Journal of the National Research University Higher School of Economics




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SSN 1995-459X print
E-ISSN 2312-9972 online
ISSN 2500-2597 online English

Leonid Gokhberg


Hillary Swanson 1, Allan Collins 1
  • 1 Northwestern University, 633 Clark St, Evanston, IL 60208, United States

Learning to Theorize in a Complex and Changing World

2019. Vol. 13. No. 2. P. 98–106 [issue contents]
To thrive in the modern world, people need to make sense of complex issues and deal with uncertainty. This requires a different kind of knowledge than schools are teaching. We argue that cultivating a theoretical turn-of-mind is critical for identifying causal relationships and patterns within any phenomenon and trend. In this paper, we introduce a course designed to engage students in an “intellectually honest” version of scientific theory building. We describe four theory-building competencies that students developed as a result of their participation in the course and highlight the features of instruction that may have played a key role in this development. We describe how a particular feature of the course - the theory-building discussion - helped students refine their thinking and we outline the moves the teacher used to facilitate the refinement process. We conclude that learning to construct theories is beneficial even for students who are not tending towards careers in science, as it helps to refine everyday thinking, and, in a broader sense, build human capacities to develop solutions for the complex problems we face across economics, environment, health, and many other domains.

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License  which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited

Citation: Swanson H., Collins A. (2019) Learning to Theorize in a Complex and Changing World. Foresight and STI Governance, vol. 13, no 2, pp. 98–106. DOI: 10.17323/2500-2597.2019.2.98.106
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