• Personal Resonance© is a research forum engaged in transforming findings from proven research studies on learning, training, performance and expertise into practical training solutions and practices to 'accelerate time-to-expertise' of organizations and professionals. Aggressive time-to-market drives organizations to develop complex cognitive skills of their employees at faster pace to beat their competitors. Goal of forum is to find and share the answer to that ‘speed’. The forum is trying to develop a core knowledge-base in four areas by systematically assimilating, analyzing and synthesizing the proven research studies in wide range of disciplines like cognitive sciences, neuroscience, psychology, education, learning and brain science, etc.: 1) Accelerated Workplace Expertise: Proven research-based strategies and methodologies to accelerate expertise of organization as a whole through training and learning. 2) Accelerated Professional Expertise: Science-based resonance techniques to accelerate expertise, peak performance and effectiveness of individuals. 3) Strategic Training Management: Experience-based competitive philosophies and processes to manage large-scale complex learning and knowledge operations to produce proficient workforce. 4) Competitive Instructional Design: Advanced instructional and learning design techniques to deliver higher order complex skills like problem solving, critical thinking, decision making, technical troubleshooting.

6 Practical Training Strategies from Sternberg’s Developing Expertise Model

Among several models for training design, the “Developing Expertise” Model by Sternberg (1999) is quite useful to define the training strategies. The main feature of this model is that it postulated that ‘expertise’ is trainable – however, required correct orchestration of the training strategies

He presented a model of developing expertise have five key elements:

  • Metacognitive skills,
  • Learning skills,
  • Thinking skills,
  • Knowledge and
  • Motivation.

Fundamentally his model is based on cycling and interactions of several skills together to achieve expertise. Core philosophy is that Motivation is believed to drive metacognitive skills which in turn activate learning and thinking skills, which then provide feedback to the metacognitive skills, enabling one’s level of expertise to increase (Sternberg, 1985). The declarative and procedural knowledge acquired through the thinking skills and learning skills also contribute toward acquisition of expertise.

s Model

Sternberg’s Model of Proficiency Acquisition

Sternberg explains following contributing elements:

1) Metacognitive skills.

Metacognitive skills are people’s ability to self-regulate their learning. Sternberg (1985, 1986) specified seven metacognitive skills are particularly important:

  • problem recognition, problem definition,
  • problem representation,
  • strategy formulation,
  • resource allocation,
  • monitoring of problem solving, and
  • evaluation of problem solving

The important postulation of this model is that all of these skills are modifiable and trainable (Sternberg, 1986, 1988; Sternberg & Spear-Swerling, 1996).

2) Learning skills.

Learning skills helps an individual to attain the knowledge. Sternberg specifies two kind of learning skills: explicit and implicit ones. Explicit learning is what occurs when we make an effort deliberately to lean something whereas the implicit learning is one which we pick incidentally without any systematic effort. Selective coding, selective filtering and distinguishing relevant vs. non-relevant are learning skills which are again trainable with appropriate training.

3) Thinking skills.

Sternberg (1997a) emphasizes three kind of thinking skills which attributes to developing expertise through training.

  • Critical (analytical) thinking skills include analyzing, critiquing, judging, evaluating, comparing and contrasting, and assessing.
  • Creative thinking skills include creating, discovering, inventing, imagining, supposing, and hypothesizing.
  • Practical thinking skills include applying, using, utilizing, and practicing (Sternberg, 1997b).

4) Knowledge skills.

Sternberg specified two types of knowledge important to acquire expertise:

  • Declarative knowledge refers to ‘knowing that’ like facts, concepts, principles, laws, and the like. Declarative knowledge is further represented by Anderson on revised Blooms’ taxonomy as
    • factual knowledge (knowledge of basic elements and knowledge of specific details of various elements) and
    • conceptual knowledge (interrelationship of basic elements within a large structure that makes them work together. Example knowledge about classification, principle of operations, theory, models and structures).
  • Procedural knowledge on the other hand is ‘knowing how’ like procedures and strategies. Sternberg et al. (1995) places big importance on procedural knowledge. Anderson et. al (2001)’s revised Blooms’ Taxonomy further defines procedure knowledge as knowledge of subject specific skills and algorithms, knowledge of techniques and methods, knowledge of determining criteria for when to use appropriate procedures

5) Motivation:

Motivation has been categorized into two kinds:

  • Achievement motivation (McClelland, 1985; McClelland, Atkinson, Clark, & Lowell, 1976) referring to people’s tendency to seek moderate challenges and risks to achieve accomplishments.
  • Competence motivation, refers to persons’ beliefs in their own ability to solve the problem at hand (Bandura, 1977, 1996).

Sternberg postulates that expert develop competence motivation that helps them solve the difficult tasks in their domain. It can be inferred that competence and achievement motivation can be instilled through managed successes during a training course.

The novice works toward expertise through deliberate practice but motivation is the key to practice. Practice for expertise requires an interaction of all five of the key elements. At the center, driving the elements is motivation (Sternberg, 1999). Sternberg (1999) states that “Eventually, one reaches a kind of expertise, at which one becomes a reflective…practitioner of a certain set of skills. People thus cycle through many times, on the
way to successively higher levels of expertise”.

6) Context:

All of these processes are affected by, and can in turn affect, the context in which they operate. Sternberg asserts that context also plays an important role in success at gaining expertise faster. The learning environment and its ability to provide the relevant context to the learner play a big role in gaining proficiency (Caterjon et al., 2006).

6 Practical Strategies to Design and Deliver a Training which can Accelerate Expertise

Sternberg’s  research postulations can be used in following ways:

1. Design thinking based curriculum to accelerate critical, creative and practical thinking skills

Thinking is core skills to gain expertise. Research has proven that experts and highly skilled individuals use their mental schema to their advantage. The key to well-developed mental schema is ability to think from different angles. For years training practitioners have particular challenge in designing curriculum which develops higher order thinking. The key to thinking based curriculum is designing “discussions” in the lesson plan.

  • To develop critical thinking into curriculum, make sure course is designed as participant-centered with lots of reflection exercise and emphasis on why and cause-n-effect.
  • Hands-on procedures with emphasis on situational and conditional context will help build practical thinking skills.
  • A participant-centered course should allow plenty of activities allowing participants to come up with new ways to a given problem. This will help to build creative thinking skills.

2. Integrate managed challenges and managed successes in the assessment to enhance motivation

Training course primarily should be focused on assessment, both formative and summative. However, if target is to accelerating skill acquisition then assessment needs to be dealt from a different angle. Assessments can range from challenging questions to solving actual problems or scenarios. Care should be taken to define the sequence of challenge correctly. This is key to build achievement motivation through progressive successes of the learners throughout the course. The goal of these challenges should be to give progressive ability to the individual to solve and gain confidence which leads to competence motivations.

3. Develop the scenarios with noise and signal to induct good learning skills

In real world the situations are presented as complex mixtures of noise and signals. Those are associated with reasonable amount of noise (irrelevant information but it makes learning about the phenomenon difficult). It is important to teach ability to disseminate noise from signal in order to gain expertise. A training course should include good activities which addresses both explicit and implicit learning skills.

4. Build solid foundation declarative and procedural knowledge in the course

Sternberg emphasized the importance of declarative and procedural knowledge. According to revised Blooms’ Taxonomy by Anderson et. al (2001), declarative and procedural knowledge is acquired through cognitive processes like remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating, creating. Training course to build expertise. Note that some of these processes are also underlying mechanism of critical thinking. Again, critical thinking and practical thinking skills are the mental processes through which knowledge is understood and disseminated and grown further. Training technique here is to ensure that factual, conceptual and procedure knowledge is presented and discussed with participants from various cognitive mechanism. For example: while teaching a aerodynamics, the content can address the definition and core principles which can be extended  by presenting a problem to participants and have then analyze the data. This can further be re-positioned to give them a system with issue and asking them to evaluate the root cause and then fix it. By doing so, factual, conceptual and procedure knowledge get solidified through all cognitive processes at various levels.

5. Incorporate reflections on strategies and self-monitoring

A training program for expertise development not only focuses on providing training on using and applying declarative and procedural knowledge but also to help participants to form their own strategies and approaches and monitor their progress to problem solving. This area, known as metacogntive knowledge has been focus of many research studies. Two individuals with exactly same skills may simply differ in effectiveness just because they differ in how they monitor their problem solving progress, how they use metacognitive strategies towards problem solving. That is one of the key differentiation an expert has over novice. Training design tip here is that design range of problems / scenarios in your training course and drive participants to apply various strategies in different situations, different conditions and different contexts. That’s how you can develop their metacognitive strategies and improve self-knowledge.

6. Design environment close to realistic situation

Context plays a great role in accelerating expertise. Care should be taken to provide the challenges as real as possible. According to research, if learners are given real problems as opposed to fabricated, they tend to pay more attention and put all their efforts to solve the same. If you are designing a car repair course, then better you simulate the actual car workshop environment in the class, Yet better you conduct the course in an actual car workshop. Reality drives motivation. Simulation based training is one method among others to build a realistic environment.

Stay tuned for more insights.


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  • Sternberg, R. J. (1985). Beyond IQ: A triarchic theory of human intelligence. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1986). Intelligence applied. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace College.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1988). The triarchic mind: A new theory of human intelligence. New York: Viking–Penguin.
  • Sternberg, R. J., & Spear-Swerling, L. (1996). Teaching for thinking. Washington, DC: APA Books.
  • Sternberg, R. J. (1997a). Successful intelligence. New York: Plume.
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  • Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 181–215.
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  • McClelland, D. C. (1985). Human motivation. New York: Scott, Foresman.
  • McClelland, D. C., Atkinson, J. W., Clark, R. A., & Lowell, E. L. (1976). The achievement motive. New York: Irvington.
  • Anderson, L.W., Krathwohl, D.R, Airasian, P.W., Cruikshank, K.A., Mayer, R.E, Pintrich, P.R., Raths, J., Wittrock, M.C. (2001), A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching, and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, Complete Edition, Pearson


About Raman K. Attri

Raman K. Attri is a complex learning strategist, a transformational training consultant and a researcher with over 20 years of experience in engineering, management and technical training. His primary area of focus is to provide strategic directions to organizations in implementing next-generation competitive training strategies. His research interests include complex learning, accelerated expertise and advanced instructional design. He is also the founder of Personal Resonance©, a research forum with a charter to transform proven research studies on accelerated expertise into organizational training practices. His training and learning solutions are strongly founded in system engineering techniques applied to large-scale training programs. Equipped with scientific training methods, he innovated two research-backed complex learning frameworks namely SEAT© (Systems Engineering Approach to Training) and ProBT© (Proficiency Based Training) methodology primarily meant for organizations to accelerate development of complex cognitive skills of their employees systematically at faster rate. He is highly passionate about learning. He holds Professional Doctorate in Corporate Training, MBA in Operations Management and Executive MBA in Customer Relationship Management. Currently he is pursuing another Doctorate degree from Southern Cross University. His personal interests involve writing and painting.
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