Global Partners in Education Journal, Vol 6, No 1 (2017)

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From Abstract to Concrete: Decision Making, Cultural Understanding, and the Global Partners Program

John H. P. Williams


Teaching decision analysis helps countries improve national processes, yet successful application requires managing cultural differences. To help ensure student success, the Global Partners in Education’s Global Understanding courses improve the ability of students to manage varying cultural contexts, encouraging cross-fertilization of ideas. Having said that, how does the GPE alter instruction in cross-cultural understanding and in decision-making to provide this success?  To answer this question, I evaluate concepts of three areas of instruction: decision analysis, cross-cultural analysis, and the GPE. First, how does each of the three approach their subject? Second, what insights do they provide about each other? Finally, how does interaction among the three areas affect student performance?  Combining decision and cultural models with the Global Understanding approach allows students to address these issues both directly and indirectly, ensuring ecological validity, that is, ensuring that they provide ‘real world’ insights. As with any models, repeated application of core principles allows students to move from the abstract to the concrete more readily. The Global Understanding approach addresses this challenge by repeatedly taking students in and out of their experiential and substantive backgrounds, making contact with the rich complexity of human understanding more routine.

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