Dreyfus model of skill acquisition

Written by Keith McDonnell. Last updated on Friday, May 07, 2010.

I use the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition for my own learning and on the job teaching and mentoring software developers (mainly Ruby/Rails).

The theory is that people progress through five stages of competence as they learn. The five stages are Novice, Advanced beginner, Competent, Proficient and Expert.


Advanced beginners

Competent people

Proficient practicioners


How to use the Dreyfus model to your advantage

Your level of competence varies per skill. You may be an expert in, say, Ruby but a complete novice in graphic design.

Merely knowing what level you are at each skill helps me immensely. For example, if I’m a novice, I’ll seek out and write down the rules I need to follow.

Having an appreciation of what people need at different levels of competence helps me be more patient when teaching & mentoring. Also, it provides a roadmap for learing.

Further reading

If you'd like to discuss this article, you can send me an email keith@dancingtext.com and/or publish an article online and link back to this page.