Intended for healthcare professionals

Analysis And Comment Learning and teaching

What the educators are saying

BMJ 2006; 332 doi: (Published 26 January 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;332:234
  1. Brian Jolly, director (
  1. Centre for Medical and Health Sciences Education, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, [Melbourne], Australia

    Notions of expertise must be relative

    Most doctors are regarded by their patients as experts. But what is expertise? If we knew more about it, we might be able to cultivate it more efficiently. An article summarises recent progress. Expertise can be seen as (a) a set of discrete skills, together with perspicacity about when to use each skill; (b) the application of theory and general principles; (c) critical analysis, using a framework for examining and interpreting situations or events; or (d) as a continuing interaction between analysis and action, in which experience is used to increase expertise. Universities tend to focus on (b) and (c), with a particular emphasis on creating theory, developing applicable rules, and generating knowledge. In the professions, though, where that knowledge comes from and how best it is learnt have been at the heart of major controversy.

    Within the interactive notion of expertise, a further distinction could be made between “experts,” “experienced non-experts,” and “routine experts.” Experts solve problems that increase expertise. Experienced non-experts work in environments that …

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