Dot Physics

You are an expert (at something)

This is something I use at the beginning of a semester. I ask the class: “How are you an expert?” What is an expert? Let me call an expert someone that is comfortable answering questions about that particular topic.

If students are too shy to share (especially on the first day of class), I will start it off. I am an expert in:

  • Some (but clearly not all) physics stuff. In particular, classical mechanics, physics education, numerical modeling (though not really an expert – but I could answer questions).
  • I can play the clarinet and saxophone – but I haven’t practiced in a long while
  • I already mentioned that I would consider myself an expert scuba diver – ask me anything (except not about rebreathers, I have never used those). Oh, but you could ask about cave diving and decompression diving.
  • Teaching kids to ride a bike. I have done it enough, I think I can answer any questions.

Ok, you get the idea. Unfortunately, I am not an expert in any type of sport – but that is great example. It is likely someone in the class plays a sport, at least in high school.

What is the point? Well the point is – how do you get to be an expert? Suppose you are an expert piano player. How did that happen? Work, time, effort happened. It is difficult to be an expert, it takes time. It doesn’t happen over night.

Comments

  1. #1 FrauTech
    September 1, 2010

    Reminds me a little of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours thing. Something to keep in mind anyways when there is a skill we’d like to be better in or we are feeling intimidated.

  2. #2 Jim Thomerson
    September 1, 2010

    In some ways, I think we make being an expert too hard. In many situations, the expert is the one who knows most about the subject. If no one in the group knows much about a subject, it is fairly easy to do some reading, and make a couple of phone calls. Pretty soon you know lots more about the subject than anyone else present, You have become the expert. This is something which students can learn by taking on projects and giving class presentations.

  3. #3 Pradahandbags
    September 1, 2010

    I will stil write about science here, but more about the conduct of science. My plan for the other blog is to write about specific advances in physiology.
    And I did not invert my links, Irene. They are placed where I wanted them.

  4. #4 John
    September 2, 2010

    This is very similar to a lesson I do with my freshmen on the second day of school where I ask them to describe something they understand well, how they came to understand it (what serves as practice) and how they know they understand it well (what serves as tests). We then contrast this with something they probably don’t understand, like the quadratic formula.

    This year, I added the component of having each kid be able to teach one student (or me) something in 5 minutes. It was a great exercise, and I learned how to draw faces in anime.
    2nd day of class.

  5. #5 Andrius
    September 4, 2010

    “What is the point? Well the point is – how do you get to be an expert? Suppose you are an expert piano player. How did that happen? Work, time, effort happened. It is difficult to be an expert, it takes time. It doesn’t happen over night.”

    Sorry, but in my humble opinion, this is not right. You become an expert when others recognize you as one (independent of how much knowledge you have). That’s why we have various education degrees. Degree intention was to serve as a good measure on how much people know on particular subject. Sadly though, it has lost this purpose long time ago. I, myself, never finished university, but on some subjects I have the knowledge that can surpass any graduate’s. Still to some I’m not an expert, because I don’t have a degree :) Well, you get the point :)

    Just my 2 cents :)

  6. #6 Rhett Allain
    September 4, 2010

    @Andrius,

    I guess this depends on your definition of expert. I defined it above as someone that would be comfortable answering questions about stuff.