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The overriding objective of the proposed experiments is to gain novel insights on enhancing skill retention of complex, dynamic, and procedural tasks with refresher interventions (RIs). There are only a few studies on skill decay and skill retention in the field of process control so far, although skill decay has been recognized as highly relevant with respect to side effects of automation. A RI is supposed to re-establish a specific skill level that was acquired at the end of an initial training after a certain time interval of nonuse. On the basis of our previous experimental findings, we aim to analyze the impact of practice, symbolic rehearsal, and retrieval in an examination situation (testing) as RIs. These RI approaches will be (a) examined regarding parallel and contingent sequences in addition to fixed sequences, (b) examined regarding their effectiveness considering psychophysiological measures of mental workload and situation awareness, and (c) expanded with an innovative concept of a gaze-guiding user interface in which the refresher will take place at the time of retrieval. Fixed, parallel, and contingent sequences represent tasks that need to be completed in man-machine interaction in different fields of process control as well as e.g. aviation to a large part. Consideration of mental workload and situation awareness aims at gaining insights into how RIs need to be designed for often stress inducing, abnormal situations in which skills and knowledge need be retrieved saving as many resources as possible. Although there is some knowledge about the effectiveness of the suggested RIs, testing the effectiveness of these RI approaches for complex, dynamic tasks is novel and important. Our previous research showed that results found on the test effect or symbolic rehearsal regarding simple, non-dynamic tasks can either not be replicated with complex, dynamic tasks or the RIs induce unexpected side effects such as a higher mental workload than RIs which enhance automatization of cognitive schemas (e.g., practice RI).

Based on the findings of the suggested experiments, recommendations for designing approaches for skill retention such as refresher training or retrieval enhancing user interfaces can be derived. The findings are essential for designing training for maintaining skills in process control industries with high levels of automation as well as for other fields in which skill retention is essential such as medical science or aviation.


Gaze Guiding

In our project „the effect of refresher interventions on skill retention of complex, dynamic work activities in process control for longer time-periods in consideration of mental workload and situation awareness” (KL2207/3-3) we developed in cooperation with Dr. Benjamin Weyers (RWTH Aachen) a gaze guiding tool. The gaze guiding tool supports the recall and execution of rarely used skills. The gaze guiding tool was developed as cued recall support in situations in which users or operators might not be able to retrieve and execute once learned skills.

It is technically implemented with a transparent, darkened interface that leaves space for the relevant cue element, a red-orange flashing frame of the cue element and additional textual information on the following step with a pictogram (Figure 2). The gaze-guiding tool is faded in after the system has reached the relevant conditions for presenting the next steps and after the participant stops the interaction for 3 seconds. This ensures that the operator is given time to recall and react independently without the gaze-guiding tool, which is only faded in if the operator has not executed the relevant next step in a timely manner. After the gaze-guiding tool has been faded in, it disappears again once the operator interacts with WaTrSim. The gaze-guiding tool is faded in repeatedly until the operator executes the correct adjustments of the relevant step.


For further information please consider the following papers

Weyers, B., Frank, B., Bischof, K., & Kluge, A. (2015). Gaze guiding as support for the control of technical systems. International Journal of Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management, 7(2), 59–80. doi:10.4018/IJISCRAM.2015040104.

Frank, B. & Kluge, A. (resubmitted). Can cued recall by means of gaze guiding replace refresher training? An experimental study addressing complex cognitive skill retrieval. International Journal of Human Computer Interaction.