIENCE.

Back to what’s still going on over on Twitter and LinkedIn…

The Old “N of 1” Factor

Some of the reactions were fueled by an “N of 1 Experience” – which I learned back in 1979 or 1980 was something to be quite wary about. For myself and others and our own experiences.

Although a quick look at Wikipedia seems to suggest this – an N of One – is a viable way to experiment – until you read the second half of this sentence: “Many consider this framework to be a proof of concept or hypothesis generating process to inform subsequent, larger clinical trials.”

Sure. It worked once – but will it work again, with different subjects and under varying conditions? Only more testing/trials will tell. More Ns.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

From Wikipedia – so be wary…

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a hypothetical cognitive bias stating that people with low ability at a task overestimate their ability.

As described by social psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger, the bias results from an internal illusion in people of low ability and from an external misperception in people of high ability; that is, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others”.[1] It is related to the cognitive bias of illusory superiority and comes from people’s inability to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, people cannot objectively evaluate their level of competence.

The Book: The Death of Expertise

See the 2017 book at Amazon – here.

A 64-minute video of the author, Tom Nichols…

Me, Myself & I

I tend to look to experts for guidance – but try, if I can – to do some Critical Thinking about what I hear from them before I fully embrace what I’ve learned and apply it to my life – personally and professionally.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information.

More… from The Foundation for Critical Thinking

Why Critical Thinking?

The Problem
Everyone thinks; it is our nature to do so. But much of our thinking, left to itself, is biased, distorted, partial, uninformed or down-right prejudiced. Yet the quality of our life and that of what we produce, make, or build depends precisely on the quality of our thought. Shoddy thinking is costly, both in money and in quality of life. Excellence in thought, however, must be systematically cultivated.

A Definition
Critical thinking is that mode of thinking – about any subject, content, or problem – in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully taking charge of the structures inherent in thinking and
imposing intellectual standards upon them.

The Result
A well cultivated critical thinker:

  • raises vital questions and problems, formulating them clearly and precisely;
  • gathers and assesses relevant information, using abstract ideas to interpret it effectively comes to well-reasoned conclusions and solutions, testing them against relevant criteria and standards;
  • thinks openmindedly within alternative systems of thought, recognizing and assessing, as need be, their assumptions, implications, and practical consequences; and
  • communicates effectively with others in figuring out solutions to complex problems.

Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use. It entails effective communication and problem solving abilities and a commitment to overcome our native egocentrism and sociocentrism.  

(Taken from Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008)

And Now This Post About Teachers Has Led to More Defenders of Learning Styles

Although serious researchers who have done and/or reviewed many research studies – culling out those of questionable merit – dismiss Designing for Learning Styles and Learning Styles Preferences – as Richard E. Clark, EdD has told me on one of the 4 videos we’ve recorded – that some studies have found that people’s stated preferences are not what they actually prefer.

In the short video series that Mirjam Neelen and I did for the L&D Conference last year – where we interviewed 9 Giants from the ISD/ID/LXD/T&D/L&D world – almost everyone listed Learning Styles as a “Myth most damaging to the profession.” See those 9 videos – here.

Yet – some resist.

Ah well.

Modern life. That’s what Tom Nichols says.

I’d like to see a revival – a bringing back from the dead or near-death – of Expertise. And a valuing of Experts.

True Experts. Not Self-Proclaimed Experts. And of course, that takes a little work to determine Who is Who. Who is an Expert and Who is a Fraud.

But – it should be worthwhile, no?

That’s been the driver for me and my series of Videos Series: HPT Videos – Instructional Currentz – Measured Results in L&D – A Chat with Authors – 3 Questions for 9 Giants (done with Mirjam Neelen) – Adventures in Performance-Based Training & Development – and many of the other one-off videos I’ve done and shared – here on YouTube – is to share the experience and sometimes expertise of my subjects.


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