University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
Expert Identity in Development of Core-Task-Oriented Working Practices for Mastering Demanding Situations
Doctoral dissertation, August 2006.
The point of departure in this dissertation was the practical safety problem of unanticipated, unfamiliar events and unexpected changes in the environment, the demanding situations which the operators should take care of in the complex socio-technical systems. The aim of this thesis was to increase the understanding of demanding situations and of the resources for coping with these situations by presenting a new construct, a conceptual model called Expert Identity (ExId) as a way to open up new solutions to the problem of demanding situations and by testing the model in empirical studies on operator work. The premises of the Core-Task Analysis (CTA) framework were adopted as a starting point: core-task oriented working practices promote the system efficiency (incl. safety, productivity and well-being targets) and that should be supported. The negative effects of stress were summarised and the possible countermeasures related to the operators' personal resources such as experience, expertise, sense of control, conceptions of work and self etc. were considered. ExId was proposed as a way to bring emotional-energetic depth into the work analysis and to supplement CTA-based practical methods to discover development challenges and to contribute to the development of complex socio-technical systems. The potential of ExId to promote understanding of operator work was demonstrated in the context of the six empirical studies on operator work. Each of these studies had its own practical objectives within the corresponding quite broad focuses of the studies. The concluding research questions were: 1) Are the assumptions made in ExId on the basis of the different theories and previous studies supported by the empirical findings? 2) Does the ExId construct promote understanding of the operator work in empirical studies? 3) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the ExId construct? The layers and the assumptions of the development of expert identity appeared to gain evidence. The new conceptual model worked as a part of an analysis of different kinds of data, as a part of different methods used for different purposes, in different work contexts. The results showed that the operators had problems in taking care of the core task resulting from the discrepancy between the demands and resources (either personal or external). The changes of work, the difficulties in reaching the real content of work in the organisation and the limits of the practical means of support had complicated the problem and limited the possibilities of the development actions within the case organisations. Personal resources seemed to be sensitive to the changes, adaptation is taking place, but not deeply or quickly enough. Furthermore, the results showed several characteristics of the studied contexts that complicated the operators' possibilities to grow into or with the demands and to develop practices, expertise and expert identity matching the core task. They were: discontinuation of the work demands, discrepancy between conceptions of work held in the other parts of organisation, visions and the reality faced by the operators, emphasis on the individual efforts and situational solutions. The potential of ExId to open up new paths to solving the problem of the demanding situations and its ability to enable studies on practices in the field was considered in the discussion. The results were interpreted as promising enough to encourage the conduction of further studies on ExId. This dissertation proposes especially contribution to supporting the workers in recognising the changing demands and their possibilities for growing with them when aiming to support human performance in complex socio-technical systems, both in designing the systems and solving the existing problems.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 28.06.2006