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Jim Staszewski’s research focuses on analyzing the cognitive mechanisms underlying experts’ extraordinary proficiency and applying the findings to help learners increase their proficiency. Three questions drive the research: (1) What knowledge and strategies produce exemplary human performance? (2) What underlying mechanisms build proficiency, and how do they do so? (3) How can a detailed understanding of expertise and its acquisition guide the design of instruction capable of facilitating novices’ skill development? 

Recent and ongoing projects address all three questions through a single research strategy: performing information-processing analyses of expertise and using the findings as blueprints for instructional design and for assessment of the effects of the instruction. The research fits neither the usual conception of applied research nor of theoretical research; instead, it fits the category of “use-inspired research,” described in Stokes’ (1997) book, Pasteur’s Quadrant. Use-inspired research is simultaneously theoretically informative and practically important. It often arises in domains such as the ones studied in this research program, in which detailed theoretical analyses are needed before crucial practical challenges can be met, and the data that arise from evaluations of the practical applications provide valuable feedback for improving the theoretical analyses. This approach has characterized Staszewski’s projects on landmine detection, intelligence analysis, and medical instruction. Consistent with Simon’s (1990) tenet that understanding complex human cognition demands a detailed understanding of the task environments to which experts have adapted – and to which novices must adapt to gain proficiency -- studies of both experts who already are highly proficient and novices who are in the process of becoming proficient are carried out in field settings, such as Army training/testing sites. The fact that the programs developed to train land mine detection skills have been adopted force-wide by the U. S. Army attests to the practical utility of the research and the body of principles, theory, and methods basic researchers have developed to understand human expertise.

Simon, H. A. (1990). Invariants of human behavior. Annual review of psychology, 14, 1-19.
Stokes, D. E. (1997). Pasteur’s quadrant: Basic science and technological innovation. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.

Current Projects

• Retention of Landmine Detection Skill
• Analysis and Assessment of Intelligence Analysis Skills
• Analysis of the Landmine Detection and Clutter Discrimination Skills of an
  AN/ PSS-14 Expert
• Evaluation of the US Army Engineer School’s Implementation of Landmine
  Detection Training based on Expert Skill 
• Development of Virtual Reality Environment for Training Landmine Detection
• Basic Studies of Visually-available Terrestrial Cues for Landmine Detection
• Expertise in Medical Diagnosis

(through collaboration with Alan Davison, Ph.D., LTC-R)

Training programs for AN/PSS-12 and AN/PSS-14 operators based on models of
experts’ land mine detection skills have been evaluated, adopted, and implemented
force-wide by the US Army.

Recommendations for revision of US Army Engineer School’s (USAES) PSS-14 operator
training based on New Equipment Training evaluation approved for adoption by USAES.

Updated 3/10/06 JS/tc


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