Mastering Expertise: Five Techniques To Better Learn and Remember

There are many techniques for learning and mastering expertise. For knowledge and understanding can only be gained if one learns certain basic techniques we should all know.

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I thought I knew how to learn expertise; but I really didn’t know. It was a tough lesson to learn; but I’m glad I learned it.

Most of us do not have a basic understanding of how to study, memorize or take tests — we were never taught how to learn. For the educational system never bothered to TEACH US HOW TO LEARN. And so, we aren’t very good at it.

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What is Expertise?

Spider-Man leaning on concrete brick while reading book

Expertise is what you have in long-term memory; what you can’t find on Google; what impresses your friends; what you need to know to make sound decisions; and ideally, what employers will pay for. Expertise development is one of the core functions of a great university. But it’s more than simply regurgitating facts and getting “As” on a test.

To develop better recall, you need to deploy the learning tactics necessary to improve reading comprehension.

5 Techniques To Improve Learning and Retention of Expertise

Technique 1. Reduce Distractions

Today’s students have a different learning environment compared to their parents and grandparents. Many feel that screens and we use social media diminish our ability to learn. An early proponent of this view is shown in this Frontline video titled, “Digital Nation.”

Inability To Focus. Examine why college students must improve their attention span and why cognitive multitasking is a terrible idea.

Time Frame: 0:00 to 15:32

Screen Addiction: Are we spending too much time with our noses in front of the screen? Not everyone surely. But “screen addiction” is a problem for about 15% of the population according to one Korean expert. Here is an interesting scene about what Korea does to deprogram students who spend time in-game — so much time that it hurts their grades.

Time Frame: 15:33 to 26:25

Technique 2: Reduce the Constraints Impacting Attention

There are five major constraints to paying attention. Discover the choke points that prevent rapid learning of the things we need to know. For while we live in the information age, we use an information processing infrastructure that works better in a jungle than it does in conducting business. But do not despair. Most of these constraints can be relaxed if you know how to meditate and be mindful.

Total Time: 25:44

Technique 3: Decrease Your Forgetting Curve

Picture of a person forgetting

Most of what you see in a classic class or conference room is QUICKLY LOST. So at one level, to retain what was learning, we have to know how not to forget.

Technique 4: Use Side Notes

student taking notes

Most of what we read is lost almost as quickly as it is read. Most of what we see in a video is also completely lost. What to do?

A classic technique is to take notes. Just the fact that someone takes notes is enough to improve recall. Reviewing one’s notes is a proven technique to beat the forgetting curve.

Technique 5. Improve Reading Comprehension 

In the digital age, most of us have not learned how to memorize information for later recall. In most fields, we are doubling the amount of available knowledge every seven years. And society is also transferring from an industrial base to a service and information base.

Click to enlarge the image
Because reading comprehension is not commonly taught, readers recall little of what they read. So you can read volumes and remember nothing. This is not a good thing.

Six Characteristics of Deep Expertise 

These are ideal characteristics. Rare is the person who possesses all properties.

Deep Knowledge. It’s almost like they are a walking encyclopedia on the subject.

 Profound Understanding. They understand the meaning of all the professional jargon used.

No Delusions. These are false beliefs thought to be true that resist change despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary

Intuition. When logic fails, what do you do? Some guess. The smart ones use intuition to discover the best alternative under uncertainty or risk

Application Savvy. Many “experts” fail to cut here. The classic is the English professor who cannot write the great American novel but teaches a class titled, “How to Write The Great American Novel.”

Wisdom. It all boils down to this. But it’s hard to teach and difficult to learn.

The Nature of Cognitive Learning


Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain has been around a long time — six 1956 to be exact. We use Bloom’s Taxonomy as the basic approach to providing feedback on whether something is learned or not for our Full Classes.

This is the learning approach focused on Level I learning, the area of expertise. While different experts on learning use slightly different labels, we use the six levels below.

Wisdom, mural by Robert Lewis Reid. Second Floor, North Corridor. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C. Caption underneath reads “KNOWLEDGE COMES BVT WISDOM LINGERS

Blooms Taxonomy (Classical Version)

The classic mental model here is Blooms’ Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain. From a course design standpoint, we have to know what methods work best for each level. It’s poor pedagogy to use tests if you really want someone to do something in the real world.

This article goes into more depth on each of the following stages:

  • Remembering: can the student recall or remember the information? 
  • Understanding: can the student explain ideas or concepts?
  • Applying: can the student use the information in a new way? 
  • Analyzing: can the student distinguish between the different parts? 
  • Evaluating: can the student justify a stand or decision?
  • Creating: can the student create new product or point of view?

Remembering and understanding are verified by using quizzes. This module includes exercises and assignments as a way of learning and application. However, unless you ask for the coaching option, we have no way of knowing how the application is going so you will need to do your own evaluation on your practice. Finally, we will ask that you spend a few minutes in evaluation, both to provide us areas for improvement and as a means of evaluating your learning approach.

Bloom Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain (Revised)

Bloom Taxonomy (Revised). This model stresses the highest level of learning is not evaluation, but creation.  In other words, to be creative, one has to know a lot. You can’t truly be creative until you are an expert. And becoming an expert can take years. 

We will be using the old one, not the new one. The reason is, creativity assumes a deep level of expertise. In other words, to be creative, one has to know a lot. This is the paradox, you can’t be creative until you are an expert. And becoming an expert can take years. 

According to Overbaugh and Schultz in their article on newer Models of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the following phases exist.

  • Remembering: can the student recall or remember the information?
  • Understanding: can the student explain ideas or concepts?
  • Applying: can the student use the information in a new way? 
  • Analyzing: can the student distinguish between the different parts? 
  • Evaluating: can the student justify a stand or decision? 
  • Creating: can the student create new product or point of view?

This makes sense if you think of creativity as a higher order of functioning than analysis or application.

Conclusion. Expertise is all about learning. It’s all about understanding and knowledge. And the application of that knowledge. We can all do better. 

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Wikipedia, (N.D.), The Nature of an Expert

Germain, M. L. (2005). Apperception and self-identification of managerial and subordinate expertise. Academy of Human Resource Development. Estes Park, CO. February 24–27.

Johannsen, Murray (2011). Bloom’s Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain, Classic Version

Germain, M. L. (2006, February). What experts are not: Factors identified by managers as disqualifiers for selecting subordinates for expert team membership. Academy of Human Resource Development Conference. Columbus, OH. February 22–26.

Given such an environment, it becomes increasingly important for an informed person to be able to quickly memorize and recall knowledge as needed. An individual that can recall a good percentage of concepts from a text after one reading possesses a tremendous competitive advantage over others who may have to review the material two or more times.

First Published: May 12, 2016. Last Update: November 1, 2023

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