Farrar, Nicholas Stewart and Trorey, Gillian (2008) Maxims, tacit knowledge and learning: developing expertise in dry stone walling. Journal of vocational education and training, 60 (1). pp. 35-48. ISSN 1363-6820

This study attempts to further our understanding of how expertise is acquired in a specific vocational context. Using unstructured interviews with both individuals and groups, carried out whilst engaged in practice, it examines what happens when dry stone wallers are developing their skills, how they gain expertise and how they communicate their learning. It was concluded that learning a craft such as dry stone walling is complex and individual. Learning was clearly contextualised and did not take place in linear stages. The use of maxims or 'rules of thumb' was a key element in the learning process, and the use of tacit knowledge and intuition were much in evidence as expertise developed. By questioning whether expertise can be achieved by following a set of rules, or that it progresses in a specific, set direction, the study also highlights the reflective and emotional aspects of becoming an 'expert' that are likely to be relevant to other vocational areas.

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