In the fields of education and operations research, the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition is a model of how students (athletes) acquire skills through formal instruction and practicing. The original model proposes that a student (athlete) passes through five distinct stages: novice, competence, proficiency, expertise, and mastery.

In the novice stage, a person follows rules as given, without context, with no sense of responsibility beyond following the rules exactly. Competence develops when the individual develops organizing principles to quickly access the particular rules that are relevant to the specific task at hand; hence, competence is characterized by active decision making in choosing a course of action. Proficiency is shown by individuals who develop intuition to guide their decisions and devise their own rules to formulate plans. The progression is thus from rigid adherence to rules to an intuitive mode of reasoning based on tacit knowledge.

The original Dreyfus Model is based on four binary (relating to, composed of, or involving two things) qualities:

  • Recollection (non-situational or situational)
  • Recognition (decomposed or holistic)
  • Decision (analytical or intuitive)
  • Awareness (monitoring or absorbed)

This leads to the five stages:

  1. Novice (non-situational recollection, decomposed recognition, analytical decision, monitoring awareness)
  2. Competence (situational recollection, decomposed recognition, analytical decision, monitoring awareness)
  3. Proficiency (situational recollection, holistic recognition, analytical decision, monitoring awareness)
  4. Expertise (situational recollection, holistic recognition, intuitive decision, monitoring awareness)
  5. Mastery (situational recollection, holistic recognition, intuitive decision, absorbed awareness)