Article on training adaptive teams earns professors, postdoc national recognition

February 29, 2012

Training teams to be more adaptive in new situations can prevent disasters and help recover from crises much more efficiently and quickly. In 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 went down after striking a large flock of birds during its initial climb. With Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot, and his crew’s ability to adapt to the circumstance, the plane was successfully ditched in the Hudson River. One thing we learned from the crew’s emergency response is the importance in training adaptive teams to be resilient and flexible during crises and rare circumstances.  

In their award-winning article, “Training Adaptive Teams,” Nancy Cooke, professor of cognitive science and engineering at ASU’s College of Technology and Innovation, Jamie Gorman, psychology postdoc, and Polemnia Amazeen, associate professor of psychology at ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, compared training methods for team coordination in an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) ground control simulator. The article received the Jerome H. Ely Human Factors Article Award at the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society annual meeting in Las Vegas. Download Full Image

The experiment outlined in the article compared three training approaches and measured their effectiveness in terms of training adaptive teams. Cross-training, an established method in which team members are trained on the tasks and responsibilities of fellow team members, relies heavily on shared knowledge. Perturbation training is a new method in which team interactions are constrained to provide new coordination experiences during task acquisition. Both approaches and the more traditional procedural approach were assigned to 26 teams. The teams flew nine simulated UAV missions, and three were critical tests of the team’s ability to adapt to novel situations. The researchers measured team performance, response time to novel events and shared knowledge.

The results showed that perturbation-trained teams significantly outperformed teams in two out of three critical test missions, an outcome that was somewhat surprising according to Cooke.

“The prevalence of a cross-training approach in real-world applications leads a lot of people to think that it is the most effective way to train a highly adaptive team,” said Cooke. “However, perturbation training, which is done by throwing roadblocks into the process like system or communications breakdowns, teaches teams to be flexible and know what to do in very rare circumstances. That kind of resiliency is what leads to more adaptive teams.”

Perturbation training is amenable to simulation-based training, where trainers can manipulate distractions, unique scenarios and unforeseen breakdowns. Such interruptions provide interaction experiences that teams can transfer to real-world solutions.

“Adaptation is all about being able to bend and adjust in accordance with change,” said Cooke. “Responding to unknown circumstances and perturbations in a manipulated environment pushes teams to decide, plan, think and act under conditions they have never experienced. That’s where the real-world application comes in; perturbation training allows teams to be highly adaptable in any situation that comes their way.”

Lecture to focus on Islamism and the Arab Spring

February 29, 2012

The Arab Spring surprised and impressed many experts and lay observers for their largely civil, peaceful and immensely popular revolutions. But the intense debate was on the nature of these revolutions. Yet, the impressive showing of religious parties in the general elections in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt has reinforced the view of those who feared yet another wave of Islamist fundamentalism in the Arab world.

Do these revolutions herald the entrenchment of Islamist politics in the Middle East? Asef Bayat, a leading expert on Muslim social movements, will address this question in a free lecture at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at noon, March 5, in West Hall room 135 on the Tempe campus. Portrait of Asef Bayat, a leading expert on Islam and social movements. Download Full Image

Bayat, the coiner of the phrase “post-Islamism,” is the widely regarded author and editor of a number of key books on democratic trends and counter-trends in the Middle East, including “Making Islam Democratic” (2007), “Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics” (2010) and “Life as Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East” (2010).

Bayat, currently serving as the inaugural holder of the Aga Khan Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities at Brown University, is a professor of sociology and Middle East studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining the University of Illinois, Bayat was the director of the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World (ISIM) and the chair of the program in Society and Culture of the Modern Middle East at Leiden University in Amsterdam from 2003-2010. Before that, he taught sociology and Middle East studies at the American University in Cairo.

In addition to his teaching and writing, Bayat has also served on the editorial boards of the International Journal of Middle East Studies, Development and Change, ISIM Review, Middle East Report, Middle East Critique, Eutopia, and Cairo Papers in Social Science.

Bayat’s lecture is part of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict’s “Conversations at the Center” series, which features leading academics whose theoretical and substantive work on the dynamics of religion and conflict cuts across multiple disciplines. The faculty of religious studies in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies is co-sponsoring the event.

For more information, see Tickets are not required to attend this event.