Class 5


Applying Theory

UTA SSW, SOCW 6355 Advanced use of Information Technology in the Human Services Professor Dick Schoech
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Overview of Class
Use of Theory
Systems Theory

Decision Making Theory
Other Relevant Theories

Definition & Use of Theory
 Definition of Theory (from theory at a glance)

Systematic way of understanding a broad variety of events/situations set of concepts, definitions, and propositions that explain or predict events/situations by illustrating the relationships between them
Provide a conceptual framework & building blocks Provide a common vocabulary Challenge practice wisdom about “why,” “what,” and “what if” Guide practice and its evaluation, e.g., variables to measure

 Uses of theory
 

Systems Theory
(should be a review of SOCW 3306/5306)

Definition Types  Concepts

 Application of systems theory

Systems Theory Definition
 Systems are elements in interaction  Systems thinking vs. traditional thinking
Characteristic Overall view Key processes Type of analysis Focus of investigation State during investigation Basic assumption Problem resolution Operation of parts Traditional thinking Reductionistic, focus is on the parts Analysis Deduction Attributes of objects Static Cause and effect A static solution Optimal Systems thinking Holistic, focus is on the whole Synthesis Induction Interdependence of objects Dynamic Multiple, probabilistic causality An adaptive system or modeling Suboptimal

Systems Types: Open Vs. Closed
 An open system interacts with its environment.

 A closed system receives no inputs from its

environment & entropy or decay sets in.  Systems have different levels of being open or closed.  A variety of inputs is required to help a system to remain open.  Implications

Need to create as open a system as possible to avoid entropy.

Systems Concepts: Hierarchy
 Systems are nested in a hierarchy, that is,

systems consist of subsystems and systems operate within environments (e.g., Russian Nesting Dolls)  Implications

Need to specify what level of the hierarchy you are focusing on as that level becomes the system of interest.

Systems Concepts: Boundaries
 Boundaries are the interface between a system and

its subsystems or a system and its environment.
 Friction occurs at the boundaries of a system, e.g.,

Where rubber hits the road, when planes take off and land, between an agency and its client.
 Implications

By examining the boundaries of a system, we can often isolate the friction and its causes.
May need boundary spanning roles to ease friction

Systems Concepts: Inputs, etc.
 All systems have:

Inputs  
 Implications

processes 

output 

Criteria (feedback loop) 

By identifying and mapping the cycles of inputs, processes and outputs, we can define a system better and learn a lot about how it behaves

Systems Concepts: Goal Seeking
 Systems tend to be goal seeking, that is, they move

in the direction of goal achievement.
 Systems without well defined goals often go in many

different directions.
 The primary goal of a system is survival. All goals

will be sacrificed in order for a system to survive.
 Implications

Need to make sure IT applications have a widely shared goal among the stakeholders

Systems Concepts: Cybernetics
 For a system to work properly, it must have control

 Control mechanisms

Accept information about system outputs

Evaluate information using goal related criteria
Use the feedback as additional inputs

 Cybernetics is the study of feedback & control.

 Implications

Examining the feedback and control mechanisms of a system will allow you to see causes of system failure

Systems Concepts: Equilibrium
 Systems tend toward a state of non-change called

homeostasis or equilibrium
 Systems that are most amenable to change are those

that are failing (survival is threatened) and successful and can take risks without threatening survival
 Implications
 

Assume any changes you propose will be resisted

Assume that no system will change unless it receives new inputs

Systems Concepts: Elaboration
 When systems change, they tend to move in

the direction of differentiation and elaboration
 Systems like change only if it allows them to

become larger entities like themselves

Systems Concepts: Synergy
 Systems working well experience synergy

where the total system output are greater than the sum of all inputs.
 Synergy is also called nonsummitivity  Implications

For synergy to occur, subsystems must not maximize, but sacrifice optimization and cooperate for the good of the overall system, e.g., Teamwork.

Systems Theory — Application
 Applications are information models of the application

 Expect equilibrium and thus resistance
 Build in continuous feedback and improvement  Most applications are changes to the old system, so

understanding the old system is one of the first steps  Since all systems are goal seeking, have well defined goals  Put in boundary spanning roles if systems span boundaries  Since systems like elaboration and differentiation, have ways to limit application scope, e.g., balance between user, manager, and IT needs.

Networks Vs Industrial Thinking
 Innovation is more importation than optimization  To discover the unknown, must abandon the successful      

known Things more plentiful are more valuable (fax machine) Wealth follows things that are free (shareware) Abandon a product/occupation/industry when it is at its best Seek sustainable disequilibrium to keep things in “churn” It is more important to do the right job than to do the job right Seeking opportunities is more important for leaders than solving problems
Source: Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine, Sep 97, p. 140+

Decision Making Theory
 Key Concepts

Optimizing = find best option Satisficing = find one of many acceptable options
(URLs to be updated)

 Evidence based decision making

Generic Steps = Child abuse example

 Text, Figures 7.5, 7.6, 7.7

 Genetic basis of decision making

Other Relevant Theories
Theories for behavior change applications
 Theory of planned behavior
(norms+attitudes+self efficacy>intent to change=behavior change)

 Stages of change theory (precontemplation, contemplation,
preparation, action, maintenance, and termination)

 Social learning theory (stimulus-response)  Cognitive behavioral theory (thoughts influence emotions
which then influence behaviors)

 Game theory (learn by doing, fun is best, motivate using challenge)

 Resiliency theory (reduce risk factors, increase protective factors)
 Ecological theory (involve family/work/community)  Diffusion of Innovation theory (examine people, innovation, situation)

 Systems and decision making theory are

basic to understanding most applications
 In an evidence informed practice model,

theory should explain and guide design application and its success
 Theory behind the design influences results  Behavior change theories are relevant since

resistance to adoption usually exists

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