Adaptive expertise: Effects of type of experience and the level of theoretical understanding it generates

Thinking and Reasoning 8 (4):237 – 267 (2002)
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Abstract

This research investigates the development of transferable - "adaptive" expertise. The study contrasts problem-solving performance of two kinds of experts (business consultants and restaurant managers) on novel problems at the intersection of their two domains, as well as a group of novices (non-business undergraduates). Despite a lack of restaurant experience, consultants performed better than restaurant managers and undergraduates, even though the problems concerned a restaurant. Process measures suggest this was due to the use of more theoretical reasoning. Analyses show this resulted from differences in work experience and not other factors (e.g., education). We discuss aspects of experience that might be responsible for development of theoretical understanding and, thus, expertise that transfers to novel problems. One possible explanation, consistent with existing research from multiple approaches, is that to transfer to novel problems, experience must include substantive variability. The social context of learning may also play a role.

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