Day 3 Futures education course – decision making

This was a discussion of the first two of Gary Klein’s ten claims about improving performance from his quite excellent book “streetlights and shadows” (buy it. buy it) . It should create an interesting platform for discussion regarding the nature of biasing of decisions. I created a powerpoint presentation to go through that process.

  1. Teaching people procedures helps them perform tasks more skillfully
  2. Decision biases distort our thinking

I started the class by handing out a sheet of paper to each group with four questions on it. There were two different versions of the sheets.

One version had the question

  • Is Canada older or younger than 2000 years old?
  • How old is it?
  • Am I older or younger than 10 years old
  • How old am I?

The other had similar questions… but Canada was 15 years old and I was 62 years old

As expected the Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic led to much higher guesses about the age of Canada in the group that got the 2000 years and lower in the group that got the question with 15 years. The about my age were far more accurate (makes sense) but still showed traces of anchoring and adjustment. We went over the implications of this, and talked about how 1) this happens for some very normal reasons and 2) there are simple strategies to avoid this kind of difficulty.

  • Collaborate
  • Develop expertise

The position i’m going to take for the duration of the course (unless the students manage to convince me otherwise) is that the decision bias tends to bias us towards stuffing people full of facts. One could argue that one of the responses to people making bad guesses is to fill them with the ‘actual’ answers. “inform” people of the age of Canada and then they wont guess wrong. Understanding that the guesses aren’t bad… that they are actually just the use of available evidence… is critical to thinking about what we want to learn. I may be leading the witness on this one… but I am not ‘unbiased’ either.

What could this mean for education?
If we believe the results of this heuristic a normal response is give students more ‘knowledge’.
How does this relate to some of the trends that we were seeing yesterday?
How do we create our schools so that students can be good ‘biasers’?

Teaching people procedures helps them perform tasks more skillfully

Lets play โ€œthis can be taught by a process.โ€ Team is challenged to come up with first a simple task that can be accomplished by the building and teaching of a process. We had things like “pick up a pen off the floor”, “make noodles”, and “back up your harddrive”. Even in this exercise we saw a mixture of tasks that could be given as a process and others that required skill… “how do i know if a noodle is ‘cooked'” “how do i know what files to backup to the hard drive?

Then the teams are challenged to think of a complex task and a process for it. I asked the students to teach one of the tasks that they try and teach to their students. We did some research processes for gravity, we tried to land a plane, we did the Heimlich maneuvre. Each time we tried to dig under the process to try and find the complexity… the decision making that the students were learning. Being rigourous during an experiment to ensure good results. When did the start to land the plane? How do you control a person who is choking?

What does THIS say about education?

With this idea of looking under the hood of our normal practice we went back and wrote comments on the day 2 responses that we got from our colleagues in North America. Excellent discussion really.

First after break with watched David Wiley, and talked about the implications of his ‘position’.

We started the afternoon with a round robin iterative mapping exercise. The students pulled from the trends from the day before… adding those that occured to them during their reflection on the blog comments, and tried to create patterns. After 15 minutes they passed their sheet to the next group without discussion or explanation and that group tried to make sense of those patterns. Here’s a 2 min video of my awesome students at work

We finished off the day trying to find two ‘axes of tension’ to start creating narratives for our scenario planning. There are still about 20 of them on the white board in the classroom as we had quite a bit of debate about the format… Hopefully we can get those whittled down this morning. See page 9/20 in this excellent pdf from GBN on how the axes of tension work out for scenario planning. Till tomorrow.

Here’s my morning video reflection before the class started ๐Ÿ™‚

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