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Definitions of Terms

The following terms were used throughout many projects that were studied in my examination of Participatory Action Research (PAR) at the US Army Command & General Staff College from 2008-2011.

I was researching how PAR curriculum projects can change how we design and deliver curriculum within the military profession. A large part of the change we generated concerned the preparation of leaders to engage with uncertainty in the world. Along the way we began to develop an understanding of the language used in both the practical and theoretical literature.  I provide here our “terms of art”, with working definitions, and references to the source literature that informed our evolving judgment in hopes that it may speed your own search.

These terms became part of the common professional language used by stakeholders, project managers, leaders, faculty and students as they discussed their insights. The dialogue shaped the language they used and the language shaped the discussions because of the connection to the worlds of theory and practice. This summary reflects a broad set of common topics and themes found throughout the research.  Unless otherwise specifically noted, the general sense of the words and their definitions as noted below will apply:

chaos, complexity, uncertainty, risk: a collection of terms that Army vision documents and curriculum developers use interchangeably to describe various aspects of the operational environment that are beyond pure rationality; these have technical and detailed definitions within their respective professional domains that go beyond the scope of this research and in the way they are used within the profession. (Pascale, 1999; Strogatz, 2003; Miller & Page, 2007)

concept maps: a visual representation of concepts, constructs, people and organizations, theory and practice that reflects the connections between the elements in a dynamic way. (Novak, et. al., 2006)

decision-criteria: (suitable, feasible, acceptable): the Army’s doctrinal evaluation criteria for evaluating all proposed change (US Army FM 3.0, 2011; HTAR, 2011).

design vs. planning: military design thinking reflects a holistic, systematic, open-ended inquiry into root causes, theories of action and problem framing in finding, whereas planning reflects a rational choice theory of structured decision making. (Dawes, 1988; Mintzberg, 1993; Dorner, 1996; Gigerenzer, 2005; US Army FM 3.0, 2011; Paparone & Tenant, 2011; McConnell, et.al, 2011)

doctrine: authoritative theoretical guidance, reflecting the accumulated wisdom and best generalized reflective practices of the military profession. (US Army FM 1-02, 2011).

emergence: a property of complex systems that describes features and qualities of systems that cannot be found neither in the individual components nor separately in the surrounding environment, and yet can be experienced as a holistic quality that is more than the sum of the parts. An example is the emergent quality of “wetness” of rain, which is found at the intersection on humidity, atmospheric conditions, the sensory organs of human skin and a consciousness that becomes aware of the sensation in that context. A more complex example is the self-organizing formations of Canadian geese in flight, who, without conscious design nor explicit direction adopt flight formations that improve the efficiency and effectiveness of group flying, resulting in sustained speeds of flight that cannot be achieved and sustained by even the strongest member of the flight as an individual (Klein, 2001; Strogatz, 2003; Scott & Wagner, 2003)

learning organizations: organizations that explicitly seek to manage knowledge, resources and processes in an informed way to improve operations. (Senge, et.al., 2000)

lines of  action: a military term of art that describes a particular approach and supporting processes along a logical line of development and is usually considered to be part of a campaign plan of long duration (US Army FM 1-02, 2011).

milWiki & Army Knowledge online: Army wide knowledge management resources that are the centerpiece of the Army’s knowledge management strategy (Long, 2009; Richardson, 2010)

mindfulness: a multi-temporal conscious awareness of the moment and its dynamics within the context of an environment that acknowledges the influence of the past and the consequences of the future (Weick & Putnam, 2006)

network learning: an educational and learning theory and framework that explicitly considers the connections between agents and the various media by which knowledge can be created, disseminated, applied and adapted and in which various learning communities, both virtual and physical can be created (Siemens, 2005; Downes, 2007; Taylor & Lamoreaux, 2008; Richardson, 2010)

personal learning environment: the totality of the technology, environment, attitude of a learner in a digital and social learning context (Siemens, 2005; Downes, 2007, Richardson, 2010)

praxis: reflectively generated best practices from specific circumstances that favor a pragmatic assessment of utility. (Schon, 1990; Weick, 1993; Simon, 1997)

satisficing & bounded rationality: an approach to decision-making that acknowledges the limits of computability and the constraints of time, resources and forecasting on human decision-making based on the work of Herb Simon. (Simon, 1997; Henrich, et.al. 2001)

self-as-instrument: an emerging concept that explicitly includes the researchers actions, perspectives and paradigm as part of the research, including the effects of the research upon the researcher (Jamieson & Livingston, 2010)

sense-making: a cognitive function of creating satisfying narratives and meaning from a variety of data and knowledge (Weick, 1993; Klein, et.al. 2006; Boje, 2008; Watson, 2009).

small worlds management games: a broad category of experiential learning games that propose to model an operational environment to a certain degree of fidelity to provide students an opportunity to explore the dynamics in a direct action and feedback mode (Thole, et. al,1997; Macedonia, 2001; Rice, 2007; Long, 2010)

social media channels: (blog, wiki, vlog, Tweet): a collection of emerging digital communications technologies, and frameworks that support and extend the development of connected list network learning environments (Richardson, 2010)

stakeholders: people and organizations that have direct and indirect interests or are affected by the outcomes of policy decisions taken at CGSC (Bradbury, 2008; Jamieson & Livingston, 2010)

transformational change: change that goes beyond routine evolutionary adaptation to include major restructuring and changes of mindset; approaches and can include a change of paradigm in the Kuhnian sense. (French & Bell, 1999; Cooperider & Whitney, 2005; Cummings & Worley, 2009)


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