Monday, October 01, 2012

Development of professional expertise – book summary

Title of the book is ‘Development of professional expertise: Toward measurement of expert performance and design of optimal learning environments’ (2009) - Cambridge University Press, and it has 21 chapters organised into 4 sections. With a summary/discussion chapter at the end of each section. The book is edited by K. Anders Ericsson, who has completed a body of work on expert performance and deliberate practice using research methods centred around protocol analysis and verbal reports on thinking.

The Kindle version costs US$18.70 which is a real bargain compared to the hardback version at $109! Have ordered the hardcopy for the library. As yet, there is no preview available in google books. Book review / summary also simplified as I could read on Ipad, take notes on PC and save on blogger. The summary was completed across a series of months, from initial reading while travelling in July. The bookmarking and highlighting function on the Kindle app comes into good use to mark initial points of interest and themes. At work, it was a matter of following up on the bookmarks and notes to complete the summaries of each chapter. 

The book has a focus on studying measurable situated expertise and the unravelling of factors that promote the acquisition, maintenance and on-going development of expertise. The myth that expertise is a result of accumulated experience is debunked. Instead, the need for conscientious deliberate practice is required for both novices and recognized experts to attain, maintain and continually hone skills is required.

      1) A brief history of the study of expertise is provided in chapter one. The chapter also provides background to the rationale, origins (a conference on expertise) and structure / approaches of the book.  The book as a whole, has a focus on measurable performance of expertise in a range of real world work (many within a military training / leadership context) and learning activities with the aim of understanding better, how individuals and teams acquire and develop superior performance. Brief summaries of each of the chapters is also provided.

Section 1 – historical overview covering challenges in the past and contemporary efforts.
2)   20th century revolution in military training (R. E. Chapman).
This interesting chapter, describes the evolution of training within the United States military. In particular, the move in the 1970s towards using forms of experiential /active learning supported with feedback structures, to improve outcomes of military training. Of interest is the description of the navy’s ‘top gun’ programme for combat pilots, which improved the odds of survival of fighter pilots. The norm of two planes shot down to one enemy plane shot down, improved in the navy’s favour to 12.5 planes for each enemy plan shot down, after the ‘top gun’ programme became the training approach. Top gun training involved pilots training in a simulated environment against ‘enemy planes’ that flew like and used enemy strategies.  A ‘after-action review was then used to evaluate each pilot’s performance, confronting pilots with their errors and forcing them to reflect on their performance.
The ‘top gun’ training programme was then adapted to infantry training and has been adapted over the years. Findings from the many cohorts trained through this programme include that there is a levelling off of the learning curve after initial rapid improvement.  Learning curves can be cumulative. Part task initial learning is followed by simplified whole-task training. Then realistic whole task training is undertaken before actual mission training is undertaken.  Skills also atrophy if they are not being used within 2 – 3 months of training programme.

 3) Developing professional expertise with a cognitive apprenticeship (S. P. Lajoie)
Has a good overview of the cognitive apprenticeship model as it applies to avionics troubleshooting and medical diagnosis. Describes the use of Sherlock – a task- or job specific computer assisted training programme / intelligent tutoring system to help avionics technicians work through troubleshooting airplane component faults. Following on, the concepts used have been developed further to assist medical students and doctors to learn or revise medical diagnostics.

4) Leaderships development and assessment: describing and rethinking the state of the art (M.D., Mumford, T.L. Friedrich, J.J. Caughron and A.L. Antes)
Presents a model of leader cognition as an alternative to mainly business / corporate approaches to understanding leadership.  In particular, that leadership skills are difficult to pin down, highly contextualised and leadership training does not guarantee performance at time of stress / greatest need (as when things ‘turn to custard’ on the battlefield).

      5)  Revolutions, leaders and diagnosticians: reflections on themes in chapters 2-4 (E.B. Hunt)
Not just a summary but a readable critique of the preceding three chapters.  Some historical overview also provided to help situate each chapter into time/place so that findings are taken with caution.

Section 2 – continues with past and contemporary efforts to design instruction, train and maintain professional performance has 4 chapters.

      6) Research on past and current training in professional domains: the emerging need for a paradigm shift (J.J.G. VanMerrienboer and E.W. Boot). The chapter summarises the challenges presented in present day training of professionals and discusses the role of instructional systems design (ISD) in conjunction with technology enhanced learning environments (TELEs) and presents implications for future practice.  The context is training in the military. Provides a good overview of ISD including social constructivist and whole-task design models and how these no longer cope with the challenges of present day military training demands. Also overviews of TELEs including computer-based training, intelligent tutoring systems, dynamic visual presentations and animations, hypertext and hypermedia, and computer simulations and virtual reality. Argues for the need to abandon atomistic ISD and optimise TELEs towards whole-task approaches.

 7) Designing training for professionals based on subject matter experts and cognitive task analysis (J.M. Schraagen). This chapter provides a good overview of the actual task analysis process as applied in instructional design (ID).  Provides discussion on both the advantages and disadvantages of task analysis approaches. Offers the cognitive task analysis approach, using subject matter experts as a foundation and provides a thorough explanation via case study of how to bring about a change and convert from original ID programme to cognitive task analysis. The example uses training in structured troubleshooting in the training of weapons engineers in the Royal Netherlands Navy.

      8) How to help professional maintain and improve their knowledge and skills: triangulating best practises in medicine (D.A. Davis). This chapter is based on a study of medical practitioners need to maintain currency in practice. In the past, the main models have been the update, competence and performance models. The Currency of Credit currently used is critiqued. A new model based on professional self-assessment, competency assessment and performance assessment is proposed.

 9) Advances in specifying what is to be learned: reflections on themes in chapters 6-8 (R.E. Mayer) – A couple of good tables in this chapter (9.1 and 9.2) summarise approaches to specifying what is to be learnt and kinds of knowledge. Need to assist specification of compartmentalised behaviours, compartmentalised knowledge, integrated knowledge, individualised knowledge to determine what the learner needs to know and then determine what the learner already knows and how to teach (what the learner does not yet know).

Section 3 has 5 chapters covering assessment and training of skilled and expert performers in the military
      10) Toward a second training revolution: promise and pitfalls of digital experiential training (R.E. Chatham). A long but useful chapter.  The chapter is a continuation from Chapter 2, adding in the TELE type approaches now used by the US of A military to cope with the challenges of training personnel for modern warfare. As Chatham writes, “everything short of war is similuation” . The chapter provides many examples of using TEL including simulations and games. The advantages and disadvantages of simulations and games are discussed and examples provided. Development of simulations and games is not cheap, so it is important to ensure the $$ lead to learning outcomes, in this case, life and death outcomes for military personnel. Future work on ‘distributed experiential training’ is proposed to end the chapter.

11) Evaluating pilot performance (B.T. Schreiber,W. Bennett, Jr., C.M. Colegrove, A.M. Portrey, D.A. Greschke and H.H. Bell). Here, there is an interesting historical overview of flight simulators. Learning to fly, under combat conditions, provides a good example of the holistic task analysis approach now used to ensure training is situated, experiential and authentic. Of note is that even though flight simulators are able to gather a range of assessment information from learner pilots, there is still a need for an experienced instructor pilot to complete the final instructional evaluation and make the final decision on competence / capability.

 12) Contrasting submarine specialty training: sonar and fire control (S.S. Kirshenbaum, S.L. McInnis, K.P. Correll). Two specialities requiring different forms of skill are studied to determine the efficacy of changes to the training approaches. The descriptions of the specialist skills in each occupation provides examples of detailed task analysis. The chapter details the application of the Kirkpatrick levels of assessment framework, using four levels to assess students’ skill acquisition – reaction, learning, behaviour, results.

      13) Training complex cognitive skills: a theme based approach to the development of battlefield skills (S.B. Shadrick and J.W. Lussier). An interesting chapter on the importance of ensuring soldiers are taught to think is as important as teaching them how to fight.  There is good overview and discussion on the various approaches to teaching people how to be more adaptable, flexible and versatile – the need to attain adaptive performance and adaptive thinking. Example is used of how the Soviets used to train chess players, not only to learn the mechanics of chess but to be able learn the thinking  strategies to ‘think like a grandmaster’. Interesting table 13.1 on the themes of battlefield thinking adaptable to other contexts. Also good summary of principles of deliberate practice in table 13.2. Uses the think like a commander (TLAC) TEL simulation as an example.

      14) Structuring the conditions of training to achieve elite training programs and related themes – chapters 10-13 (R.A. Bjork). This chapter unpacks the many concepts and ideas in the chapters in section 3 and reports on commonalities of the approaches. Summaries of each chapter also included.
Section 4 focuses on development of expertise and expert conference with 7 chapters.

15)  The influence of learning research on design and use of assessment (E.L. Baker).  As the title implies, this chapter covers the implications of learning design on assessment . The chapter begins with recognising that assessments will never be able to capture the inherent complexity of learning. There is also a brief overview of the history of testing including various models of learning  that inform the process of testing – table 15.4. A model based assessment of learning to encompass content understanding, problem solving, metacognition, communication and teamwork / collaboration is proposed through learning design techniques like knowledge maps and ontologies. All in a good overview of assessment.

 16) Acquiring conceptual expertise through modelling: the case of elementary physics (K.Vanlehn and B. Van De Sande). Uses physics as the context for understanding how concepts are learnt and how novices might attain misconceptions. The model assumes that conceptual expertise includes mastery of descriptive based knowledge, applying the knowledge to known conditions and confluences (equations learnt through superficial understanding followed by constructing a semantic version of the equation and eventually understanding through producing a qualitative version.

17) Teaching for expertise: problem-based methods in medicine and other professional domains (H.P.A. Boshuizen). An important chapter bringing the application of some of the ideas through the book, towards ideas of how to better teach so that students are able to learn.  Advocates for the need of horizontal and vertical integration of knowledge required to attain occupational skills and how problem based learning (PBL) may be one approach. Uses examples to explain the advantages of PBL

18)  Enhancing the development of professional performance: implications from the study of deliberate practice (K.A. Ericsson). This chapter provides a thorough overview of the studies from which the deliberate practice (DP) model was derived. There is a good summary of the rationale for the development of DP.  Application of DP to professional training and practice is also covered. Superior performance requires the learning and integration of a range of skills, knowledge and attributes. DP involves the selection of actions, the monitoring of learning as the activity is practiced and control of how the ongoing learning is progressing. All of these lead to incremental improvements in performance.

19) It takes expertise to make expertise: some thoughts about why and how – reflections on the themes chapter 15-18. (J.D.Bransford and D.L. Schwartz). The four chapters on expertise are summarised, critiqued and discussed including the both the learning and the teaching of expert performance.

20) The value of expertise and expert performance: a review of evidence from the military (J.D. Fletcher). In this chapter, the various themes throughout the book are contextualised overtly to the military learning and training context. Themes include self-assessment and self-directed learning; deliberate practice to develop expertise; agility in expertise and professional performance; assessment of professional growth towards attaining expertise; the centrality of cognition in expertise; and the importance of designing learning environments to promote expertise.  Will have a go in another blog to see how similar concept can be applied to vocational education setting.

 21)  Expertise in the management of people: a new frontier for research on expert performance (S.E.F. Chapman). This chapter explores the use of case-based instruction.  Also proposes research agenda for the future.

     Overall, a book that bring together the theoretical frameworks of expertise and reports on application of various studies to range of occupations. The situated and contextual nature of learning is affirmed as is the need for novices to have guided, structured learning experiences to attain expertise in occupations requiring the deployment of a complex range of skills. Well worth the time to work through all the chapters as each brings applicable recommendations towards the improvement of vocational education curriculum development (through ID processes), structuring learning activities to maximise learning and alignment of authentic assessment activities to what is expected in real-world practice.