Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Developing Adaptive Expertise

Where does the adaptiveness of adaptive experts come from? Adaptive experts are assumed to possess as the source of their flexibility and inventiveness, conceptual knowledge of the objects of the procedures (that is, what each of these objects is like). ‘Flexibility and adaptability seem to be possible only when there is some corresponding conceptual knowledge to give meaning to each step of the skill and provide criteria for selection among possible alternatives for each step within the procedure’ (Hatano, 1982: 15). Such conceptual knowledge enables experts to construct mental models of the major entities of the domain, which can be used in mental simulation. Using Holyoak's (1991) expression, the key to adaptive expertise is the development of deeper conceptual understanding of the target domain. Needless to say, such conceptual understanding must be connected to procedural competencies and meta-cognitive awareness and monitoring of one's own understanding.

It is hypothesized that if people ask themselves why a skill works or why each step is needed during its application, this question will tend to lead them to form some conceptual knowledge about the object (Hatano & Oura, 2003). This was similar to what Donald Schön (1991) called ‘reflection-in-action’ as against technical problem solving in his attempt to characterise professionals. Although experts are seldom taught conceptual knowledge in the verbalised form, they may construct it in the process of solving problems or performing tasks in the domain.

Identifying particular kinds of learning experiences that develop adaptive expertise is a serious challenge for educational researchers. Hatano and Inagaki (1992) proposed four conditions that would promote sustained comprehension activity that is likely to lead to adaptive expertise. Their proposal is based on the assumption that cognitive incongruity (a state of feeling that current comprehension is inadequate; for example, wondering why a given procedure works) induces enduring comprehension activity, including seeking further information from the outside, retrieving another piece of prior knowledge, generating new inferences, examining the compatibility of inferences more closely, and so forth. The first two of the proposed conditions are concerned with the arousal of cognitive incongruity and the last two with the elicitation of committed and persistent comprehension activity in response to induced incongruity. The four conditions are: (1) encountering fairly often a novel problem to which prior knowledge is not readily applicable or a phenomenon that disconfirms a prediction based on prior knowledge; (2) engaging in frequent dialogical interaction, such as discussion, controversy, and reciprocal teaching; (3) being free from urgent external need (e.g., material rewards or positive evaluations), and thus able to pursue comprehension even when it is time consuming; and (4) being surrounded by reference group members who value understanding.

These conditions can be rephrased in terms of the nature of the practice in which people participate. For example, when a practice is oriented toward skillfully solving a fixed class of problems (e.g., making the same products for years), participants tend not to encounter novel problems, and thus they are likely to become experts distinguished in terms of speed, accuracy, and automaticity (i.e., routine experts). In contrast, when successful participation in a practice requires meeting varied and changing demands (e.g., making new, fashionable products), participants' prior knowledge must be applied flexibly, and they are likely to acquire adaptive skills. From socio-cultural perspectives, adaptive experts may not be characterised only by their domain-specific knowledge; in order to invent new procedures, for example, in addition to deeper conceptual understanding, people have to be able to participate in discourse, offer valuable suggestions, evaluate others' suggestions, and so on.

Adaptive experts exhibit a strong proactive desire to continuously learn from their experiences, improve performance and accept that their understanding will always change (Hatano & Oura, 2003). Underpinning beliefs and attitudes, along with the behaviours that are inevitably associated with such views can be both learned and taught (Perkins & Grotzer, 1997; Perkins, Jay & Tishman, 1993b). For any leader who is more able to learn flexibly in new situations, as with any learning, the process will become natural, unconscious and automated (Shuell, 1990). Fazey et al., (2005) suggest that a person who learns how to be a good learner will eventually develop greater openness to change and become more adaptive. It is anticipated that they will become a more effective outdoor leader, particularly on expeditions, as a consequence.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What is Adaptive Expertise

Adaptive expertise is a broad construct that encompasses a range of cognitive, motivational, and personality-related components, as well as habits of mind and dispositions (Bransford et al., 2000; Hatano & Oura, 2003; Schwartz et. al., 2005). Its empirical validity has been examined in a number of training and learning contexts. In a series of blog posts, the adaptive expertise paradigm will be reviewed as well as the associated literature that documents the various benefits this conceptual approach has been shown to confer including innovativeness, flexibility in performance, and learning through problem solving (Barnett & Koslowski, 2002: Fisher & Peterson, 2001; Holyoak, 1991).

Expertise can be thought of as a continuum of adaptive ability making the distinction between those characterised as ‘merely skilled’ versus ‘highly competent’; as ‘artisans’ versus ‘virtuosos’ (Miller, 1978; Wineburg, 1998); or as those approaching a problem in a routine versus more flexible way (Schwartz et al., 2005). Artisan and virtuoso experts have in common extensive knowledge and skills with a capacity, where necessary, to skilfully apply well known procedures to address domain-specific issues. What differs, however, is their approach to problem solving and attitudes towards expertise, especially their own. Artisan experts regard new problems as opportunities to simply do a task more efficiently with their existing expertise (Bransford et al., 2000). By comparison, the notion of adaptive expertise highlights that a new problem can be viewed as a point of departure for exploration (Miller, 1978) and virtuosos see this as a means to expand and improve their skills and knowledge (Wineburg, 1998).

The latter observation flags the importance of differing views of expertise between artisans and virtuosos. Artisan experts commonly regard expertise as entailing knowing everything that is necessary and thus having all the answers. Success thus resides in using efficiently what one already knows. Adaptive experts, however, view their expertise as a ‘work in progress’ and realise that their current knowledge represents only a small part of what it is possible to know. Given this insight, they are happy to search out new information and to seek assistance from others. They have, in other words, no investment in appearing to be the expert (Bransford et al., 2000). Another perspective is to see adaptive experts as being more ‘meta-cognitive’, as in more aware of their own knowledge stores and gaps therein.

Giyoo Hatano (1982) proposed the notion of adaptive expertise as an ideal for educational researchers looking to find ways to teach students so they can apply learned procedures flexibly or adaptively. Keith Holyoak (1991) aptly makes the distinction that ‘…whereas routine experts are able to solve familiar types of problems quickly and accurately, they have only modest capabilities in dealing with novel types of problems. Adaptive experts, on the other hand, may be able to invent new procedures derived from their expert knowledge’ (Holyoak, 1991: 310). Giyoo Hatano and Kayoko Inagaki (1986) take this characterization further and state that adaptive experts are able to (1) comprehend why those procedures they know work; (2) modify those procedures flexibly when needed; and (3) invent new procedures when none of the known procedures are effective.

A distinguishing feature of adaptive expertise is the ability to apply knowledge effectively to novel problems or atypical cases in a domain without glossing over distinctive factors.. Adaptability allows experts to recognise when rules and principles that generally govern their performance do not apply to problems or situations (Gott, Hall, Pokorny, Dibble & Glaser, 1992). Moreover, studies have shown that this flexibility can result in better performance than that of experts who do not display cognitive flexibility, resulting in, amongst other things, more accurate medical diagnosis (Feltovich et al., 1997), better technical trouble shooting (Gott et al., 1992), and workplace error avoidance (Woods, Johannesen, Cook & Sarter, 1994). This flexible, ingenious application of knowledge in unique cases underlies adaptive experts’ greater tendency to enrich and refine their understanding on the basis of continuing experience to learn from problem-solving episodes.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Objects of Desire


Is it that obvious? Okay I admit it; I do like Apple-branded things. But have a look at this. An Apple-branded Audi TT. Sleek on the outside, clever on the inside, the Audi-Apple iCar is TT-terrific. You knew it had to happen some day. In the world we live in we put an ‘I’ in front of everything, so they obviously couldn’t leave out the iCar. Hopefully this car will arrive soon so we can move on in the growing world of iDesign and put an ‘I’ in front of something else. iWoman?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Adventure Sports Coaching - Kayak Week

One of the degrees being run by the University of Central Lancashire is titled Adventure Sports Coaching which aims to provide students with coaching theory and practice within the context of outdoor activities. Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on developing a range of professional skills and coaching techniques that are applicable within the adventure sector.

One such area of development for the students is their knowledge of and personal abilities within paddlesports, amongst other outdoor pursuits, and this week saw them come down to Tyn Dwr in Llangollen fro week one of a six week series of residential programmes run over two semesters.

The kayaking week took in a number of venues including Llangollen Canal, Trevor Basin, Llyn Alwen, sections of the Afon Dee as well as the infamous Serpents Tail. The premise being that the students will benefit from exposure to a number of environments, teaching styles and coaching processes. For instance, this week saw them working with Olly Sanders and Dan Butler who are both well established BCU coaches.

So the week began initially by looked at fundamental paddle techniques and then moved into areas of leadership, journey skills and principles of safety. So not only assisting them in becoming well rounded paddlers in their own right but also exposing the students to the broader picture of what is needed to operate in the outdoors effectively.

The students faired well and were blessed with good weather. Plenty of swims were had, some intentional, some not so. They soon learnt the philosophy that 'there are those who have swam, and there are those who are about to'. All in all a good first week for the Adventure Sports Coaching who have begun this degree programme.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Objects of Desire


Okay okay, you knew this was coming eventually. But enough with the waiting already! Apple already reinvented music with their iPhones, iPods and smart phones and now Apple is trying to do the same for video and photographs. The iEye is the ultimate mobile device for capturing, editing, and distributing all of your iLife memories. In a slim, sleek, easy-to-use package, the iEye records stills and video, all in high definition

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Philosophiae Doctor Abstract

The Leadership Pathway:

An Epistemological Exploration of
Outdoor Leadership and
Expedition Dynamics
Using Theory Elaboration

The thesis focuses on theory elaboration and knowledge creation on the part of a practitioner-researcher examining leadership in the outdoors and on expedition. It aims to contribute to an epistemological shift in how individuals approach their development as leaders and intends to generate critical thinking in relation to the leader / participant relationship. Central to this thesis is the examination of emerging paradigms created by the enquiry process with the belief that research can inform practice, and reflection on that practice creates understanding that is applicable to future real world settings.

The research involved gathering data from key stakeholders, including the participants and leaders of outdoor education and expedition programmes, using both quantitative and qualitative techniques in order to achieve methodological diversity. Under investigation were three distinct and logically separable, yet mutually relevant perspectives. Firstly, how participants perceived leadership behaviour and what the associated effects were. Secondly, how practitioners perceived their own approach to leadership and whether an individual’s epistemological beliefs influence their worldviews. Thirdly, what relational dynamics existed between the process of leadership and the formation of a successful team as viewed in an expedition context.

A research cohort was generated by participants from schools in Wales attending 28-day overseas youth development expeditions as provided by Outlook Expeditions. Further data collection occurred by approaching established practitioners and expedition leaders in the field of outdoor education using on-line forums to give access to a UK wide sample to discuss issues emergent in contemporary leadership and expedition culture. Lastly, the investigation process adopted a phenomenographic approach with 12 participants engaging in a wilderness sea kayaking journey in Alaska to explore the dynamics that exist on expedition.

The findings highlight a number of important considerations for leadership practitioners. In order for leaders to be effective, they require a sophisticated understanding of which behaviours are most applicable as participants mature through the development process. Awareness is also needed of how epistemological beliefs affect the cognitive processes of those in a leadership role thus influencing the leader’s practices and behaviours. It is highly valuable that leaders have the capacity to be adaptive and they are motivated to act flexibly in any given situation. Participants have values, beliefs and identities that ascribe personal meaning, direction and motivation to an expedition setting. Therefore, good leadership in the outdoors depends on the integration of these personal values, beliefs and participants’ identity along with the possession of affective skills to complement them.

The thesis draws conclusions surrounding each of the studies, identifies a number of implications for leadership development and makes recommendations that centre on creating a leadership pathway framed by a competency grid. An alternate methodology for future research is also proposed.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Objects of Desire

MacBook Touch

It appears that the Apple tablet rumors just won’t die. There is a rumor that a certain company have supplied touch screens to Apple for an alleged tablet. As of today Apple hasn’t released word of a touch screen tablet yet. We are only thinking, where is the keyboard and the mouse? If those two pop-up wouldn’t that take up a lot of space on the tablet. Plus, you can’t sit up right and type comfortably. Well Apple, we think you still have some creative thinking to do.