The focus of this topic is learning and expertise development within information-rich environments. Such environments entail large amounts of information, of which part is irrelevant (Schnotz & Lowe, 2008). Part of it is not available at all times, either because it is transient (Hegarty, 1992) or because it spreads across different sources (Kalyuga, Chandler, & Sweller, 1999). For some environments, such as the Internet, information across different sources may be conflicting and of varying trustworthiness (Bråten, Britt, Strømsø, & Rouet, 2011). On top of that, many of these environments – in particular in professional settings – change across the years. Hence, people have to adapt to these changes, even if they were already experts in them. We investigate how people overcome the challenges in visually and cognitively processing them and how this can be supported by instruction.
Processes of learning
Investigating learning processes within such environments is challenging as many educational theories (e.g., Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning: Mayer, 2005), were developed based on experiments with simplified material. Even though such systematic testing of various instructional effects was crucial for establishing these theories, they now have to be proven “in the wild” of educational practice. We do this, for instance, in the computer-based testing environments of CITO (Jarodzka, Janssen, Kirschner, & Erkens, 2015).
Second, we also investigate theories for more complex scenarios on a process level. For instance, the theory of information-problem-solving by Brand-Gruwel, Wopereis, and Vermetten (2005) describes the complex process of solving an information problem on the internet. One research line within this topic combines diverse process-tracing techniques (log-files, verbal reports, eye tracking) to investigate all involved process in depth. For instance, in information-problem-solving on the internet (Van Strien, Kammerer, Brand-Gruwel, & Boshuizen, 2016; Walhout et al., 2015).
Third, many information-rich environments spread relevant information across different sources and different type of media (e.g., text, video, etc.). Research on the integration of conflicting information from multiple texts has shown that readers can detect conflicting information (Braasch, Bråten, Britt, Steffens, & Strømsø, 2014) but may also be frustrated by such information (Van Strien, Brand-Gruwel, & Boshuizen, in preparation). We investigate how this works in settings with multiple documents of different modalities.
Fourth, instructional practices, such as cognitive modeling (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1989) or example-based learning (Van Gog & Rummel, 2010) have proven to be effective in fostering traditional skills (e.g., solving mathematical equations). In this research topic, we apply these practices to learning of perceptual skills, such as zoological classification or medical diagnosis (Jarodzka et al., 2012; Jarodzka, Van Gog, Dorr, Scheiter, & Gerjets, 2013). We do this by eye movement modeling examples, which are instructional videos showing a model explaining and executing a task, while the attentional focus of the model is displayed in the form of his or her eye movements.
Processes of expertise development
Learning as described so far, aims at novice learners and their small steps in reaching a basic knowledge level. However, individual development does not stop at this step. On the contrary, people who want to reach expertise within a specific domain have to engage in deliberate practice to do so (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993). This type of engagement leads to qualitatively different representations of knowledge within diverse stages of expertise. Boshuizen and Schmidt (2008) describe in their theory of medical expertise how knowledge is structured in three main stages of expertise development and how this plays in professional practice (i.e., clinical reasoning). A core research line within this topic has investigated professional expertise and its development in its visual aspects (Jaarsma et al., in press; Jaarsma, Jarodzka, Nap, Van Merriënboer, & Boshuizen, 2015; Jaarsma, Jarodzka, Nap, Van Merriёnboer, & Boshuizen, 2014) and aims at extending this theory with these aspects. In that, one recent topic investigated is the visual expertise teachers possess in managing a classroom (Wolff, Jarodzka, Van den Bogert, & Boshuizen, in press; Wolff, Van den Bogert, Jarodzka, & Boshuizen, 2015). Furthermore, another aim of this research line is to investigate how to train these visual aspects of expertise (Jaarsma, Boshuizen, Jarodzka, & Van Merriënboer, in preparation; Kok et al., 2015).
When investigating processes it is crucial to find the appropriate process-tracing techniques. As the processes we are interested in are primarily cognitive but involve also strong perceptual components, the two main techniques of choice are verbal reports (Ericsson & Simon, 1993) and eye tracking (Holmqvist et al., 2011). The main research challenges when using these techniques are developing detailed quantitative and qualitative analyses of processes, linking these analyses to concrete cognitive processes and theoretical constructs, and triangulating these data sources.