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Learning In Ill-Structured Domains Series

Table of Contents

This is a series about effective learning in ill-structured domains.

An ill-structured domain (Spiro et al, 1988) is a specific kind of domain where there are concepts, but the way concepts instantiate are highly variable.

As a result, experts in ill-structured domains have to deal with constant novelty, where every problem is unlike previous cases that the expert has seen.

Example domains include medicine — where there are concepts like 'heart attack', but the way heart attacks show up in patients are highly variable — but also include domains like business, software engineering, and investing.

This series explores how we should think about learning in ill-structured domains. Amongst other things, it tells us how and why to read history.

  1. How To Learn From Other People's Experiences (members only) — A first attempt at explaining CFT, that quotes the original paper very closely. Fair warning: this is a fairly dense post; if you'd like a readable summary, read the next link instead.
  2. How Note Taking Can Help You Become An Expert — An explanation of CFT, and what it tells us about expertise in novel, ill-structured domains.
  3. The Principles Are Useless On Their Own (members only) — What it means if cases are more important than concepts in your domain.
  4. Ill-Structured Domains Aren’t Necessarily Wicked — It's important to disambiguate between wicked domains and ill-structured domains. It might not surprise you, for instance, that investing is both wicked and ill-structured, but it may surprise you that well-structured domains like medicine can both be wicked and kind.
  5. Cognitive Flexibility Theory: The Rules — An actionable summary to wrap up the series.

Originally published , last updated .