HP Labs Technical Reports

Consultants and Apprentices: Observations about Learning and Collaborative Problem Solving

Berlin, Lucy M.; Jeffries, Robin



Abstract: Informal consulting interactions between apprentices and experts represent a little-studied but common collaborative work practice in many domains. In the computer industry, programmers become apprentices as they retool themselves to new computer languages, programming environments, software frameworks and systems. Our empirical study of consulting interactions has provided insights into the nature of this informal collaborative work practice. ppWe describe the variety of "hard-to-find" information provided by the expert, the incidental learning observed, and the pair's strategies for managing joint and individual productivity. Given these observations, we discuss how computer-based tools could help apprentices encapsulate task context, switch among subtasks, facilitate collaborative inter- action, and supplement consultants.

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