Asee peer logo

Dreyfus Five-Stage Model of Adult Skills Acquisition Applied to Engineering Lifelong Learning

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Engineering Management In The Classroom

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.443.1 - 23.443.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Nora Honken University of Louisville

visit author page

Nora Honken is a doctoral candidate in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development at the University of Louisville. She has a B.S. and M.S. in Industrial Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and Arizona State University, respectively. She has extensive professional experience in engineering and management. Her research focuses around student performance and retention. Her teaching interest revolves around integrating opportunities to develop non-disciplinary workplace related skills into college classes.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Running head: DREYFUS FIVE-STAGE MODEL 1 Dreyfus Five-Stage Model of Adult Skills Acquisition Applied to Engineering Lifelong Learning In this article the Five-Stage Model of Adult Skills Acquisition by Dreyfus and Dreyfus isadapted to help guide professors and engineering mangers in the lifelong learning for engineers.The model has been used extensively in medical education (Batalden, Leach, Swing, Dreyfus &Dreyfus, 2002; Benner, 2004: Carraccio, Benson, Nixon & Dertine, 2008). Articles have also beenwritten applying the model to sports (Moe, 2004), ski instruction (Duesund &Jespersen, 2004),soldiers (Eriksen, 2004), public health (Koo & Miner, 2010), virtue (Stichter, 2007), computerprogramming (Meade & Gray, accessed December 1, 2011) and ethics (Dreyfes & Dreyfus, 2004). The Dreyfus Five-Stage Model of Adult Skills Acquisition is grounded in the argumentthat “skill in its minimal form is produced by following abstract formal rules, but that onlyexperiences with concrete cases can account for high levels of performance” (Dreyfus & Dreyfus,1980, pg.5). In the original report written by Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus in 1980, the five stages ofexpertise were named novice, competent, proficient, expert and master. The model focused onfour mental functions: recollection, recognition, decision and awareness and how they varied ateach level of expertise. With each increase in the level of expertise, one of the mental functionsmatures. The Dreyfus brothers hypothesized that to obtain the level of master one first mustprogress through the lower levels of expertise. In a later article written only by Stuart in 2004, the five levels were referred to as novice,advanced beginner, competent, proficient, and expert. Instead of using recollection, recognition,decision and awareness to differentiate the levels, he used component, perspective, decision andcommitment. This article is more widely referenced in published articles and will be used in thispaper.DREYFUS FIVE-STAGE MODEL 2 This paper will review the model and its application to medical education and then applythe model to an engineer’s lifetime learning. The paper contains two rubrics. The first rubric isused to determine the current level of expertise (novice, advanced beginner, competent, proficientand expert) of an engineer or engineering student based on knowledge, stand of work, autonomy,decision making and perception. The second rubric provides recommendations for the type ofinstruction, assignments and evaluation needed to advance a student or professional to the nextlevel of expertise. ReferencesBatalden, P., Leach, D., Swing, S., Dreyfus, H. & Dreyfus, S. (2002). General competencies and accreditation in graduate medical education. Health Affairs, 21 (5), 103-111.Benner, P. (2004). Using the Dreyfus model of skills acquisition to describe and interpret skill acquisition and clinical judgment in nursing practice and education. Bulletin of Science technology & Society, 24(3), 188-199. DOI: 10.1177/0270467604265061Carraccio, C., Benson, B., Nixon, L., & Derstine, P. (2008). From educational bench to the clinical bedside: Translating the Dreyfus development model to the learning of clinical skills. Academic Medicine, 83, 761-767.Dreyfus, S. E. & Dreyfus, H. L. (1980). A Five-Stage Model of Mental Activities Involved in Directed Skills Acquisition, paper to Air Force Office of Scientific Research.Dreyfus, H & Dreyfus S. (2004). The ethical implications of the Five-Stage Skill-Acquisition Model. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 24(3), 251-264.Duesund, L. & Jespersen, E. (2004). Skill acquisition in ski instruction and the skill model’s application to treating anorexia nervosa. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society, 24(3), 225-233.Eriksen, J. W. (2010). Should soldiers think before they shoot? Journal of Military Ethics, 9(3), 195-218.

Honken, N. (2013, June), Dreyfus Five-Stage Model of Adult Skills Acquisition Applied to Engineering Lifelong Learning Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19457

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015