Society & Culture - Posted by Steve McGaughey-Illinois on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 15:20 - 0 Comments
For tough problems, expert pairs work best
U. ILLINOIS (US) — Experts produce better results when they work in pairs, rather than alone, to tackle complex problems, a new study finds.
The study used expert flight instructors, student pilots (novices), and non-pilots, with 32 participants from each of the three groups. They were asked to work alone or in pairs in problem-solving tasks involving an aviation scenario. Problem solving was done with either another participant of the same level of expertise or alone and required identifying the problem in the scenario and generating a solution.
Dan Morrow, a researcher at the University of Illinois’ Beckman Institute says, as expected, the experts collaborated more effectively than pairs of novices and non-pilots to identify solutions to the problems.
“In fact, experts performed better in pairs than when working alone, while this was not the case for the less expert participants,” he says. “However, those results were found only when they were faced with a challenging rather than a simple problem-solving task.
Straight from the Source
“The findings suggest the importance of knowledge about the task for collaborative benefits,” Morrow adds. “Experts may more effectively work together than novices do because they share knowledge that helps them build up shared task representations that support joint problem solving.
“Novices, on the other hand, may have more trouble coordinating problem solving, so that they focus on different information, or interrupt each other, when trying to work together.”
Morrow and colleagues say the results, reported in the journal Thinking and Reasoning, suggest “collaborative success is a complex interaction of the prior knowledge and experience of the individuals working together, and the relation of their combined knowledge to the task (complexity level and task structure). The results support the hypothesis that individual learner and task structure combine to create a zone of proximal facilitation in which participants can go beyond what they could do individually.”
The research was supported by the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation and through a National Institutes of Health grant.
More news from the University of Illinois: www.beckman.illinois.edu