Collective Intelligence and Collective Action: Designing and evaluating a new systems science education programme

Harney, Owen and Hogan, Michael (2014) Collective Intelligence and Collective Action: Designing and evaluating a new systems science education programme. In: The 15th Educational Technology Conference of the Irish Learning Technology Association (ILTA). May 29th and 30th, UCD, Dublin, Ireland.


Collective Intelligence (CI) which results in intelligent Collective Action (CA) can be a powerful force for change; we have the power and potential to achieve many goals through the application of CI that we could never achieve individually. However, our CI is rarely optimized; in spite of collaborative efforts to tackle a range of problems, we find ourselves in a time of social crisis characterized by economic and environmental turmoil, war, crime, poverty, chronic disease, mental illness and social disengagement. Experience shows us how imperfectly we deal with these issues. CI and CA are often impeded by three interdependent human limitations: poor critical thinking skills, no clear methodology to facilitate group coherence, consensus design, and CA; and limited computational capacities. These limitations must be addressed if the power of CI and CA is to be fully realized. We seek to address these limitations by proposing a new strategy for systems science education. Systems science is an interdisciplinary field that studies the nature of complex systems in nature, society and science itself. In systems science, it is argued that in order to fully understand why a problem occurs and persists it is necessary to understand the sub-problems in relation to the whole. Our approach involves embedding a new systems science tool within a new systems science curriculum. The software tool we have developed integrates three thought structuring technologies: Argument Mapping (AM) for critical thinking, Interactive Management (IM) for system design, and Structural Equation Modelling (SEM) for mathematical modeling. The research agenda and preliminary findings we present build upon the framework for systems science, CI, and CA developed by John Warfield, past president of the International Society for the Systems Sciences. Four experimental studies examine issues of tool and process optimization and overall curriculum efficacy: Study 1 examines the effects of open versus closed IM voting and high/low dispositional trust on measures of group consensus and perceived efficacy of IM technology; Study 2 examines the effects of generic versus process feedback on the complexity of collaborative argumentation during the IM/AM modeling process; Study 3 examines the effects of peer feedback on the emergence of cooperative conversational dynamics in groups high and low in dispositional trust in the context of IM/AM, and finally, Study 4 will examine immediate (post-intervention) and sustained effects (1 year later) of integrated AM/IM/SEM systems science education training on critical thinking ability, systems thinking. Final results from studies 1 and 2, and preliminary results from study 3, will be presented.

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