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Cybernetics and Systems Thought as a Salvation for Educational Problems
University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, Department of Educational sciences, Educational science, Curriculum studies. (SEP)
University of Gävle, Faculty of Education and Business Studies, Department of Educational sciences, Educational science, Education. (SEP)
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper presents a comparison between two national educational contexts – the Soviet Union and Sweden. The countries exhibit similarities on how education was thought in relation to cybernetics (for a description of the early thinking of cybernetics, see Wiener, 1948) and ‘systems thought’ (for a description, see Heyck, 2015) from the early 1960s and onwards. By performing our study, we are able to historicize some of the prerequisites for the contemporary beliefs in education such as accountability, ‘evidence-based education’, and ‘feedback’.

The history of Soviet cybernetics is a history of rebellion and conformity, enchantment and disappointment. This is a story of fascination with a new revolutionary language, which eventually gave way to a frustration when this new language was appropriated by the Soviet nomenclature (Gerovitch, 2002). But, it is also a history of how a new educational language and a new way of reasoning (cf. Hacking, 1990) on education was developed that embraced all educational ‘things’ in terms of organization, structure, system, function, and process (cf. Heyck, 2015). In this way, Soviet cybernetics in education carried a promise and a means of ‘salvation’ for making the educational sciences more ‘objective’ and ‘evidence-based’.

In the Swedish case, we acknowledge cybernetics and ‘systems thought’ as something growing into a specific intellectual tradition, commonly labeled as a ‘systems approach’ (Kaijser & Tiberg, 2000). It has advanced into different fields of science, such as systems analysis, policy analysis and futures studies. The ‘systems approach’, combining cybernetics and ‘systems thought’, also entered the field of education through the language of behaviorism (Bosseldal, 2019) and ‘education technology’.

Our paper is elaborative in its purpose: When dealing with data we firstly present articles important for the phase when cybernetics and ‘systems thought’ were introduced in the educational sciences in the USSR and Sweden (1960s an onwards). In the analysis of these texts we conclude that cybernetics and ‘systems thought’, carried a promise of ‘imagined futures’ (Beckert, 2016) and a tool for resolving some of the perceived educational problems at that time.  Secondly, we analyze (text)books published with a mission of introducing cybernetics and ‘systems thought’ to Soviet and Swedish teachers and students. In performing this task, we are able to demonstrate how cybernetics and ‘systems thought’ changed the organization, practices and roles within education creating a new ‘technology’ of teaching and learning; this is specifically demonstrated in relation to changes in curriculum, pedagogy and evaluation (cf. Bernstein, 1975).

This setup allows us to elaborate on why and how the present reasoning on accountability, feedback, and evidence-based education are made intelligible.

References:

Beckert, J. (2016) Imagined Futures: Fictional Expectations and Capitalist Dynamics. Cambridge & London: Harvard University Press.

Bernstein, B. (1975) Class, Code and Control. Volume 3. Towards a Theory of Educational Transmissions. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Bosseldal, I. (2019) Vart tog behaviorismen vägen? Social responsivitet mellan barn och vuxen, hund och människa. Lund: Lunds universitet.

Gerovitch, S. (2002) Newspeak to Cyberspeak: A History of Soviet Cybernetics. Cambridge & London: MIT Press.

Hacking, I. (1990) The Taming of Chance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Heyck, H. (2015) Age of System: Understanding the development of modern social science. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Kaijser, A. & Tiberg, J (2000) From Operations Research to Future Studies: The Establishment, Diffusion, and Transformation of the Systems Approach in Sweden. A. C. Hughes & T. P. Hughes (Ed.) Systems, Experts, and Computers: The Systems Approach in Management and Engineering, World War II and After. Cambridge & London: MIT Press.

Wiener, N. (1948) Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-30946OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-30946DiVA, id: diva2:1370070
Conference
NOCIES biannual conference & Global CIE Forum. Stockholm, October 10-11, 2019
Available from: 2019-11-13 Created: 2019-11-13 Last updated: 2019-11-14Bibliographically approved

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Mikhaylova, TatianaPettersson, Daniel

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CiteExportLink to record
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