Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Expertise in Ill-Defined Problem-Solving Domains as Effective Strategy Use

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Expertise in Ill-Defined Problem-Solving Domains as Effective Strategy Use

Article excerpt

Expertise consists of many different cognitive structures. Lemaire and Siegler (1995) have proposed a four-layered account of expertise from a strategies perspective: Experts have better strategies, tend to use strategies that are better overall more often, are better able to select the circumstances to which a strategy best applies, and are better able to execute a given strategy. Originally, this account came from work in simple, well-defined domains. We explored this account in the complex, ill-defined domain of platoon leadership. In Experiment 1A, we elicited free-text responses to leadership scenarios from novices, intermediates, and experts, finding expertise effects for strategy base rates and choice, but not for strategy existence or the number of strategies used. In Experiment 1B, we used a new group of experts to gather ratings of the execution accuracy of the responses in Experiment 1A and found expertise differences in the ability to execute the same strategies. We propose several elaborations to the original four-layered strategies account of expertise on the basis of these results.

What is the nature of expertise in complex domains? The research literature has shown that experts have acquired a variety of cognitive structures that contribute to their high levels of performance (for summaries, see Ericsson, 1996; Feltovich, Ford, & Hoffman, 1997; Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2003). Candidate cognitive structures include greater familiarity with those aspects of situations that facilitate memory (Gobet & Simon, 1996), better representations that capture the more important features of the domain (Chi, Feltovich, & Glaser, 1981), access to previous solutions (Logan, 1988), and well-practiced component skills (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Rômer, 1993). One general perspective on expertise that we will explore is the strategies perspective, which can include a variety of the different cognitive structures underlying expertise, but organized together in a way that allows for layered predictions.

The most basic instantiation of the strategies perspective is that experts have better strategies than do novices and that this difference in strategy existence explains why experts' performance is higher than that of novices. Here, a strategy is defined as a coherent set of steps for solving a problem in a context in which different coherent sets of steps are possible. For example, older children have a min strategy for adding two numbers (count up from the larger of the two numbers by the smaller amount), whereas younger children use a less sophisticated count-all strategy, and that strategy difference explains, in part, why older children add numbers more quickly (Siegler & Jenkins, 1989).

Although this basic strategy difference seems quite plausible and parsimonious, it has been shown to be incomplete in research done by Siegler and others in the late 198Os and early 1990s. In particular, in a wide variety of domains, it became clear that every individual possesses multiple strategies at every point in time and that one cannot describe learning or development as the transition from the predominant use of a worse strategy to the predominant use of a better strategy. Instead, learning is more clearly the change from one mixture of strategies to another mixture of strategies (see Siegler, 1996, for a review).

What did this new conception of strategy use imply for expertise? Lemaire and Siegler (1995) proposed a fourlayered conceptual model, called the adaptive strategy model (ASM) for those aspects of strategies that might differ with expertise. The four layers are strategy existence, strategy base rate, strategy choice, and strategy execution.

On the basis of the strategy existence dimension, one can predict that experts will have some useful strategies that novices do not, although experts and novices will have many strategies in common (Lee & Anderson, 2001; Schraagen, 1993; Schunn & Anderson, 1999; Voss, Tyler, & Yengo, 1983). …

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