3 Mastery Levels

In this picture, you see not only grace and beauty, but endless hours of practice.
Mastering anything  gives you an advantage over your competition. Unfortunately, few teachers show you how to mastery anything —they just expect you to know. In this century, it’s all about how — how can more quickly evolve from a novice to mastery. After all, you only have a limited amount of time and it makes sense to develop competencies more effectively and efficiently.

By Murray Johannsen, October 11, 2014.  Comments? Feel free to connect with the author via this website, Linkedin,  or by  email.

The Problem

“Only the curious will grow and only the resolute overcome the obstacles to learning.” — Eugene Wilson

 How one goes beyond mastery to instruct others. For it is well known that:

  • Just because you read, doesn’t mean you remember
  • Just because you know, it doesn’t mean you can do, and
  • Just because you can do, doesn’t mean you can teach.
The Solution
Mastery levels are the term we used to describe the basic skills helpful to building other skills. The first level is primarily cognitive.
The second level focuses on skill — the skills that accelerate the learning of certain application skills. In other words, most of us have never been taught how to learn. Finally,  the third level focus on teaching.

Mastery Levels Overview

Level I: Expertise

This is the level of understanding and knowledge. It means further developing your ability to memorize and recall. In this case, it is the skill sets one would want to develop a better set of tools to know and understand. One would think that in the information age, we would be good at memorizing and recalling information, but we are not.

Level 2: Skills

These are incorporated into the methods of masters program. You don’t be JUST a theory wonk — do something with the knowledge you have — use these mastery practices to accelerate the building of  skills you can use in the real world. This level of mastery is typically neglected since it requires practice and different development approaches.

Tragically, the skill development models used in corporations and government are deeply flawed. It’s no wonder executives don’t want to spend money on training. And it’s why you would want to use an Academy Model.  

Level 3: The Teacher

Just because you are good at something, doesn’t mean you can teach it. Once you know something really well, help others to develop what you know and can do.

Mastery Levels: The Details

Level 1: Developing Expertise 

Image by: Jebulon
“Before one can do, one must understand.”  —  Murray Johannsen
Expertise is what you have been your ears, what you can’t find on Google when you are talking to the boss, what you don’t have time to find in the mobile phone during a meeting, what’s important to recall to impress your friends, and what you need to know to build understanding.

This is the level of expertise — the deep understanding of ideas and concepts that go beyond the superficial. At this level, the focus is on the first two levels of Blooms Taxonomy:

  • Knowledge (Remembering), and
  • Understanding.

You might say, I have been learning all my life. Of course, you have. But it most likely is terribly inefficient. As our Founder once told us this story:

When I was in high school, it seemed as though I never really had to study. Or at least, I did not have to study to get grades good enough to get into college. However, in college I suddenly found out that I was sadly lacking in the basics needed to get good grades. The first semester was miserable. Spending endless hours of time in the library wasn’t paying off in decent grades. 
The Christmas break was miserable. Going through lots of soul, bouts of anxiety, self-doubt and thoughts about, “Being a failure at 18.” Finally, I decided that I didn’t want to be the wimp in the family and maybe I better figure out how to get better grades. 
So I spent time learning how to learn, revamping:

•  Test taking, 

•  Reading comprehension, 

•  Memorization and recall, 

•  Studying, and 

•  Time management.  

I got through it and my GPA went up. — Murray Johannsen, Personal story

Level 1 Learning Application: Improve Your Reading Comprehension 

Because reading comprehension is not commonly taught, readers recall little of what they read. So you can read volumes and remember nothing. This is not a good thing.

Click to enlarge the image
Click to enlarge the image

In the digital age, most of us have not learned how to memorize information for later recall. In most fields, we are doubling the amount of available knowledge every seven years. And society is also transferring from an industrial base to a service and information base.

Given such an environment, it becomes increasingly important for an informed person to be able to quickly memorize and recall knowledge as needed. An individual that can recall a good percentage of concepts from a text after one reading possesses a tremendous competitive advantage over others who may have to review the material two or more times.

Mastery Level 2: Skill Development

John William Godward (1861–1922): Erato at Her Lyre
John William Godward (1861–1922): Erato at Her Lyre
 “Knowledge is never converted into skill without practice.” — Murray Johannsen

This is the level of the adept, one skilled on the way to becoming a master. It is the realm of determined practice, so grades lose their importance. It contains two different competencies:

Skill-Based Learning.  One really needs to t this level, the important elements of skillful means two fundamentally important model: knowing how to vet skill-based theory and effect practice.

Skilled-Based Theory


Skilled Practice


Learning the Mastery Practices. With skill mastery, we are proficient and accomplished. Speed increases while errors decrease. The Mastery Practices include:


Roden: The Thinker: Image by: Yair Haklai
Roden: The Thinker: Image by: Yair Haklai
VisualizationMastery_Practice_Imagery Self-TalkMastery_Practices_Scribbling_Thoughts_into_the_Wind

Level 3: The Master Teacher

“To really know, one must teach.” — Murray Johannsen
This is the level of the teacher, the coach, the tutor and the instructor. If may be the level of the professor if the professor can actually do what they are teach (many cannot.) It requires more than simple transmission of knowledge; after all, that’s can be done by reading a book.
It requires that you:

  1. Present information
  2. Provide appropriate feedback
  3. Motivate
  4. Design a practice program that works
  5. Evaluate the learning to make sure that it is working.

One really hasn’t mastered any competencies until one can teach it, until you can coach it. This requires an additional level of learning, one that has one as to understand. For not only does one be able to model the competencies, but you must all discover the way to transmit it to another.

“To really teach, one must do”  Murray Johannsen

Leadership Skill Development