Wherever you go, you can hear people talking about productivity and self-improvement. It seems like everybody wants to be better and more prolific in their areas of expertise, but the only way to really achieve it is by acquiring additional skills and knowledge.

There are hundreds of articles online that are supposed to explain to you the best ways to learn and improve, but they rarely ever go beyond generic conclusions and vague descriptions. If you really want to make substantial advancements, you need to use the right tactic. In this post, we will show you how to gain new skills faster using the Dreyfus model.

What is the Dreyfus model?

The Dreyfus model of skill acquisition is a model of how students acquire skills through formal instruction and practice. Brothers Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus published the original paper in 1980, suggesting that “any skill-training procedure must be based on some model of skill acquisition so that it can address, at each stage of training, the appropriate issues involved in facilitating advancement”.

The Dreyfus brothers argue that “skill in its minimal form is produced by following abstract formal rules, but that only experience with concrete cases can account for higher levels of performance”. Richard Addison, an HR specialist at UK Best Essays, briefly explained the purpose of the model: “Genuine proficiency occurs when an individual develops analytical skills and transcends formal guidelines in order to solve problems intuitively”.

But how exactly is this possible? Keep reading and you’ll find out how the Dreyfus brothers structured this model in 5 different stages.

1.     Novice

A novice is the beginner-level in the Dreyfus model hierarchy. The first stage means you don’t have any practical or theoretical experience in the related field. In such circumstances, your goal is to learn the basic rules and understand general laws of the targeted subject.

To make things a little easier for you to understand, we will use an example of a basketball player. As the beginner, you need to learn the mechanism of the game – its rules, number of players, positions, free throws and 2- or 3-point shots, etc.

When you get the first idea about this sport in general, you are officially a novice who can try out a few simple moves in training sessions. However, everything else is still out of your reach.

2.     Advanced Beginner

Advanced beginner is the second phase of the Dreyfus model. Here you slowly start applying beginner-level knowledge in the real-life environment. This always means making a bunch of mistakes, but at least you get to experience new situations.

In our basketball example, the second phase means playing a real game and figuring out what to do on the court. You are still not able to do much more than to simply follow the rulebook essentials, but it’s the best starting point when acquiring new skills.

You are going to make many mistakes at this stage – miss shots, make stupid fouls, lose the opponent in defense, etc. However, this step is inevitable if you want to reach stage 3 of the Dreyfus model.

3.     Competent

Competency is the third part of the process, but it’s the first one where you actually have to use, neglect or even break certain rules in order to succeed. You gained a lot of knowledge so far and learned every rule in a textbook, but only a real-life situation can teach you which formula to apply.

As a basketball player, the third skill-gaining phase will make you angry and frustrated. How come? This happens because it’s not easy to switch from following the general concept to choosing concrete moves that can take you all the way to the basket.

4.     Proficient

After a long period of competency, the fourth stage of the Dreyfus model (aka proficiency) comes as the well-deserved reward. By this time, you’ve learned everything there is to know about the subject and you can make the right decision in any given situation. However, you still need to do it consciously and select one of many options at your disposal.

This means you know very well whether to shoot a two- or three-pointer, or to go for a dunk, or pass the ball to your teammate. You can quickly evaluate each option on the court and play close to your maximum. As a proficient basketball player, you are simply a professional…

5.     Expert

…but you are still not an expert! There is a thin line between these two stages of skill acquisition. Namely, experts have reached the point at which they don’t have to make conscious decisions or choices.

They do things intuitively and always add a little dose of creativity to their moves. This is what separates Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson from 99.99% of other NBA players – their ability to transcend above standards and raise the game level above traditional basketball norms.

Or to use the words of the Dreyfus brothers: “The expert, who no longer needs principles, can cease to pay conscious attention to his performance and can let all the mental energy previously used in monitoring his performance go into producing almost instantaneously the appropriate perspective and its associated action”.


Acquiring a new skill is never an easy thing to do, but you can make it in case you invest a lot of effort and apply the right learning model. In this post, we showed you how to gain new skills faster using the Dreyfus model. Feel free to give it a try and let us know in comments what you think about this skill-learning method!

Author Bio: Silvia Woolard is a young passionate writer and entrepreneur from Phoenix. In a free time she writes and works in a field of popular psychology. Feel free to contact Silvia at her Twitter.