The Scando Review
The Scando Review
Nature of connections in experts’ and novices’ knowledge organisations

Nature of connections in experts’ and novices’ knowledge organisations

In the last part, we discussed the density of knowledge connections in experts’ and novices’ knowledge organisations. Today, we are talking about the nature of connections.

Knowledge organisations in novices are not only sparse compared to experts but also the basis of their organisational structures are superficial.  According to studies conducted in 1991 by Michelene T.H. Chi, cognitive and learning scientist, and Kurt A. VanLehn, professor of Computer Science and Engineering at Arizona State University, superficial knowledge bases affect their learning and the capability to use effectively what they learn.

Let us take an example from the studies conducted by Chi and VanLehn. They asked novices and experts in the physics subject to group various problems into categories. The novices grouped the problems according to their superficial organisational structure. For instance, they categorised all the problems into one group. However,  the way they organised the problems according to the surface features did not reflect the structural relationships among problems. It does not facilitate successful problem-solving. At the same time, experts organised problems based on meaningful features like the physical laws involved in solving each problem. This type of categorisation will aid them in solving problems easily.

Developing the meaningfully connected knowledge organisations that experts possess requires time, hard work and experience.

The way experts organised information in a practically useful way is linked to their abilities to recognise meaningful patterns. In 1965, Adriaan DeGroot, a chess master and a psychologist, conducted a landmark study on novice and master chess players. He showed players a chess board midgame and asked to generate possible moves. Both novices and experts calculated a roughly equivalent number of possible moves, but the quality of their moves was significantly different. Novices tend to choose their moves from a random set of possible moves, while experts weighed in the pros and cons of each move and selected a set of high-quality moves. This difference in quality stems from experts’ experience in analysing chess situations and developing possible strategies. This experience helps experts to have highly developed knowledge organisations which allow them to recognise the situations immediately and to plan high-quality moves. Apart from problem solving, the ability to see and respond to the patterns also enhances memory. These abilities are not limited to chess but has been demonstrated by experts across various domains.

Developing the meaningfully connected knowledge organisations that experts possess requires time, hard work and experience.

In addition to effective organisations around meaningful features, experts have the benefit of flexibly using knowledge organisations. For example, historians can use his knowledge that is organised around theories, time periods, methodologies, historical figures or a combination of these according to what the situation demands. However, novices do not have alternative knowledge organisations like this to tap into.

Developing the meaningfully connected knowledge organisations that experts possess requires time, hard work and experience. Most of the students will be far away from achieving this level of knowledge organisations. However, it is not an impossible task. If students try to learn and remember when to connect information in meaningful ways, they can start developing this level of knowledge organisations.

In a study conducted by Gary Lee Bradshaw, Professor at Mississippi State University, and John R. Anderson, Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, in 1982, college students were asked to learn various facts about historical figures. Bradshaw and Anderson found that the students learnt better when they were presented with the facts that could be meaningfully related to one another. Research has also shown that there are instructional approaches that can help students in organising the knowledge meaningfully. For example, giving students a solved problem and asking them to explain the solution to themselves will help them in understanding the underlying principles. It will help them solve new problems.

Guiding students through analogical reasoning will help students understand the superficial similarities and focus on deeper connections and meaningful relationships. Likewise, when students are presented with contrasting cases, they will be prepared to learn from a lecture or an assignment. These processes will help students build more effective knowledge organisations and learn more and perform efficiently.

In the next part, we can discuss strategies to enhance knowledge organisations.

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