As a relatively young research line in the group on relatively young topics such as XR and persuasive technology, an interesting question is: When can we call ourselves experts in these fields? And how do we develop expertise ourselves in such relatively new fields?
What is expertise?
Wikipedia provides an interesting starting point of what expertise is1 :
- Expertise is about having “knowledge, skill and experience through practice and education in a particular field”.
- Experts have certain ways of showing or confirming their expertise to others, which lends them a sense of credibility.
- Based on their expertise and outward credibility, experts can be called upon for advice.
Important in relation to expertise is the Dunning-Kruger effect: if you don’t know much, it is easy to overestimate your ability, while if you know a lot you tend to underestimate your ability as you are more aware of what you don’t know yet2.
Key aspects to developing expertise are 3 :
- Deliberate practice, on your next level of skill (zone of proximal development - Vygotsky). Important here is the idea of threshold concepts.
- Seeking out feedback from mentors, coaches, …; ideally feedback is immediate and appropriate for your current level
- Self-coaching: develop your “inner coach” (with the help of an actual coach), so you can coach yourself
These ways of learning can be stimulated by participating in a learning community. As a research group, we want to develop such communities on our key topics, to support learning by researchers, teachers, students and companies.
Another important way to develop expertise is by doing projects on the topics you want to improve on. These projects enable you to focus on specific aspects of the domain and to get hands-on. In our case it is also very important not to only look at it from a developer standpoint, but to actively get users involved. A large part of our expertise as human-computer interaction experts is to be able to predict through experience (and building on existing guidelines for perhaps other technologies) how users will respond to certain things. This allows us to develop guidelines to improve future development in these specific domains such as AR. That being said: never take anything for granted. Always test and validate!
Then there is this statement that you need about 10 years of practice (of 3 hours a day) to become an expert (Gladwell, 2008)4. This depends a bit on the field. In young fields this is shorter, as pretty much nobody has had the time to get this amount of experience and training in. This shows the relativity of expertise. You can be the expert on computers in your family, but at school or university or work, there are likely others who know more than you. Similarly, at the level of a research group, you can be the expert in your group, at your university, nationally, or even internationally. To put it a bit dramatically: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king”, as my fellow associate lector Jeroen Linssen likes to say when even a little expertise already goes a long way ;)