Chase and Simon used perception and short-term memory recall tasks to determine underlying skills in master chess players when compared to either medium or beginner level players. Master chess players were shown to be able to reconstruct chess positions almost perfectly after viewing boards for 5 seconds, despite struggling just as much as other levels with reconstructing random boards. Master players are able to effectively chunk structures of meaningful positions. Meaningful positions correspond to common configurations of pieces, such as common arrangements of pawns and rooks in a castled-King configuration. Master players were also found to be able to group larger chunks and more of them compared to lower skill levels of chess players.
It was interesting to see how master players were no better at memorizing random configurations; rather, master players use their experience in playing to memorize common configurations of pieces very rapidly. With respect to Chi’s investigation of novices and experts solving physics problems, it is interesting to see how experts in both fields successfully tackle problems. Thinking ahead to teaching in a classroom, I’m curious about how we as teachers can help novice students think like experts. How does this process occur besides experience and learning over a long period of time? Is there a way to expedite the process with certain instructional techniques or types of problem solving? I think there might be a way to help students recognize the merits to memorizing in chunks. However, experience might be needed to be able to recognize the most common “chunks,” as stated in Chase and Simon’s article. This technique reminds me of strategies recommended in organic chemistry; being able to recognize how molecules react is much more successful and easier than memorizing hundreds of combinations of interactions.
Chi investigated how novice and expert physicists approach and solve problems and, through four studies, found that novices tended to sort problems by surface similarity (objects or physical terms/configurations) while experts tended to sort problems by “deep structure,” i.e. physical principles that allow one to solve problems. Not surprisingly, intermediate level students were found to group problems not entirely be surface similarity but not entirely by “deep structure” either but somewhere in between these two techniques. Novices were also found to only mention object categories rather than second order features, such as descriptions of states or conditions, like experts did.
Thinking ahead to the future, it is curious to think about how novice and expert students in a biology classroom will look, most likely very similar to novice and expert physicists. For the purpose of considering a future classroom, it’s safe to assume novices will behave similarly across science subjects, and I would also predict biology novices to sort problems by surface features and identify features by object categories rather than by deep structure and second order features. Again, I wonder how we as teachers can quicken the transformation of a novice to an expert student.
Perhaps one technique that would assist in the transformation of novice students to expert ones is collaboration as depicted by Galileo’s discussion. Student led inquiry based collaboration shares knowledge between students of varying skill levels, and can allow novice students to emulate thought patterns of experts in the middle of problem solving. Lehrer’s proposal of engaging students in the practices of practicing scientists also has merit in advancing a novice’s level with real world experience.