Comparing expert and novice understanding of a complex system from the perspective of structures, behaviors, and functions

Comparing expert and novice understanding of a complex system from the perspective of structures,... Complex systems are pervasive in the world around us. Making sense of a complex system should require that a person construct a network of concepts and principles about some domain that represents key (often dynamic) phenomena and their interrelationships. This raises the question of how expert understanding of complex systems differs from novice understanding. In this study we examined individuals' representations of an aquatic system from the perspective of structural (elements of a system), behavioral (mechanisms), and functional aspects of a system. Structure–Behavior–Function (SBF) theory was used as a framework for analysis. The study included participants from middle school children to preservice teachers to aquarium experts. Individual interviews were conducted to elicit participants' mental models of aquaria. Their verbal responses and pictorial representations were analyzed using an SBF‐based coding scheme. The results indicated that representations ranged from focusing on structures with minimal understanding of behaviors and functions to representations that included behaviors and functions. Novices' representations focused on perceptually available, static components of the system, whereas experts integrated structural, functional, and behavioral elements. This study suggests that the SBF framework can be one useful formalism for understanding complex systems. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Cognitive Science - A Multidisciplinary Journal Wiley

Comparing expert and novice understanding of a complex system from the perspective of structures, behaviors, and functions

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
© 2004 Cognitive Science Society, Inc.
ISSN
0364-0213
eISSN
1551-6709
DOI
10.1207/s15516709cog2801_7
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Complex systems are pervasive in the world around us. Making sense of a complex system should require that a person construct a network of concepts and principles about some domain that represents key (often dynamic) phenomena and their interrelationships. This raises the question of how expert understanding of complex systems differs from novice understanding. In this study we examined individuals' representations of an aquatic system from the perspective of structural (elements of a system), behavioral (mechanisms), and functional aspects of a system. Structure–Behavior–Function (SBF) theory was used as a framework for analysis. The study included participants from middle school children to preservice teachers to aquarium experts. Individual interviews were conducted to elicit participants' mental models of aquaria. Their verbal responses and pictorial representations were analyzed using an SBF‐based coding scheme. The results indicated that representations ranged from focusing on structures with minimal understanding of behaviors and functions to representations that included behaviors and functions. Novices' representations focused on perceptually available, static components of the system, whereas experts integrated structural, functional, and behavioral elements. This study suggests that the SBF framework can be one useful formalism for understanding complex systems.

Journal

Cognitive Science - A Multidisciplinary JournalWiley

Published: Jan 1, 2004

References

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