By MARIKA O'BAIRE-KARK, student in the Writing and Consciousness MFA program
You are in charge of your education. As your knowledge, intelligence, and understanding evolve, then perhaps wisdom can focus and accelerate your advance into becoming the person you wish to become. You are going to create a future anyway out of the unknown that lies ahead. You could be well aware and do this deliberately or not. You decide.
Kris Brandenburger, a poet and professor at CIIS, introduced me to Tobin Hart, an educator. He wrote a philosophy in his book, "From Information to Transformation: Education for the Evolution of Consciousness." I created an algorithm from his work in parallel with that of Patricia Benner, from her work, "Expertise in Nursing Practice: Caring, Clinical Judgment and Ethics"; Stuart Dreyfus, an applied mathematician, and Hubert Dreyfus, a philosopher wrote about how air force pilots, chess players, and army tank drivers acquired their skills. Benner and Dreyfus and Dreyfus collaborated on the second chapter of her book, about how nurses, who are artists and scientists, acquire their skills. I write here about their viewpoints in relation to writers. This may seem complex. And why do it?
Writers initially work alone, or perhaps in the company of others but not with others. However, in the journey of their work, they learn from everyone and everything around them. Once they produce their piece, writers and other artists often seek supportive observers to respond to their work. Doctors, nurses find that from the beginning of their professional life in becoming educated they must learn to work as a team, even though as healers they find their actual presence with someone experiencing illness, may often be solo. It is a creation in the moment. The medium is the space between them. This demands great skill.
Artists and writers use similar skills of observation—listening, watching, feeling, then intuiting what action must come next and originating it. How does one learn a high level of skill? Or would someone want to stop at the level of being competent to perform certain physical tasks? If an individual knew how to deliberately develop his or her own skill, I believe most individuals would want to go for excellence, for the extraordinary. Here is a comparison of algorithms between Hart and Benner.
At this level, infant to college student, you are adding many patches of information. If you have rapidly progressed through learning early skills in art, music or sports, any activity which requires working as a team, then progressing to the next stages may be easier. Writers and artists become a team when they choose to study with someone, when they collaborate and when they trust certain observers to critique their work.
Benner: Advanced Beginner
After graduating from college, or a professional school, you have organized those patches of information into a body of knowledge to work with. However, you soon find that static knowledge does not fully satisfy the unpredictability of the real world and its new challenges. Teamwork with more advanced players who are kind and compassionate is essential. Intuition arises out of necessity, but may be held back by unspoken, unshared anxiety. “Am I doing this right?"
Now you are working in alignment with others, following the rules you have learned. You have a certain intelligence from which you can be competent. However, if you are discounting your intuition, not seeking more learning experience, especially diverse experience or forgetting it, then you may stay at this level. Frustration about one’s practice can appear here easily, as one needs to go beyond an ordinary “job” in order to experience much more satisfaction with one’s work.
Writing or speaking about experience can help integrate it deeply. This are the moments for both artists and scientists when we need to examine ourselves, our anxieties, our beliefs and prejudices. How do we sabotage ourselves and block our desire to serve others through our art and science? What is essential to progress is teaching and learning from the people we serve, our peers, from older, wiser players who have progressed to being expert, and the few who have become extraordinary.
A caring heart and intuition comes into play with the mind. Understanding oneself and others is crucial to taking action that serves the best interest of all involved. Without understanding aligned with intelligence, knowledge, and experience, progressing to the next step would be difficult or impossible.
Patricia Benner states that this is the stage where further education becomes very important. I believe it is at this stage that travel, experiencing different worlds, different beliefs and languages is essential. I believe that an advanced education that allows a student the kind of experiences he or she wishes to learn from, must be created.
The expert now has many experiences against which to test his or her continually evolving ideas and beliefs. He uses intuition for the new event, situation, or point of view that cannot be predicted. She understands the spirit of rules and may have helped create them with colleagues. She uses the rules or sometimes bends them with wisdom to best respond to a situation with the intention to create the most beneficial results. He or she continually builds high quality relationships that result in a team moving as one spirit. Artists and writers have established themselves as an authority others can lean on and learn from. They have built communities of readers, critics, agents, galleries, and publishers.
Patricia Benner does not go further with skill acquisition. However, extrapolating the possibility from her work, the next step would be to work as a "team of experts." The best surgery, the best care, the greatest art that demands a team of experts, i.e. film, theater, opera, happens here. This high quality team may not appear overnight. It develops over the entire time of skill acquisition, built on respect, appreciation and assistance then teaching other team members.
I believe the transformation of a beginner to an expert with an enlightened viewpoint happens with service to others built on intuition and knowledge working together. You may extrapolate other paths of learning skills in alignment with these.
I wrote this piece to encourage my students to take charge of their education and move forward in a way that works. I highly recommend an education that inspires you with educators and companions that care about your transformation to the person you wish to become.