A Game-Based Pedagogical Framework for Promoting Systems Thinking Skills

(1/1/16-8/31/17), Spencer Foundation, PIs: Oleg Pavlov (WPI) and Yoon Jeon Kim (MIT)

The systems thinking skills required to understand complex systems have been recognized in education as a core aspect of science literacy and more recently as critical 21st century skills that young Americans need to succeed in today’s competitive global society. The current national standards for science education reflect this perspective by explicitly calling for the incorporation of systems thinking concepts and practices into science education. While this perspective represents an important step forward, how can teachers actually put it into practice? Video games offer affordances to support systems thinking skills. Using games in STEM domains can increase students’ interest and engagement. However, despite increasing research interest, little is yet known about designing game-based curricula that facilitate systems thinking skills. Simply playing a game without a systematic pedagogical approach is insufficient because the game remains a “black box” to students even if they implicitly understand how the system operates. To address this gap, we propose Game-Based Structural Debriefing (GBSD), a pedagogical innovation to help teachers cultivate systems thinking skills by introducing games into the classroom. The framework is based on the literature of systems thinking and system dynamics modeling. This study uses the design‐based research method to refine the framework and investigate its efficacy at both teacher and student levels.

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Toward the Service Science of Education

(1/1/15-12/31/17), Coleman Foundation, PIs: Oleg V. Pavlov (WPI) and Frank Hoy (WPI)

This article applies the service science framework to higher education. To understand the reasons behind the success and failure of academic programs, we build on the previous literature that suggests that education is a service delivered by universities, which are viewed as complex systems. We contribute to the service science theory by introducing a methodological tool called the Service Science Canvas, which incorporates elements and principles common to all service systems. The Service Science Canvas is convenient tool for identifying components of academic programs. This article reviews educational programs in entrepreneurship, and, as a case study, it examines an entrepreneurship program at a technological university in the United States.

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Improving Instructional Simulation with Structural Debriefing

(1/1/14 – 12/31/15), PIs: Oleg V. Pavlov (WPI), Khalid Saeed (WPI), Lawrence W. Robinson (Cornell University

Research shows that learning and task performance improve when participants in management exercises understand the structure of the system they control. However, the majority of business simulators are “black-boxes.” This article introduces structural debriefing, which is a debriefing activity aimed at helping students learn about causal relationships, feedbacks, accumulations and delays within a black-box simulation. A structural debriefing can be prepared and facilitated by following the Structural Debriefing Protocol. A pilot study was conducted in which undergraduate students participated in a structural debriefing of The LITTLEFIELD TECHNOLOGIES, a popular simulation for teaching principles of operations management. The students were able to complete all eight steps of a structural debriefing, but required considerable time (three academic terms) to do so. Not every instructional simulation will require all the steps or such a large time commitment. The successful completion of the pilot study demonstrates that structural debriefing is a useful debriefing technique. However, to be effective, the scope and format of a structural debriefing activity must suit practical and pedagogical considerations.

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Asset Price Dynamics with Heterogeneous Beliefs and Local Network Interactions

PIs: Valentyn Panchenko (University of New South Wales), Sergiy Gerasymchuk (ING Group), and Oleg V. Pavlov (WPI)

This project investigates the effects of network topologies on asset price dynamics. We introduce network communications into a simple asset pricing model with heterogeneous beliefs. The agents may switch between several belief types according to their performance. The performance information is available to the agents only locally through their own experience and the experience of other agents directly connected to them. We model the communications with four commonly considered network topologies: a fully connected network, a regular lattice, a small world, and a random graph. The results show that the network topologies influence asset price dynamics in terms of the regions of stability, amplitudes of fluctuations and statistical properties.

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Farmers, Bandits and Soldiers: A Generic System for Addressing Peace Agendas

PIs: Khalid Saeed (WPI), Oleg Pavlov (WPI), Jeanine Skorinko (WPI), and Alexander Smith (WPI)

We propose a generic model that explains why political systems tend toward certain outcomes. The model identifies possible economic and psychological paths toward change in a metaphorical political economy consisting of farmers, bandits and soldiers. In addition to economic factors, we also consider how two psychological factors, broadly categorized as group identity and exposure to violence, affect the behavior of metaphorical agents. We find that though outcomes tend to be similar with and without the psychological influences, the psychological influences accelerate the adjustment process and create additional policy space for interventions. A methodological contribution of the paper also is the use of summary performance measures represented as phase plots that have the potential to be used with advantage in system dynamics analyses.

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