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# Class 5:

Applying Theory

## UTA SSW, SOCW 6355

Advanced use of Information Technology in the Human Services
Professor Dick Schoech
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Overview of Class
Use of Theory
Systems Theory
Decision Making Theory
Other Relevant Theories

## Definition & Use of Theory

Definition of Theory (from theory at a glance)

## Systematic way of understanding a broad variety of

events/situations
set of concepts, definitions, and propositions that explain or
predict events/situations by illustrating the relationships
between them

Uses of theory

## Provide a conceptual framework & building blocks

Provide a common vocabulary
Challenge practice wisdom about why, what, and what if
Guide practice and its evaluation, e.g., variables to measure

Systems Theory
(should be a review of SOCW 3306/5306)

Definition
Types
Concepts
Application of systems theory

## Systems Theory Definition

Systems are elements in interaction

## Systems Types: Open Vs. Closed

An open system interacts with its environment.
A closed system receives no inputs from its

## environment & entropy or decay sets in.

Systems have different levels of being open or
closed.
A variety of inputs is required to help a system to
remain open.
Implications

entropy.

## Systems Concepts: Hierarchy

Systems are nested in a hierarchy, that is,

## systems consist of subsystems and systems

operate within environments (e.g., Russian
Nesting Dolls)
Implications

## Need to specify what level of the hierarchy you

are focusing on as that level becomes the
system of interest.

## Systems Concepts: Boundaries

Boundaries are the interface between a system and its

## subsystems or a system and its environment.

Friction occurs at the boundaries of a system, e.g.,

Where rubber hits the road, when planes take off and
land, between an agency and its client.
Implications

## By examining the boundaries of a system, we can

often isolate the friction and its causes.

## Systems Concepts: Inputs, etc.

All systems have:

Inputs

processes

output

Implications

## By identifying and mapping the cycles of

inputs, processes and outputs, we can define
a system better and learn a lot about how it
behaves

## Systems Concepts: Goal Seeking

Systems tend to be goal seeking, that is, they move in

## the direction of goal achievement.

Systems without well defined goals often go in many

different directions.
The primary goal of a system is survival. All goals will

Implications

## Need to make sure IT applications have a widely shared

goal among the stakeholders

## Systems Concepts: Cybernetics

For a system to work properly, it must have control

mechanisms.
Control mechanisms

Implications

## Examining the feedback and control mechanisms of a system

will allow you to see causes of system failure

## Systems Concepts: Equilibrium

Systems tend toward a state of non-change called

homeostasis or equilibrium
Systems that are most amenable to change are

## those that are failing (survival is threatened) and

successful and can take risks without threatening
survival
Implications

## Systems Concepts: Elaboration

When systems change, they tend to move in

## the direction of differentiation and

elaboration
Systems like change only if it allows them to

## Systems Concepts: Synergy

Systems working well experience synergy

## where the total system output are greater

than the sum of all inputs.
Synergy is also called nonsummitivity
Implications

## For synergy to occur, subsystems must not

maximize, but sacrifice optimization and
cooperate for the good of the overall system,
e.g., Teamwork.

## Systems Theory Application

Applications are information models of the application
Expect equilibrium and thus resistance
Build in continuous feedback and improvement
Most applications are changes to the old system, so

## understanding the old system is one of the first steps

Since all systems are goal seeking, have well defined
goals
Put in boundary spanning roles if systems span
boundaries
Since systems like elaboration and differentiation, have
ways to limit application scope, e.g., balance between
user, manager, and IT needs.

## Networks Vs Industrial Thinking

Innovation is more importation than optimization
To discover the unknown, must abandon the successful

known
Things more plentiful are more valuable (fax machine)
Wealth follows things that are free (shareware)
Abandon a product/occupation/industry when it is at its best
Seek sustainable disequilibrium to keep things in churn
It is more important to do the right job than to do the job right
Seeking opportunities is more important for leaders than
solving problems
Source: Kevin Kelly, Wired Magazine, Sep 97, p. 140+

Key Concepts

## Optimizing = find best option

Satisficing = find one of many acceptable options

## Evidence based decision making (URLs to be updated)

Generic Steps = http://www2.uta.edu/ssw/trainasfa/ebpconcept.htm
Child abuse example http://www2.uta.edu/ssw/trainasfa/ebptdprs.htm
Text, Figures 7.5, 7.6, 7.7
Genetic basis of decision making

## Other Relevant Theories

Theories for behavior change applications
Theory of planned behavior (norms+attitudes+self efficacy>intent to change=behavior change)
Stages of change theory (precontemplation, contemplation,
preparation, action, maintenance, and termination)

## Social learning theory (stimulus-response)

Cognitive behavioral theory (thoughts influence emotions
which then influence behaviors)

## Game theory (learn by doing, fun is best, motivate using challenge)

Resiliency theory (reduce risk factors, increase protective factors)
Ecological theory (involve family/work/community)
Diffusion of Innovation theory (examine people, innovation, situation)

Conclusion
Systems and decision making theory are basic

## to understanding most applications

In an evidence informed practice model, theory

its success