Novices, Experts and Everything In-between: Epistemology and Pedagogy

A Chemical Orthodoxy

The concept of “novices and experts” answered a lot of questions for me. For a long time, I had been finding it difficult to understand why my students made simple mistakes, couldn’t “apply” their learning to new areas and couldn’t understand exactly what a given verbal or written question was asking for.

Put simply, the idea is that when a learner is first starting out in a particular domain (e.g. chemistry), they are considered a novice. Their knowledge is fragmented and disconnected from the rest of the knowledge within the domain. As their knowledge builds up, they progress towards becoming an expert: someone whose knowledge is broad, deep and extensively connected.

There are a number of classic lab-based experiments in this field, the findings of which are summarised here as:

  1. Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices.
  2. Experts have acquired a great deal…

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