PAXsims

Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

Serious games and teaching intelligence analysis

Kris Wheaton, who teaches intelligence studies at Mercyhurst College, is among those who have used serious games in the classroom—in this case, to help students develop and sharpen their analytical skills. He also writes about it on his excellent blog on intelligence matters, Sources and Methods, which is very helpful for the rest of us too.

As a recent press report on his graduate course notes:

Wheaton has embraced what’s called “game-based learning” in his graduate level strategic intelligence course for the past two years.

“I think the students expected it to be more fun than it was,” Wheaton said. “But since it began I can see an obvious increase in the quality of work.”

The course is the capstone for Mercyhurst’s applied intelligence master’s program, graduates of which go on to fields such as Homeland Security.

Students are graded on how well they learn theories behind strategy and not how well they do in games.

Second-year applied intelligence graduate student Regis Mullen said this approach to teaching allows students to take a new approach to learning.

“Students generally tailor their learning to getting a good grade,” Mullen said. “But this has to do more with reflecting on what you’ve done, and it sticks a lot better.”

Most of the games in Wheaton’s course are video games, but they aren’t all just the most popular strategy games.

You’ll find more on his classroom use of games here.

In his most recent blog post, Kris discusses “gamification, and what it means for intelligence,” including a forthcoming request for proposals for the Sirius Program of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (Office of the Director for National Intelligence). Sirius aims to produce “serious games” for analyst training:

The goal of the Sirius Program is to create Serious Games to train participants and measure their proficiency in recognizing and mitigating the cognitive biases that commonly affect all types of intelligence analysis. The research objective is to experimentally manipulate variables in Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) and to determine whether and how such variables might enable player-participant recognition and persistent mitigation of cognitive biases. The Program will provide a basis for experimental repeatability and independent validation of effects, and identify critical elements of design for effective analytic training in VLEs. The cognitive biases of interest that will be examined include: (1) Confirmation Bias, (2) Fundamental Attribution Error, (3) Bias Blind Spot, (4) Anchoring Bias, (5) Representativeness Bias, and (6) Projection Bias.

A “proposer’s day conference” for this is to be held in Washington DC on February 24, to inform potential partners of the impending request for proposals. I’m not sure if the meeting is FOUO or subject to non-disclosure agreements, but if it’s not and it isn’t, we would love to hear what was said.

h/t: INTELST listserv and Sources and Methods blog

UPDATE:

Kris Wheaton, who attended the event, has posted some comments below. As he notes, the SIRIUS presentation can be downloaded from the IARPA website.

2 responses to “Serious games and teaching intelligence analysis

  1. Kristan J. Wheaton 06/03/2011 at 4:12 am

    First, thanks for the kind words about my blog!

    Second, the Sirius Proposer’s Day Conference was enormously interesting. The slides used by the Program Manager, Rita Bush, to explain the program and its goals are freely available for download from IARPA’s website.

    The problem, as more fully described by Rita, is hard — very hard. I think there was a good bit of concern on the part of the audience about just how hard it really is. Part of this is due to the sheer administrative burden a project like this entails. More critically, though, in my opinion, were the performance metrics which really demand a major leap forward in reducing biases in analysts.

    I, for one, am looking forward to it!

    Kris

  2. Rex Brynen 06/03/2011 at 9:09 pm

    Kris—thanks for the update!

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