Visual Problem Solving and Self‐regulation in Training Air Traffic Control

L.W. van Meeuwen

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisThesis 1: fully internal

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    Successful training of air traffic controllers includes both the development of domain specific competences (e.g., visual problem solving skills) and the acquisition of self-regulation skills. The aim of this dissertation is to increase understanding of the complexity of the ATC domain (i.e., specifically visual problem solving) and to design and test a learning environment which integrates the development of self-regulation skills in the domain-specific training. To answer the aforementioned research questions, the studies presented in this dissertation take three approaches. The first approach focuses on the complexity of the ATC domain by elaborating on required visual expertise and specifically on the underlying visual problem solving strategies. The second approach focuses on self-regulation, and specifically on how SRL skills, SDL skills and self-efficacy mutually interact and what their importance is for successful ATC-training. The third approach focuses on a training design which integrates the development of the students’ regulation skills with the development of domain specific ATC-competences. The training design includes shared control in the environment between the system (i.e., the trainer and the environment) and the learner. In this third approach, a practical study is also presented which deals with the implications of parts of such training design on successful training in ATC and on the development of self-regulation skills. The four subsequent chapters aim at answering the four research questions, respectively. Chapter 2 presents a study which matches strategies for visual problem solving with performance of novices, intermediates and experts in the ATC-domain. Eye-tracking is used to investigate eye-movements of respondents at these three levels of expertise. The use of visual problem solving strategies such as means-end analysis, information reduction and chunking are mapped out for novices, intermediates and experts. Also the performance similarity between participants is investigated to gain insight in the influence of specific strategy use and expertise on the diversity of traffic conflict solutions found. The chapter discusses implications of differences of solution similarity and visual strategies for the use of eye-movement modeling examples in ATC training. Chapter 3 presents a study that investigates the regulation skills required to be a successful ATC student and how cognitions of different stakeholders differ as to these requirements. This chapter employs focus groups with three different groups of stakeholders (i.e., training designers, trainers/coaches, students) to determine those skills that must be trained when preparing students to learn throughout their ATC careers. The study sheds light on the learning characteristics required for successfully learning ATC. Moreover, the chapter provides insight in the mutual relation between two groups of regulation skills: self-regulated learning (SRL; Zimmerman, 1990) and self-directed learning (SDL; Knowles, 1975, Van Merriënboer & Sluijsmans, 2009) and takes into account the mediation of student engagement and self-efficacy on SRL and SDL. The differences between cognitions of successful training in ATC give insight how instructional designers, trainees and coaches differ. Chapter 4 presents a theoretical framework for combining the training of complex cognitive skills with the development of regulation skills. It is based on the premise that it is best to use shared control in the task selection process. This framework also deals with the paradox that a system that trains regulation skills also requires students to have already developed regulation skills (Corbalan, Van Merriënboer, & Kicken, 2010). Shared control in task selection aims at increasing the responsibility of learners for selecting their own learning tasks. This responsibility should activate the learners to think about their own learning challenges. By discussing both the system and the required attitude of coaches and students in such an environment, insight is gained with respect to the requirements for the elements (i.e., task database, portfolio) employed in it. A coaching protocol is also introduced to support the coaches in using the system’s elements to involve the students in their own learning process. Chapter 5 presents an empirical study testing the idea of training self-regulation skills in combination with domain-specific competences. The study is carried out in the everyday practice of ATC training. The chapter describes the design of learning tasks and the role of a development portfolio in such learning environments. The increase of learning in both domain-specific skills and self-regulation skills is measured. Finally, Chapter 6 discusses the overall conclusion that can be drawn from the thesis in light of training improvements in cognitively complex domains. The chapter than discusses the theoretical and practical implications of the studies and concludes with the limitations of the studies and with ideas for future research.
    Sponsorship: Knowledge & Development Centre, Mainport Schiphol
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Open Universiteit: faculties and services
    • van Merrienboer, Jeroen, Supervisor
    • Brand - Gruwel, Saskia, Supervisor
    • Kirschner, Paul, Supervisor
    Award date6 Sept 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Sept 2013


    • self-regulation
    • self-directed learning
    • visual expertise
    • air traffic control
    • adaptive training design


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