How to become an expert

Ever wondered why sometimes you attend a lecture at university and the instructor seems brilliant but you walk away not learning a thing? 

Often times Instructors have lost conscious awareness of 3 elements to becoming an expert and may neglect them from practice.

When obtaining a graduate degree, we are working towards becoming a master or an expert in a field 

So what steps does it take to become an expert?

According to Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, Lovett, and Norman (2010) the research tells us there are 3 elements to developing mastery for students. 

We must acquire components skills, practice integrating them, and know when to apply what we have learned. 

Let me break these down one by one and also provide you with some tips on how you can practice these for your own learning.

Acquiring Component Skills

Acquiring component skills include the basic learning of skills such as reading writing, analyzing, critical thinking. For example: when analyzing a case study, component skills would include identifying the question, articulating perspectives, recommending solutions.

Tips for practice:

  • Identify your blind spots
  • Seek support from a TA with task decomposition
  • Discuss with colleagues
  • Explore educational materials (other than what you are provided in class)
  • Isolated practice of skills that need improvement


Practicing these component skills is needed to integrate them into your work, both separately and in combination with different skills. This element is often more difficult and demanding than the first.

Tips for practice:

  • Give yourself time to practice and increase fluency
  • Temporarily constrain the scope of the task (break a large task or skill down and focus on one aspect)
  • Explicitly include integration in work activities (be intentional with practicing these skills into your day to day)


Obtaining the ability to integrate component skills successfully. Knowing when and where to use what you have learned. Also referred to as transfer.

Tips for practice:

  • Identify conditions of applicability (identify contexts of where and when you can apply certain skills)
  • Apply skills and knowledge in diverse contexts (apply skills in multiple situations)
  • Use comparisons to help identification (identify other problems, cases, scenarios or tasks to differentiate characteristics)

In order to become a master in your field, acquire the needed component skills, practice and integrate these components for grater automaticity and then understand the conditions and contexts on when and where to apply.

I found this helpful for my learning, I hope you do too. 


Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How Do Students Develop Mastery? . In How learning works seven research-based principles for smart teaching (pp. 90–120).

Christine xo

P.S Don’t forget to use #ScholarCulture #ScholarSquad to keep me updated on your experiences as grad students.

P.P.S Applying to grad school for the 2023/24 school year? Check out this FREE eBook on 5 steps to a successful grad school application. Are you in grad school and struggling to find easy lunches to bring to campus? Check out three FREE recipes and full nutritional information here.

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