Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 119

CRITICAL THINKING (Photo by Human Terrain System) Human terrain team social scientist Muna Molyneux interviews a widow 21 July 2010 at Karmah-Subayhat, Anbar Province, Iraq during a combined U.S. and Iraqi Army medical engagement. The widow's husband and sons were killed by al-Qaida operatives during the Anbar Sunni tribal Awakening circa 2006. Molyneux was conducting a research project that included ascertaining how persons who lost their family support network during the Awakening were able to continue sustaining themselves. For example, the program sought to reinforce the skill of cognitive self-regulation. The intent was to help students improve their ability to remain open to new information and to continuously reevaluate their existing beliefs as new information becomes available.13 To reinforce this skill, practical exercises were designed so that information provided initially would be ambiguous. Some information would intentionally lead the students to form one conclusion, but subsequent information would, ideally, lead them to question and refine it. Faculty members would then be able to coach the students to reinforce their cognitive agility or to correct their cognitive rigidity as appropriate. By the end of the program, students were expected to actively seek out such disconfirming information and fully demonstrate the skill of thinking as hypothesis testing. MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 Changing one’s thinking about something based on new information, what design methodology calls “reframing,” is not easy for most people. It becomes even more difficult when the dynamic of an authority figure is added. Since the human terrain teams’ purpose was to enable commanders to make more informed plans and decisions, their training needed to be built upon realistic scenarios and supported by realistic role players who served as the staff and commander of a brigade combat team. We found that exercises limited to planning and to preparing initial reports were insufficient to develop students’ abilities to use what Christopher Paparone calls “the two faces of critical thinking.”14 Only in a realistic, execution-based practicum were students required to reevaluate their conclusions, reframe, or adapt to unanticipated events. For human terrain team members, 113