Expertise Development and Learning Processes
Expertise Development and Learning Processes: Processing of information-rich environments

Learning is more than an outcome; it is an ongoing process. It may take from several minutes of rehearsing a text to years of deliberate practice to reach expertise within a profession. Fast technological development already influenced this process, and will continue do so. For instance, students not only learn from few textbooks, but have a variety of computer- and internet-based information on their disposal; both when learning and taking an exam. Likewise, most professions changed over the past decades. For instance, medical doctors not only have to diagnose static X-rays, but also interactive 3-D scans. What these scenarios have in common is that people have to deal with an increasing amount of information that is presented in a constantly more complex manner. Understanding how people visually and cognitively process such environments will enable us to unfold their potential for learning, and limit their challenges for human processing capacities.


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).

Methodological issues

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.


  • Teachers’ professional vision and its effect on classroom management (1) (Halszka Jarodzka)
    To successfully teach and manage a classroom full of pupils, teachers must see and detect what pupils do and whether they are attentive. In one cross-sectional expertise study and a 4-year longitudinal study we investigate this professional vision of teachers with mobile eye tracking while they are teaching a class.
    Listen to Halska Jarodzka on Dutch radio about her research...
  • Teachers’ professional vision and its effect on classroom management (2) (Sharisse van Driel)
    To successfully teach and manage a classroom full of pupils, teachers must understand what pupils do and whether they are attentive. In one cross-sectional expertise study and a 4-year longitudinal study we investigate this professional vision of teachers with verbal reports while they are teaching a class.
    In collaboration with the Fontys
    Read more (in Dutch)...
  • The digital classroom (Halszka Jarodzka as visiting scholar at Lund University, Sweden)
    The learning landscape is changing. Future students will use more electronic media than traditional books. Research in this laboratory, a classroom equipped with 25 eye trackers, shall lead to new materials tailored to each child's ability and interest through a series of studies investigating multimedia learning and social effects.
  • Influence of reading anxiety, self-efficacy, motivation and strategies on eye movement measured reading performance of low literate adults (Paula Gouw)
    Too many adults still lack even basic literacy skills, which leads to enormous effects on their individual lives and their economic and social well-being. The purpose of this project is twofold. First, to develop a diagnostic instrument including eye movement based testing. Second, to implement these results in training.
  • Adaptive Instruction to foster students’ information problem solving skills: learning to organize digital information (Jaap Walhout)
    Students often conduct assignments that require searching for information on the internet. However, they lack the according skills. An important aspect of the information-problem solving skill is organizing information. In this project, two different types of organizing information from bookmarks were studied (hierarchical organizers vs. tagging).
  • Scaffolding self-regulation through peer-tutor guidance: Effects on the acquisition of domain-specific skills and self-regulated learning skills, (Michelle Nugteren)
    Learning with the support of a peer-tutor effectively scaffolds a tutee's cognitive skill acquisitionThis project investigates whether using peer-tutoring to teach self-assessment skills and task-selection skills either in pre-training, during SRL, or both, is effective for improving SRL-skills and domain-specific skills in both procedural and conceptual tasks.
  • Skeptic or conspiracist? Critical thinking when processing attitude-inconsistent information ininformation-rich environments (Johan van Strien)
    As anyone can put anything on the internet, it is full of contradictory or even wrong information. Critical thinking is necessary to protect oneself from an increasing amount of misinformation and superstition. This project aims to investigate what constitutes critical thinking in complex, information-rich environments.
  • Development of classroom management skills in teacher training (Charlotte Wolff)
    Teacher training covers classroom management, but beginning teachers frequently cite this as a critical challenge for which they feel underprepared. This project aims to improve classroom processing by capturing teachers-in-training conceptualizations of classroom management and using annotated videos. Through training, teachers’ attention is guided towards relevant cues for monitoring and managing classroom situations.
  • Effectiveness of Blended Learning: Factors Facilitating Effective Behavior in a Blended Learning Environment (Nynke Bos)
    The use of educational technology to support face-to-face education continues to be an important priority. Current approaches of blended learning within universities are related to logistics, providing students with additional resources that can be accessed at the student's own pace to preface or complement face-to-face The central research question in this project is: which student characteristics and external conditions when utilizing blended learning could explain the degree of adoption and effectiveness that blended learning has on course performance?
  • Information Literacy Instruction within Distance Higher Education: achieving long-term transfer (Laurent Testers)
    In many parts of the world knowledge and information play an increasingly important role in people’s lives. People are urged to a lifelong learning and, in order to find their way in the ever-growing amount of information and multi-media, have to have an adequate level of information literacy. This research will be implemented within the rapidly growing distance higher adult education and will focus on designing a theory and evidence-based concept for the instruction of information problem solving competencies that will stimulate their transfer to situations outside the educational setting for the benefit of lifelong learning.
  • The integration of the lifelong learning skill ‘Information problem solving’ into higher education: Effects of different types of feedback and guidance (Jimmy Frerejean)
    An excedingly important lifelong learning skill is searching for and finding learning resources needed for competency development and sustenance. The development of this skill allows one to effectively find learning resources needed in later professional life. However, research reveals that both students and adult learners have severe problems finding resources and processing relevant and reliable information. They are easily overwhelmed by tasks that require them to perform domain-specific skills and search for useful information at the same time. This research studies ‘emphasis manipulation’ as an approach to provide students with alternated support on domain-specific skills and information searching skills when learning from realistic tasks. Furthermore special attention is given to the transfer of the learned lifelong learning skill.


Key publications:

  • Boshuizen, H. P. A. (2016). Teaching as regulation and dealing with complexity. Instructional Science, 1-4. DOI: 10.1007/s11251-016-9377-x
  • Brand-Gruwel, S., Wopereis, I., & Vermetten, Y. (2005). Information problem solving by experts and novices: Analysis of a complex cognitive skill. Computers in Human Behavior, 21(3), 487-508. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2004.10.005
  • Holmqvist, K., Nyström, N., Andersson, R., Dewhurst, R., Jarodzka, H., & Van de Weijer, J. (2011). Eye tracking: a comprehensive guide to methods and measures, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Jaarsma, T., Jarodzka, H., Nap, M., Van Merriёnboer, J.J.G., & Boshuizen, H.P.A. (2014). Expertise differences under the microscope: processing histopathological slides. Medical Education, 48(3), 292-300. DOI:10.1111/medu.12385
  • Jarodzka, H., Scheiter, K., Gerjets, P., & Van Gog, T. (2010). In the eyes of the beholder: How experts and novices interpret dynamic stimuli. Learning and Instruction, 20, 146-154. DOI: 10.1016/j.learninstruc.2009.02.019
  • Nievelstein, F., Van Gog, T., Van Dijck, G., & Boshuizen, H. P. (2013). The worked example and expertise reversal effect in less structured tasks: Learning to reason about legal cases. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 38(2), 118-125. DOI:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2012.12.004
  • Van den Bogert, N., van Bruggen, J., Kostons, D., & Jochems, W. (2014). First steps into understanding teachers' visual perception of classroom events. Teaching and Teacher Education, 37, 208-216. DOI: 10.1016/j.tate.2013.09.001
  • Van Strien, J. L., Brand-Gruwel, S., & Boshuizen, H. P. (2014). Dealing with conflicting information from multiple nonlinear texts: Effects of prior attitudes. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 101-111. DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2013.11.021
  • Walhout, J., Brand-Gruwel, S., Jarodzka, H., Van Dijk, M., De Groot, R., & Kirschner, P. (2015). Learning and navigating in hypertext: Navigational support by hierarchical menu or tag cloud. Computer in Human Behavior, 46, 218-227. DOI:10.1016/j.chb.2015.01.025
  • Wolff, C. E., Van den Bogert, N., Jarodzka, H., & Boshuizen, H.P.A. (2015). Keeping an eye on learning: Differences between expert and novice teachers’ representations of classroom management events. Journal of Teacher Education, 6(1), 68–85. DOI:10.1177/0022487114549810

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