Larsen&Hanse - Paper Human Development 2005;48:327349 DOI 10.1159/000088251 The Development of Strategic Thinking Learning to Impact Human

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Fax + 41 61 306 12 34 E-Mail [email protected] Ó 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel 0018–716X/05/0486–0327$22.00/0 Accessible online at: Reed Larson Department of Human and Community Development University of Illinois 1105 W. Nevada St., Urbana, IL 61801 (USA) Tel. +1 217 333 2837, E-Mail [email protected] Paper Human Development 2005;48:327–349 DOI: 10.1159/000088251 The Development of Strategic Thinking: Learning to Impact Human Systems in a Youth Activism Program Reed Larson David Hansen The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Ill., USA Key Words Action theory ` Adolescent cognitive development ` Development of agency ` Empowerment ` Planning ` Political socialization ` Positive youth development ` Pragmatic reasoning ` Strategic thinking ` Youth activism Abstract Human systems, including institutional systems and informal social net- works, are a major arena of modern life. We argue that distinct forms of prag- matic reasoning or ‘strategic thinking’ are required to exercise agency within such systems. This article explores the development of strategic thinking in a youth activism program in which young people worked for social change. These youth came to understand different human systems, the school board, teachers, and students, and they learned to employ three strategic modes of reasoning: seeking strategic information, framing communications to the audience, and sequential contingency thinking. Although youth described themselves as agents of their development, adults played important roles in supporting their experi- ence of a cycle of experiential learning. These findings suggest how the new cognitive potentials of adolescence allow youth to develop modes of reasoning that expand their capacity to exercise agency over a longer arc of time and across a wider interpersonal space. Copyright © 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel An earlier version of this paper was presented at the meetings of the Society for Research on Ado- lescence, Baltimore, Md., March 12, 2004.
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328 Human Development 2005;48:327–349 Larson/Hansen No one, these days, can avoid contact with systems. Systems are everywhere: big systems, little systems, systems mechanical and electronic, and those special systems that consist of organized associations of people. In self-defense we must learn to live with systems, to control them lest they control us. J. Gall, The systems bible. Walker, MN: General Systematics Press, 2002, p. 2. The young people in Generation Y, a civic activism program in Chicago, had determined that the city’s public high schools often suspended students for minor offenses, such as being late for class, bringing a cell phone to school, and even for laughing in class. They wanted to meet with the school system’s CEO to advocate for adherence to the district’s Uniform Disciplinary Code, which recommend more limited punishments for minor offences. Yet the CEO was a very busy person, and there was a phalanx of lower level administrators and secretaries who made direct
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This note was uploaded on 02/21/2012 for the course PYSC 521 taught by Professor Dr.zarrett during the Spring '11 term at South Carolina.

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Larsen&Hanse - Paper Human Development 2005;48:327349 DOI 10.1159/000088251 The Development of Strategic Thinking Learning to Impact Human

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