Negative transfer of training of suboptimal degrees of variability in the training of procedures
van den Bosch, K.
Many professions require procedural skills to perform routine tasks, as well as adaptive skills to deal with unexpected situations. Whereas routine skills are acquired by repetitive practice of the same task, adaptive skills develop with variability of practice. We hypothesize that negative transfer may occur when routine skills are trained with (too) much variability or when adaptive skills are trained with (too) little variability. The current study investigates the effect of different degrees of variability in the training of procedures on the transfer of training. Using the serious game “Space Fortress”, 76 paid volunteers were trained how to manually control a spacecraft, while destroying as many hostile space fortresses as possible by firing shots. For the purpose of this study, we added another task, which involved the dismantling of “mines” by means of a multi-step procedure, i.e., pressing a specific series of keys. All participants received the same Basic skills training (controlling the game). The Procedure training (dismantling mines) was varied between three groups. A “Low-Var” group: practiced one dismantling procedure per training session. A “Med-Var” group: practiced separate procedures in the initial part of training, followed by more mixed practice sets as training progressed. A “High-Var” group practiced the procedures in mixed order right from the onset of training. We found that that the Low-Var group needed the most time to dismantle the mines on a post-training test with mixed procedures. They also made more errors on initiating the procedure. The High-Var group however made the most errors on a new mine test (requiring a procedure not trained before) performing significantly worse than the Low-Var group. These effects appeared only directly after the training, but were no longer present in a retention test given one week later. These results indicate that “too much” as well as “too little” variability of practice can lead to negative transfer of training depending on the context in which the procedures are performed.
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Variability in training
TNO 2022 R10114
U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Aviation Administration, New Jersey