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Aptima Develops ‘Adaptive Expertise’ Training System

Aptima Develops ‘Adaptive Expertise’ Training System

Aptima Develops System to Train ‘Adaptive Expertise’ to U.S. Warfighters for Era of Unconventional Conflicts

‘ADAPT’ to accelerate training process for developing adaptation skills

Woburn, MA, July 11, 2011 – The very unpredictability that makes insurgents so effective in assymetric warfare presents a challenge for training warfighters. How can U.S. forces learn how to adapt to new and novel situations that defy conventional military tactics?

Aptima, which applies expertise in how humans think, learn, and behave, is developing ADAPT, a multi-media training system to prepare naval officers for the enormously varied scenarios encountered in settings such as force protection, counter-terrorism,and counter-piracy. These unconventional or ‘ill-defined’ situations call for broader, more flexible problem-solving skills,yet little training exists to grow this ‘adaptive expertise.’

ADAPT is being funded and developed for the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to address a two-fold problem. As an ‘Adaptive Device for Adaptive Performance Training,’ it will prepare U.S. Navy officers for the operational challenge of handling unanticipated events in Force Protection. As an intelligent tutoring system,it will advance training science by adapting to each trainee to provide a variety of novel problem-solving scenarios. The technology is generalizable and can be applied to other training domains as well.

ADAPT in Action

Like many areas of irregular warfare, Force Protection requires adaptive expertise because conditions for ships at berth, at anchor, and in transit often deviate surprisingly from plans. ADAPT will systematically generate a variety of scenarios from its instructional library for officers to exercise and hone their adaptive skills. Trainees may face a scenario, for example, that entails berthing a ship in port with an on-board diplomatic event, while encountering perimeter security gaps that make the vessel a potentially high-risk stationary target.

Rather than attempt to teach a set of prescribed rules, which may not exist or apply uniformly across situations, ADAPT will emphasize ‘first principles’ of Force Protection, which are the essential questions or dimensions that experts consider. “Solving problems from first principles is the only strategy when there are no reliable rules for doing so,” said Jared Freeman, Aptima’s Chief Research Officer and ADAPT principal investigator. “ADAPT will make those principles plain, and help officers apply them to evaluate situations and courses of action.”

Through their research, Aptima and its ADAPT partner, Dr. Kurt VanLehn of Arizona State University, have found that adaptation skills are best developed by having trainees creatively apply their knowledge of first principles across a set of broad and diverse experiences.

Using algorithms to track and measure the trainee’s performance, ADAPT will adjust to each learner’s expertise, systematically selecting and presenting simulated scenarios that reinforce mastery of the most critical skills while identifying weaknesses to be shored up. ADAPT will also allow instructors to “dial up” or down the degree of novelty in scenarios so that officers experience both the breadth of situations to grow adaptive expertise and to drill down into specific areas of expertise.

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