Re: [xmca] the problem with expert vs novice

From: Mike Cole <lchcmike who-is-at>
Date: Sun Jul 01 2007 - 20:08:35 PDT

Jay and Paul--

Glad what I wrote was helpful, but almost certainly it was simultaneously
wrong in a lot of ways. As Don C pointed out, this medium has
its limitations...... all do.

Re fly fishing and expertise. If you have never done so, I urge you to read
normam mclean's A River Runs Through It. The novel NOT the film.
The novel describes a forbidding father and his two sons living in Montana
in the 1920's. Their bond was fly fishing. And the brother of the author
was "the expert." (the author was clearly no slouch). The author went on to
become prof of English at U Chicago and could not get his fiction
printed until he retired and UChicago press did him the honor of publishing
it. And it became a well deserved sensation. (UC needs all the $$ it
can get!). The descriptions of the brother's form of expertise is entirely
relevant to all of this discussion, and such an incredibly moving
memorial that it is worth reading re-reading and re-reading and.......

mike the tainted water recycler who just cut back on water use by 50% and is
praying that Texas sends us half their rain.

On 7/1/07, Paul Dillon <> wrote:
> mike,
> I find your response to Jay's post incredibly useful for two reasons. One
> is that you have introduced the term "master" into the "expert/novice
> continuum. In chess the categories for players of different levels is;
> term "mastery" implies much more than "expertise", Of course the continuum
> of relative mastery in chess is based on competition between players of
> different levels and as such quite different from other practices that
> involve interaction with the material or embodied world we find ourselves
> in.
> That is the second area that really struck me about your post: the
> discussion of the role of local knowledges in the relative success of ones
> knowledge of how to carry out a certain activity; e.g., fly fishing.
> Especially your reference to the knowledge of local environmental
> conditions. This has very important implicataions for the documentation of
> endangered languages for example insofar as these languages embody detailed
> knowledge of local ecological systemsm certainly in the terminological
> vocabularies and more complex forms of expression ranging from metaphorical
> sayings to mythogical cycles , but perhaps also even in the grammars. It's
> a useful argument for for documenting these languages since, perhaps, some
> day, when no one is left who speaks we might still recover the knowledge of
> their local environment, they contain to revive the endangered ecosystems
> that resulted from the loss of the people who understood how to live in them
> without destroying them. Of course that brings up the problem of the
> descriptive categories one uses in the data collection, but that's a
> different problem.
> Paul
> *Mike Cole <>* wrote:
> Jay--
> Your write: What bothers me about some ways of using the expert/novice
> antithesis
> is that they do seek to conceal, by naturalizing, the power dimension
> hidden here at several levels.
> I think we are all agreed here that we are not talking about antitheses,
> even if in some other
> discourse communities people do talk this way. And we can agree that there
> are power relations
> involved in this issue as you point out. And we need to worry about
> avoiding
> reification of an individual/society
> antinomy. And we need to worry about "mere reproduction."
> But (now speaking of an activity which is less obviously about knowledge)
> I,
> and perhaps others (?) recognize
> and experience differences along a dimension that is something like
> "mastery
> of an activity" in the domain of
> fly fishing. This domain is extraordinarily complex and any judgments
> about
> relative expertise depend upon a
> huge number of factors, not all of which it is easy to take into account,
> let alone assess with any notion of
> accuracy in any given instance. A few weeks ago I was fly fishing with a
> friend who is great at catching trout
> in small brooks that baffle me. But in a larger stream, in a lake where
> bull
> rushes had to be caste up to but not into,
> where only one cast could hit the water, I was more able. In other
> circumstances, such as when it is essential that
> the fly hit the water before the leader touches it, I am hopeless. In yet
> other circumstances, where I know the river
> well and know to use a sinking line, and know the local beasties like I
> know
> my own name, I routinely catch fish
> where others walk away empty handed. And by the same token, I can be on a
> river I do not know well, with or without
> the right flies, and a "local expert" will succeed where I fail miserably.
> Etc.
> Bottom line, so keep this brief? If we do not get seduced into creating
> false binaries and can engage in systems thinking
> and can communicate about it (hah, there's another big problem), we can
> understand the aquisition of expertise as a complex
> developmental, domain-specific process that can, in some cases, be
> systematically arranged for. And we can be certain that
> changes in environmental conditions, technology, and social arrangements
> will conspire to make certain that over time, the
> nature of the putative expertise will change, that no newly crowned expert
> will retain the thrown, but be overthrown because
> having embodied an ideal, s/he has created the circumstances to imagine a
> yet-more-dazzling ideal, which, in the fullness of
> time, may come into being.
> The bathwater is almost certainly tainted, but lets not forget that it got
> the baby clean-er, and we should not toss out both
> (where I live, we should re-cycle the bath water for sure!)
> mike
> On 6/30/07, Jay Lemke wrote:
> >
> >
> > With my time limited, and the subject headers for some of these
> > discussion getting rather unwieldy (maybe it's only my own system,
> > but I've got many of them in a loop of Possible Spam identifiers!)
> > ... a quick note.
> >
> > What bothers me about some ways of using the expert/novice antithesis
> > is that they do seek to conceal, by naturalizing, the power dimension
> > hidden here at several levels. That novices should defer to experts'
> > views of what is to be learned, how things are to be done, etc. That
> > experts are the ones to decide who is an expert and who is a novice,
> > and by how much they differ from one another, and how each should
> > relate to the other, esp. in power, decisions, etc.
> >
> > Now if we re-frame this as teacher/student, I think we would all be
> > much more worried, and Paolo Freire's critique here is well known and
> > seems to me also well validated in practice. It seems to me that
> > calling the relation 'expert/novice' pushes the naturalization so far
> > as to inhibit necessary critique.
> >
> > Moreover, expert/novice is part of a larger discourse which is
> > essentially a discourse of reproduction. Even in its more benign
> > versions (e.g. Lave, less so Wenger). Much less it's, to my view,
> > less benign ones (e.g. Herb Simon and the 70s-80s cognitivist views
> > on expertise and problem-solving), which were very much the product
> > of management models.
> >
> > Let learners seek out the expertise they find of value, make use of
> > those they deem to be expert, and diverge from what they are taught
> > when and as they find productive. Let experts not seek to clone
> > themselves by misrepresenting reproduction as education.
> >
> > JAY.
> >
> >
> > Jay Lemke
> > Professor
> > University of Michigan
> > School of Education
> > 610 East University
> > Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> >
> > Tel. 734-763-9276
> > Email.
> > Website. <>
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> >
> _______________________________________________
> xmca mailing list
> ------------------------------
> Shape Yahoo! in your own image. Join our Network Research Panel today!<*>
xmca mailing list
Received on Sun Jul 1 20:10 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Oct 08 2007 - 06:02:19 PDT