adaptive expertise

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Adaptive learners matching the changing environment


Famous for changing the color of their skin, chameleons are more like mood rings,
with their color changes reflecting mood, temperature, light, and other stimuli.

Based in the analysis of Hatano (1982), Brophy, Hodge, Bransford (2004) wrote a short and interesting work in progress where they analyzed the idea of adaptive expertise as the “ability to process information quickly and identify solutions to common problems as a display of competency in a particular skill and/or depth of domain knowledge”.

Considering the accelerating changes of the present and the unpredictable chaotic up coming future, the authors describe the importance of empower “learners to have flexible knowledge that allows them to invent ways to solve familiar problems and innovative skills to identify new problems. We suggest that the more desirable definition of expertise relates to students ‘adaptive-ness’ to identifying and solving novel problem”.

This adaptive expertise is based in the idea that “without a fluent and flexible use of knowledge a person will not be able to identify and expand on that creative idea”, that’s why the “life long learning and adapting to new situations is a critical component to succeeding in the workplace and in personal affairs”.

With pedagogic models established in the 19th century, teachers who were born during the 20th century and students from the 21st century the society (schools, enterprises, governments) demands citizens able to develop “innovation skills that will assist in their abilities to solve routine problems and identify new problems”. This kind of expertise will allow “the ability to identify new opportunities in this continuously transforming environment for change that make them more productive and profitable”.

Instead of routine experts our Learning Society requires citizens “who begin by identify what they know about the problem and what more they need to define in order to solve the challenge. The learner expands on these thought first by comparing them with their peers, then comparing them with experts familiar with aspects of the initial challenge”.


  1. Work in Progress – Adaptive Expertise: Beyond Apply Academic Knowledge (Sean Brophy, Lynn Hodge, and John Bransford).
  2. Hatano, G. Cognitive consequences of practice in culture specific procedural skills. The Quarterly Newsletter of the Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, 4, 1982, 15–18.

Images Source: © 1996-2007 National Geographic.