Toward Improved Instruction in Decision Making to Adolescents: A Conceptual Framework and Pilot Program
University of Pennsylvania
Rex V. Brown
Decision Science Consortium, Inc.
Educated people must know how to make up their mind intelligently. When they have a decision to make, like which career to pursue, or who to vote for, or what to do with their company's assets, they weigh the pros and cons in a balanced, reasonable way. If they have a question of fact to resolve, like whether the stock market will go up or down, or who stole the cookies, they weigh the evidence fairly. The better they can perform these tasks, the better off they, and society at large, are in a number of ways.
Despite the importance of this ability, very little educational effort goes into teaching people how to make decisions. Given the fact that many decisions seem to be poorly made (whether personal, professional, or civic), such instruction would not be superfluous. Moreover, we argue, there is every reason to think that such instruction can be effective if properly done. In this paper, we make the argument for instruction in decision making in the schools, particularly in early adolescence. We outline the foundations of such instruction in the field of decision analysis and in the psychology of decision making and learning. We then illustrate our ideas from a middle school program we are piloting in Reston, VA and Philadelphia, PA., and finally propose an approach to measuring the impact of such instruction on real-life decision-making.