Kimberly Raddatz, Ph.D. (2011)

Major Professor:

Dr. Richard Harris

Title and Institution:

Human Factors Engineer, Sprint Corporation


Deriving pilots' knowledge structures for weather information: An evaluation of elicitation techniques


Systems that support or require human interaction are generally easier to learn, use, and remember when their organization is consistent with the user's knowledge and experiences (Norman, 1983; Roske-Hofstrand & Paap, 1986). Thus, in order for interface designers to truly design for the user, they must first have a way of deriving a representation of what the user knows about the domain of interest. The current study evaluated three techniques for eliciting knowledge structures for how General Aviation pilots think about weather information. Weather was chosen because of its varying implications for pilots of different levels of experience. Two elicitation techniques (Relationship Judgment and Card Sort) asked pilots to explicitly consider the relationship between 15 weather-related information concepts. The third technique, Prime Recognition Task, used response times and priming to implicitly reflect the strength of relationship between concepts in semantic memory. Techniques were evaluated in terms of pilot performance, conceptual structure validity, and required resources for employment. Validity was assessed in terms of the extent to which each technique identified differences in organization of weather information among pilots of different experience levels. Multidimensional scaling was used to transform proximity data collected by each technique into conceptual structures representing the relationship between concepts.

Results indicated that Card Sort was the technique that most consistently tapped into knowledge structure affected by experience. Only conceptual structures based on Card Sort data were able to be used to both discriminate between pilots of different experience levels and accurately classify experienced pilots as "experienced". Additionally, Card Sort was the most efficient and effective technique to employ in terms of preparation time, time on task, flexibility, and face validity. The Card Sort provided opportunities for deliberation, revision, and visual feedback that allowed the pilots to engage in a deeper level of processing at which experience may play a stronger role. Relationship Judgment and Prime Recognition Task characteristics (e.g., time pressure, independent judgments) may have motivated pilots to rely on a more shallow or text-based level of processing (i.e., general semantic meaning) that is less affected by experience. Implications for menu structure design and assessment are discussed.