The LABS model integrates work from cognitive science, educational psychology, neuroscience and management to present a staged model of how individuals develop expertise.
Taking on a challenge
Taking on a challenge launches the change in long-term memory required to develop expertise. In organizations, many employees either choose not to or are not given the resources and time to take on learning challenges.
At this stage, the learner is new to the field. The novice holds only general knowledge of the new domain.
Acquiring information means attending to the learning material. In organizational life, many things interfere with giving learning our full attention. This learning behavior requires focus and diligence.
An informed learner can recall unrelated information about the new domain. At this point, they are associating the newly acquired information with things they already know (their existing schemas). However, informed learners have not yet 'put the pieces together' to understand how the information they received fits together as a whole.
Exploring meaningful context
Exploring meaningful context moves the learner beyond rote memorization to deeper understanding. It frees working memory resources so the learner can now more readily apply knowledge. This learning behavior requires curiosity and 'big picture' thinking.
Knowledgeable learners understand the new domain 'in context'. They know more than isolated information - they understand the relationships within the domain. They no longer rely on associating what they are learning with what they already know. They have developed a new mental schema of the domain.
Continual practice means applying knowledge in a try-fail-try again process. This learner behavior requires resilience and the desire to continually get better.
Competent learners are able to perform almost without thinking. Knowledge and skills are automated and readily available to them.
Critical reflection is an active cognitive activity directed at understanding the fundamental principles of the domain. This learning behavior requires a strong desire to master understanding over performance.
The expert is able to perform in novel situations. Expert learners are those who understand the underlying principles and causal relationships of the domain. This gives them ability to make sense of situations they have never seen before (within their domain).