I rather enjoyed your reference to the Gordian knot when I first read it yesterday. That does, indeed, seem to draw heavily upon the hacker spirit in two senses of the term: the unorthodox solution, and the hacking motion with a blade, to "cut" straight through the center of the problem -- so to speak.
The Dreyfus model of learning was developed by a pair of brothers who were AI researchers. They decided that, before they could properly start work on emulating human learning using a computer, they needed a theory of human learning to emulate. Much research, study, and analysis later, they had what has come to be known as the Dreyfus model.
That model became the basis for a revolution in the training and advancement of the nursing profession some decades ago, at a time when that profession was in dire straights due to the negative pressures on learning, expertise, and initiative within that profession. By applying the Dreyfus model to training and management, the nursing profession was turned around and became an integral, important part of the medical care industry above and beyond "doctor's little helper". A good nurse can mean the difference between life and death for a patient, where previously the patient would likely have simply been SOL.
The model itself, at its most superficial, classifies levels of expertise in five categories:
1. Novice -- needs "recipes" and close supervision to succeed, learn, and advance, and not an opportunity to work independently toward a goal so much
2. Advanced Beginner -- needs focus on technical, howto information plus clear goals to succeed, learn, and advance, and not the "big picture" so much
3. Competent -- develop conceptual models of the problem domain, can troubleshoot effectively and work on their own; need planning and past experience to succeed, learn, and advance, and not external context or a deep understanding of the underlying principles so much
4. Proficient -- understand underlying principles of the skillset and concern themselves with external context; need the "big picture", and to grok the fundamentals, to succeed; tend to be notable innovators in that subject area; benefit substantially from intuitive flashes that advance their work; chafe at rules and restrictions that stand in the way of their solutions to the problems they set out to solve
5. Expert -- a proficient practitioner who has internalized and habitualized so much of the understanding of the realm that the majority of their work is almost unconsciously accomplished, based on intuition, rather than having to think things through to arrive at the best answer; essentially innovate with every task accomplished, though they and those in their orbits may not even recognize some acts as innovative in their approach; utterly wasted in bureaucratic settings
It seems normal for the best teacher or mentor for a given level of expertise to be one level, maybe two levels at most, above the level of the student.
In programming, as in most other areas of expertise, the vast majority of "professionals" are advanced beginners or competents. Which is the larger group depends on the subject area and its culture.
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