There are many definitions for ‘expert’ and they all focus on someone who has spent rather a long time working within a knowledge area, making mistakes, thinking, trying, developing and learning in a rich way. Learning in a rich way, is a phrase which is not well defined, but in this context, it means that the person learns about something rather than just learns something. The person understands the knowledge area to which he or she is assigned the label ‘expert’. The expert knows why and not just how. The expert knows what can go wrong and what has gone wrong in the past and how things could have gone better. The expert can solve problems within their own knowledge area.
An expert is therefore a rather special person with considerable and varied capabilities within their knowledge domain.
Experts are capable. Experts are more than capable. So, what is capability?
We might generally accept the assignment of capable, to a person who can do something effectively and correctly. We might not expect the capable person to be able to answer complex questions about the thing they are doing or even to sort things out when something goes wrong. However, we would trust the capable person to carry out a task within the domain of their capability without too much, if any support. A capable person can be trusted with a task within the domain of their capability.
Division of Concept
It is probably difficult to think of an expert who is quite expert but not totally expert. In other words, to think of a scale of expertise which starts of from, well what, and goes up to fully expert. The distinction is much simpler, the person is or is not an expert.
Similarly, with capability. What is a capable person who is mostly capable or partly capable or capable-ish? Will that mean that they can or cannot carry out a task? Maybe we mean that they can in fact capably carry out part of a task but not the rest of it. Would it not be more correct in this case to state that the person is capable in the parts of the task which they can carry out and not capable in those parts of the task which they cannot carry out.
To say that someone is a bit capable because they can carry something out with help is a little confusing. What exactly does the help need to be. Does the helper need to guide hand movement or continually supply instructions or just occasionally state what to do next? Again. The distinction is much simpler. If the person cannot carry out the task then they are not capable in it.
Compartmentalising by dividing either expertise or capability into layers cannot be helpful to someone who needs to allocate staff to tasks. If training or education is the goal, then labeling in layers is not necessary. It is the task which should be broken down, not the label.
John L. Gordon May 2018