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From Intellectual Development To Expertise

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Learning Styles

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.581.1 - 7.581.11



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Paper Authors

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SangHa Lee

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Stefani A. Bjorklund

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John Wise

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Thomas Litzinger

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Main Menu Session 2430

From Intellectual Development to Expertise

Thomas Litzinger, Stefani Bjorklund, and John Wise

Penn State


Over the past five years we have conducted a longitudinal study of undergraduate engineering students based on the Perry scheme of intellectual development. [1,2] (For readers not familiar with the Perry scheme, a summary is provided in the Appendix of this paper.) One of the major goals of that study was to determine how our students were developing in their ability to undertake complex problem solving as indicated by their descriptions of the general strategies that they used in attacking ill-defined problems. We are now analyzing the transcripts of the student interviews to search for evidence of their development specifically related to complex problem solving along with the expert knowledge and skills required to support it. Our focus on solving complex problems is driven by the fact that we take this ability as the defining ability of an expert engineer. Thus, in this analysis of the Perry data, we are seeking an indication of the progression of our students towards expert status within their chosen engineering field.

The analysis presented in this paper is the beginning of the development of a refined interview protocol to elicit information on how students progress towards expertise and about their process for solving complex engineering problems. This work is motivated by the desire to answer questions such as the following:

- Can our educational processes be restructured to allow students to focus more effort on the development of higher levels of engineering expertise than most achieve in the current system? - Given that the expertise literature suggests that the development of expert performance in any field requires roughly ten years, what are realistic expectations of student performance after a four-year undergraduate program?

A valid and reliable protocol related to engineering expertise must be developed, along with an appropriate experimental design, if questions such as these are to be answered. The work presented here is a small first step along this path. In developing the initial protocol for the work described here, literature on expertise, domain learning, and complex problem-solving was explored.

The literature on expertise in the U.S. has focused to a large extent on defining differences between experts and novices. The recent National Research Council book, “How People Learn,” [3] provides a good summary of the major findings, some of which are:

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Lee, S., & Bjorklund, S. A., & Wise, J., & Litzinger, T. (2002, June), From Intellectual Development To Expertise Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10329

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