Hill and Schneider's research indicates that the levels of brain activation and areas involved arc different in individuals with different levels of expertise. Their research also shows that the brain reorganizes itself, shifting activity to new neural pathways in other regions, and in some cases there is evidence of an increase in grey matter as an individual gains more skill-based experience and uses different strategies after extended periods of training on a specific task.3 This is often referred to as brain plasticity. However, can we see these experimental research results in the workplace?
What Is an Expert?
The conclusions from the Hill and Schneider and Maguire research arc consistent with the findings of other researchers, that developing into an expert requires building knowledge and skills through a cumulative process over a period of years.0 '-8 This process begins in youth and continues throughout one's professional life." Developing expert performance requires approximately 10 years or about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice and experience.10 " Researchers also generally agree that this deliberate practice and experience must be within a specific discipline or occupational area. As one moves from novice to expert, it is the cumulative effects of education, training, experiences, thinking and sharing within the discipline or occupation that result in the developmental change. 12 13
Of the many explanations about how people change as they develop expertise,
* "Intuitive processing" implies the person understands the situation and takes action without analyzing it.
* The terms "situational," "situationdependent" or "context-bound" imply the decision or action taken is appropriate for a specific situation or condition.
* "Context-free" implies the decision or action taken would be appropriate in many different situations.
Novice: Without the benefit of experience, novice performers need to break tasks into smaller context-free components and apply rules they have learned to follow. For example, a novice driver uses the speedometer to gauge speed and applies knowledge of the speed limit and safety rules to adjust speed accordingly.
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