Novice To Expert: Constructivism in Nursing

Novice to Expert

Working under stress requires the ability to prioritise, multi-task, advocate, maintain effective time management and is part of a suite of learning skills considered ‘novice to expert’ in nursing (Benner, 1982). This ability to transfer thoughts and process information, which are relevant to the particular situation, time and place, is of utmost importance for effective decision-making. Moreover, Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development states that thoughts, memory, past experience, problem solving, and processing information all influence the learner.

Piaget’s concept of schema theory involves the organized structure of memories, past experience and the knowledge we possess and develop over time. Constant interpretation is considered the process of adaptation and assimilation to the environment. Cognitive processes of types of knowledge, using the taxonomy of Krathwohl (2002) are utilized in the work environment by educators to engage and develop the learner in high-level engagement. Assimilation is using new experiences to already existing schema, knowledge and experiences. This constant building of experience on experience is the scaffolding of learning in nursing. It can take years to build experience on top of knowledge to scaffold performance on the novice to expert pathway.

Clinical shifts regularly provide feedback opportunities through clinical supervision, along with performance management plans. This feedback practice must align with the nursing students learning objectives. For nurse mentors or peer support, the development of constructive feedback methods is essential as part of clinical supervision. Reflection is a major component of development and learning, and applying frameworks, such as Gibbs (1988) and Johns (2009), for reflective processes in nursing can help make sense of experiences and summarize events.


Using Benner (1984) “novice to expert” or Bondy (1983) “dependent to independent” frameworks to create the learning environment can help align content to nursing experience or skills expected to be learnt and assessed (see Intended Learning Outcomes).

Curriculum development from setting intended learning outcomes, subject content and assessments can be aided by the use of Bloom’s Taxonomy to align and scaffold education delivery. This can help provide focus for the delivery of education and meeting educational objectives.


Benner, P. (2004) Using the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition to Describe and Interpret Skill Acquisition and Clinical Judgment in Nursing Practice and Education. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society June 2004 24: 188-199.

Benner, P. (1984). From novice to expert. Menlo Park.

Bondy, K, N. (1983). Criterion-referenced definitions for rating scales in clinical evaluation. Journal of Nursing Education. Vol. 22, no. 9, pp. 376-382.

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy: An overviewTheory into practice, 41(4), 212-218.

Iowa State University. (2016). Revised Blooms Taxonomy. Center for Excellence Learning & Teaching.

Nursing Education Network. (2017). Blooms Taxonomy & Constructivism.

Nursing Education Network. (2020). Clinical Supervision in Nursing – Nursing Education Network.