Expert and Novice Performance in an Industrial Engineering Virtual World Simulation
Expert and novice problem solving has been a subject of research for many years. Problem solving of textbook problems and case studies in various domains such as math, physics, chess, music, system design, medical diagnosis, and business sub-domains have been the norm as the subject of this type of research. Few if any research efforts have undertaken the study of real world problem solving that occurs over an extended time such as those solved by industrial engineers in a manufacturing setting. This research studies the expert and novice problem solving performance in a scaled-world simulation of a manufacturing company experiencing a high backlog of customer orders. Research time consists of eight hours of problem solving behavior for teams of two as they diagnose the problem and make decisions to meet the problem goal. Participants can advance simulation time forward for weeks to get feedback on their decisions. The seven research hypotheses are: 1) experts will generate a better outcome for the primary problem goal in the test situation in the given time period than novices; 2) experts will make more correct decisions in solving the problem in the test situation than novices; 3) experts will understand the system dynamics of the problem in the test situation better than novices; 4) experts will search for data and situation information better than novices in solving the problem in the test situation; 5) experts will recognize and use data and situation information better than novices in solving the problem in the test situation; 6) experts will use more domain knowledge than novices in solving the problem in the test situation; and, 7) experts will use a forward or top-down problem solving method and novices will use a backward or bottom-up problem solving method. The experimental results support all seven research hypotheses. Discussion ensues about the unexpected results such as fixation on scheduling. The conclusions are that the research simulation discriminates between novice and expert performance which indicates its potential for measuring levels of industrial engineering expertise. Suggestions for future research with the scaled-world simulation and its use in the classroom are given.