Indiana University Transformative Learning Collegium

The nature of expertise allows experts to do many difficult things all at once. These mental moves are often implicit; that is, they are “natural” and may not be available for conscious scrutiny. The bottleneck approach provides a framework for analyzing the gaps between experts and novice thinking. In the TLC faculty learn to identify bottlenecks, the places where over and over again, students struggle to learn. Then we “decode” the expert mental moves so we can make them available to students and assess student proficiency on them.


Once we’ve completed our bottleneck development process, including techniques to provide modeling and practice of the mental moves, we teach our bottleneck lessons in small groups to our TLC colleagues and receive feedback. After that, we teach them to our actual classes and collect assessments in order to again refine the bottlenecks and techniques for helping students acquire proficiency at the mental moves. Through iteration, the bottleneck viewpoint, the mental moves underlying our teaching, and assessment become a matter of habit.


The utility of the TLC being cross-disciplinary is that by looking across disciplines we can see the ways knowledge is created in other fields and compare that to our own. Our colleagues help us clarify the mental actions—the components of critical thinking in our field—that our students need to master in order to progress through the bottleneck.


Figure: 7 Steps of Decoding. Learn more about this and Decoding the Disciplines at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Indiana University Bloomington