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Tuesday, July 26 • 1:30pm - 2:00pm
How Teaching Cybernetics, in any Discipline, Can Bring Forth Systemic Change

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2836 One way educators can work toward meaningful change in socio-ecological systems is to foster transformative change in students’ thinking. Since today’s students are tomorrow’s decision-makers, it can be argued that we have a responsibility to help students develop an understanding of how knowledge is constructed so that they might take responsibility for how they make sense of our world and see the connection between knowing and acting. Specifically, the reform in thinking needed is from our culturally conditioned habits of reductionism, duality, and linear thinking to more relational, systemic thinking. Educators are largely responsible for shaping the minds, values, and perceptions of students. We hope to inspire more educators to take their responsibility to heart and foster the kind of complex thinking that students will need to address the increasingly complex problems of our pluralistic world. In this presentation we will share our experiences, as teacher and student, in Creative Systemic Studies, an online doctoral program founded on the principles of cybernetics and systems thinking. Since epistemological change is transdisciplinary, it does not matter what discipline we teach in when we attempt to change minds. The Creative Systemic Studies program was designated a non-clinical Marriage and Family Therapy degree, yet students’ transformative learning experiences were not discipline-specific; they were triggered, in part, by learning cybernetics. In fact, students frequently testified that cybernetics changed their personal relationships and how they attended to the issues they were involved in, including homelessness, coaching youth, missionary work, grassroots organizing for social change, and therapeutic practices. Using a few concepts from cybernetics as examples - control, feedback, and distinctions - we will show how the principles of cybernetics can be creatively presented and integrated into any course of study. And we will show how these concepts influenced the way students think and know. We will also use these examples to highlight the fundamental principle of second order cybernetics which is that the observer is inextricable from - and responsible for - her observing. After introducing students to the subjective nature of interpretation and engaging this topic from multiple perspectives, students begin to see how their biases, values, and past experiences influence how they make meaning. Our knowing is necessarily self-referential and participatory. Cybernetics, General Systems Theory, chaos and complexity theories each have differences and a range of interpretations yet they are unified in that they all indicate a way of thinking that is intrinsically different from the reductionist/objectivist/deterministic orientation of modernist, rational thought. We use cybernetics as our exemplar for teaching students to think differently because we like it so much, but any of these theories would represent, and foster, epistemological change. We assert that changing minds has profound consequences because habits of mind become habits of action. Furthermore, every way of knowing contains an ethical trajectory. The ethical trajectory of cybernetics includes knowing that since we construct meanings, we are responsible for them - and we must respect this responsibility in others. Inspiring and developing in students a paradigmatic change from objectivity to a self-referential, participatory epistemology fundamentally concerned with responsibility is a nontrivial way that educators can foster meaningful change in socio-ecological systems. Additionally, it makes teaching even more exciting and satisfying.

avatar for Louis Klein

Louis Klein

Consortial Partner & President, louis.klein@segroup.de
Vice President Conferences (2015), International Society for the Systems Sciences SIG Chair:    Systems Applications in Business and Industry SIG Chair:    Organizational Transformation and Social ChangeLouis Klein is an internationally recognized expert in the field of systemic change management. He is the founder of the Systemic Excellence Group and has been its CEO since 2001. Louis Klein holds a PhD in sociology. He is the chairman of... Read More →

Tuesday July 26, 2016 1:30pm - 2:00pm

Attendees (3)