L&D: An SME Can Miss Up To 70% of What a Novice Needs

How Do Your Methods Compensate For That Fact?

Issue: Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) interviews can miss up to 70% of what an novice needs to perform – as most of their knowledge is “non-conscious” – and traditional interviews (and observations) cannot uncover what is needed in terms of instructional content.

“…nearly all of our instructional design and cyber learning theories and models fail to account for the influence of non-conscious cognitive processes and therefore are inadequate to deal with complex learning and performance.”

Clark, R. E. (2010). Cognitive and neuroscience research on learning and instruction: Recent insights about the impact of non-conscious knowledge on problem solving, higher order thinking skills and interactive cyber-learning environments. Presentation made at the the International Conference on Education Research (ICER), Seoul, South Korea – clark_2010_nonconscious_learning_motivation_icer_9sep2010

Implications for Analysis, Design and/or Delivery – if the source is an SME  – beware!


Richard E. Clark (Dick Clark) … 2008 video from USC …

Implications for Delivery – if the Instructor is an SME and winging it – beware!


A prior Post of mine on this (2008):


Implications for Mentoring – if the Mentor is an SME and winging it – beware!


I Recommend Using a Facilitated Group Process

But there are other approaches.


Dr. Clark uses “Cognitive Task Analysis” – and here are some references on that:

Clark, R. E., & Estes, F. (1998). Cognitive task analysisInternational Journal of Educational Research, 25(5), 403-417. Here.

Clark, R.E., Feldon, D., Van Merrienboer, J.J.G., Yates, K., and Early, S. (2008) Cognitive task analysis. In J.M. Spector, M.D. Merrill, J.J.G. van Merrienboer, & M.P. Driscoll (Eds.). Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Here.

Clark, R.E., Feldon, D., & Yates, K. (2011, April) Using Cognitive Task Analysis to capture expert knowledge and skills for research and instructional design. Workshop presented at the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA. Here.

Yates, Kenneth A. (2007). Towards a taxonomy of cognitive task analysis methods: A search for cognition and task analysis  interactions. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Here.

Cognitive Task Analysis Model – Rob Foshay – here.


My two articles – both from 1984 – on my Facilitated Group Process methods:

CAD – Training Mag – 1984 – 6 page PDF – the first publication about Curriculum Architecture Design via a Group Process – published in Training Magazine in September 1984. Original manuscript (30 pages) – How to Build a Training Structure That Won’t Keep Burning Down.

Models and Matrices- NSPI PIJ -1984 – 5 page PDF – the first publication of the performance and enabler analysis methods for ISD, from NSPI’s (ISPI’s) Performance & Instruction Journal, November 1984.

 A Story on How I Came to Use and Value a Group Process with a Team (back in 1979):

Teaming for T&D GWW 1999 – 5 page PDF – on my story of inadvertently creating a team – out of frustration with too many revision cycles for a video script I was writing –  for training development back in 1979 – and liking the approach for using a Group Process to shorten cycle times and improve the quality of the output.


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One comment on “L&D: An SME Can Miss Up To 70% of What a Novice Needs

  1. Pingback: L&D: Yeah – Think Micro. But Think. | EPPIC - Pursuing Performance

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