Learning of Expertise: The Journey From Being a Novice to an Expert

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Learning in our master program is unique.

We had very few traditional form of lectures.

Only twice written final exams.

Most of the learning were designed to be done by DOING.

In our Learning of Expertise course, we were experiencing the process related to knowledge transfer from novice to expert. Students are expected to identify and develop their expertise from the course.

At the beginning of the course, our instructors organised some interactive ice breaking activities. One of them was the 30 seconds to pitch our expertise, one by one:

A Solar Bear tried the Polar Bear Pitching. 30 seconds to describe your expertise. I am Hasrizal, from Malaysia. I worked in offices, schools, prisons, hospitals. The similarity between those was, people came to me with problems, I listened and offered solutions. I speak several languages but the most useful language I used in my work is the language of empathy. Interested? Call me at 755-25-25. www.polarbearpitching.com

The course is mainly designed as a project-based learning. We were given a real project to implement what we learnt from learning sciences in an actual working environment. Right from the beginning, we are reminded that the best problem-solving cases are authentic cases from working life;

  • they are messy problem spaces.
  • with many possible solutions.
  • they are difficult enough in order to provide possibilities for learning.
  • problems vary and they are new for solvers. (Barnett & Koslowsky, 2002; Hatano & Inagagi, 1986)


This time, our client is the famous Polar Bear Pitching, which is a network organization in the Oulu startup ecosystem. It is based on co-creation and is very much a community effort. Our task is to analyse the current practice of organising and training the volunteers, and how they can be improved, empowered for betterment. Polar Bear Pitching is looking forward to benefiting from our efforts in:

  • finding ways, how could tacit knowledge be transferred more effectively?
  • how can people reach the common goal and help volunteers take more responsibility?
  • How can the training/orientation better delivered to the new volunteers?
  • How can the organiser at its best and effectiveness tap the potential of the newcomers? How could they for example access the freshest of ideas that are significant for the renewal of the event?

This is a great challenge.

I was assigned to Reindeer Team.

#Repost @let_oulu
This week we started interesting problem-solving case in cooperation with #polarbearpitching team. This will be cool! #letstudies #authentic #workinglife #problems #problemsolving #collaboration #icehole #myfinlandmoment

Each of us in the team has the strength and generally, we are quite familiar with each other after spending more than a year in the LET master program. This reminds us of the fact that creativity is not luxury of a few people, instead, every person’s creative potential should be recognized and nurtured (Andiliou & Murphy, 2010; Tanggaard, 2011). This is what we hope to achieve together in our creative collaboration in problem-solving.

Copyright: Niina Impiö & Pirkko Siklander, LET Oulu

The process lasts for about four months. Dark winter, extreme weather, personal priorities, unexpected incidents, changes in expectations, crisis, conflicts, loss of motivation, confusion, stress, depression, came along between happiness, eagerness to do our best, knowing this will be among the last opportunities for us as LET students to work together, the enjoyment in learning new knowledge and skills, meetings where we got the chance to meet face to face, smile to each other, exchange opinions, debating, preparing the presentation… all become a sweet memory to all when the task is completed and presented to our client.

At the end of the project, we received positive feedback from the client, our instructors (the lecturers), and peers.

In terms of the presentation, some of the highlights are:

  • Very motivated and full of info. Understanding people will help PBP volunteers. Everyone is important, great idea.
  • Logical and professional
  • Logical, clear, pretty slides
  • Ted-Ed video is a creative and handy idea.
  • Interesting approach, but have been done.
  • Well-presented and organized
  • Very clear and logical, good visualization, structure logical
  • The presentation kept interest high
  • The presentation revealed that the ownership of the process, activities and outcomes is held by the entire group. This means that collaboration, mutuality and belonging together is seamless. It is not only divided tasks, knowledge and responsibilities but more.

At least for me, the most challenging part of the process is making the connection between theory and practice. How can the abstract theories be made visible, and tangible for our client?

Here are some of the feedback we received:

  • Psychological ownership is something we have been trying to achieve and succeeds better with some volunteers than others
  • Online info would be very helpful
  • Solution match with the theories
  • Psychological ownership, relevant and meaningful. Directly solutions based on theoretical concepts.
  • The argument based closely on data collected through multiple methods.
  • Well-defined theoretical concepts and their relations, the theory has translated into practice and vice versa, good groundings, concepts are topical in current scientific discussion around CSCL.

Our team decided to spend some time interviewing the volunteers during the final pitching of the event. It wasn’t easy to stay long at the location when the temperature was around -20ºC! But it was fun, many things happened, but most importantly, we had the opportunity to validate our assumptions with the interview and documenting some of the important highlights.

We received good comments. Some of them are:

  • Great that you have actually participated and observed!
  • Found a great tool.
  • The process is strategic and involved learning of LET courses.
  • Rich source of data, easy and practical solutions
  • Efficient use of resources, good critical analysis

The learning experience we obtained from this project is invaluably important for our future career. I myself had been working as a ‘consultant’, assisting many different clients from varieties of background before joining LET in Finland. Now, I have a better understanding, and stronger theoretical background to make use of the learning sciences in problem-solving.

The course continues with few more projects, due to end some time in April or May.

I believed, and still believe, that learning by doing is the best way to achieve the organic connection between knowledge and practice, and should be promoted for my students back in my home country, and the society at a larger scale.

Together with our leaders and team members, we initiated transformation to Khalifah Model School (Secondary) in 2015, moving away from the authoritarian classroom, to a fresh design of learning that happens anytime, anywhere, with one project-based semester where students can choose to participate in farming, backpacking, scuba diving, managing archeological / historical field work, philanthropic community services, cooking skills, and more.

I hope the team back in Malaysia will continue to empower the invaluable transformation, that prepare our students, bravely, for their future!

At the end of the evaluation session, I expressed my sadness that working in such an inspiring team and ‘safe environment’ is now approaching the end. In a real working life experience, the situation is much more challenging. It is not always only about learning sciences. We have to deal with multiple disciplines, having to share equal responsibility with colleagues who have no knowledge whatsoever with our discipline, and many frustrations when things are not always happened as we wish.

But yes, education…. is all about learning.

Oulu, FI