Expertise Enhancement

Background

Much of what follows arises from a colleague's thesis on enhancing venturing expertise (Mitchell, 1994) and a subsequent "fact sheet" prepared by the author for an online small business course delivered by Harcourt Higher Education (Leach & Mitchell, 2000). Experts outperform novices within their area of expertise because they recognize immediately that which novices require great effort to discover. This expertise is not general to all situations but specific to their domain of expertise. Those with experience in a specific domain are expected to possess more expertise because they have developed an expertise specific script. Scripts are defined as commonly recognized sequences and events that permit rapid comprehension of expertise-specific information by experts. An expert script refers to highly developed, sequentially ordered knowledge in a specific field. It is often acquired through extensive real-world experience and dramatically improves the information processing capabilities of the expert. In addition to the many experiences that are common to action in an area of expertise, each expert can be expected to have some unique experiences that make his or her "script" distinct. It follows that individualized "scripts" will be a desired and expected outcome of this course.

Experts

A fundamental assertion of Expert Information Processing Theory is that experts interpret cues in problem statements differently than do novices. EIPT scholars maintain that knowledge is schematized, that is, organized in chunks or packages, so that given a little bit of appropriate situational context, the individual has available many likely inferences on what might happen next in a given situation. Experts recognize context as well as content. Limitations arise for novices due to their inability to infer knowledge from the literal cues in expertise specific problem statements.

Expert knowledge is organized around principles and abstractions that: are not apparent in the problem statement; subsume literal objects; derive from knowledge about the application of particular subject matter.

Enhancing Expertise

One technique for enhancing expertise is an experiential process that utilizes individual contact with expert scripts. The process follows a course of interrogation, instantiation, and falsification whereby script rules and generalizations are tested and revised by student novices in ways that facilitate the creation of additional expertise in individuals. It is suggested that comparing scripts is an efficient way for novices to learn expertise in a particular role (Glaser, 1982; Leddo & Abelson, 1986).

Another technique owes its heritage to Simulation and Gaming theory and suggests a series of activities for experiential learning that engage students in three levels of learning from a simulation: participating, writing, and debriefing. In script enhancement activities, participation is the core learning activity. Participating includes classes, expert interviews, and/or site visits, a special set of videos, interacting with expert-assistance computer programs, etc.

Writing or journalizing personal scripts (or revised script) that results from the participative activities is essential to building personal expertise. A written project will help journalize an individual script baseline. Debriefing workshops that provide the opportunity to discuss compare, and contrast personal scripts with the scripts of others will add depth to individual scripts by helping to identify potential blind spots and eliminate them. The transfer of, and/or emphasis of, particular script information is speeded up through the debriefing process. Participation in these expertise enhancement processes affects an individual's frame of reference, belief structure, and levels of schemata completion and is expected to positively influence an individual's expertise (Leach & Mitchell, 2000).

Glaser, R. (1982). Instructional Psychology: Past Present & Future. American Psychologist, 37, 292-305.

Leach, E., & Mitchell, R. K. (2000). Fact Sheet #3: Expert information processing theory; A model for expertise enhancement (pp. 10). Halifax NS: Dalhousie University.

Leddo, J., & Abelson, R. P. (1986). Knowledge Structures (Vol. The Nature of Explanations). Hillsdale NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum & Associates.

Mitchell, R. K. (1994). The Composition, Classification, and Creation of New Venture Formation Expertise. The University of Utah, Salt Lake City.