Perceptions Newsletter No. 22

What Judy Learned in China

In July I attended “The International Conference on Philosophy and Complexity Theory and Perceptual Control Theory”.
Probably your first question is “What the @#%%^^^ is Complexity Theory??? Answer: I never found out exactly… I think it has to do with robotics, as a lot of the Chinese presentations appeared to offer information in that area – but there were others that didn’t – so if anyone knows, that would be nice to find out.

The Conference delegates were mainly Chinese, but there was a significant group from the USA, Canada and of course one lone Aussie. It was held over three days at the South China Normal University in Guangzhou – one of about 12 Universities in that city. Plenary sessions were delivered in the presenter’s language (either Chinese or English) and translated into the other one by an interpreter.

Bill Powers, the originator of Perceptual Control Theory, was one of the main presenters, and was also honoured with an honorary Doctorate from the University – he gave his acceptance speech in Chinese, which was greatly applauded.

So what did I learn? I believe I have a much better understanding of Perceptual Control Theory, especially in the way it is applied in daily life. Constantly I heard the refrain “We control for input”. I finally understood that this means that when we behave (act), we don’t plan what we will do; we focus on what we want to perceive – both what we want to perceive ourselves doing, and what we want to perceive in the environment. Is this important? Sure is … it means that if you are working with another person, you are both control systems, both controlling for input, NOT being controlled by anything! Makes it much easier to understand why it is only possible to give another person information rather than to directly control their behaviour.

I also learned that a reorganisation system is random – reorganisation is creating behaviour when we are out of balance and want to do something different. Bill Powers has developed a computer program simulating the behaviour of E.coli, which can change direction, but only in a random way. It can also sense whether it is moving towards or away from a higher concentration of nutrients. It flips whenever it senses a decrease in nutrients, but can’t control which way it then goes – but if it senses lower nutrients, it flips again very quickly. Using this random process, it reaches its target quite efficiently. (Guess what – it controls for input, and gets it!) (It is more efficient – uses fewer turns - than a human trying to control input the same way – its “flips” happen faster!)

Probably that’s enough for one episode. I won’t forget the sight of Gary Cziko offering representative examples of controlling for input – he behaved as a bicycle, and as a car.

Other attendees, some of whose names you might recognise, were Shelley Brierley, Shelley Roy, Tony Goldston, Glenn Smith, Kenny Kitzke, Lloyd Klinedinst, Bobbie Bollman, Linda and Rick Marken. There were also three teenage boys, sons of the two Shelleys and Glenn. Many of us were also together in Hong Kong before the conference, and went on to Xian to visit the entombed warriors. I left the tour at that point, although others continued on to Beijing.

Report on ACT 2 at St Mary’s

The course was completed on Sunday 26th August. Both the Participants and the Instructors experienced deep learning experiences, especially in working using the Method of Levels as an interviewing process. We found it to be exciting in helping the client find the background thought and find the source of the conflict at the level where it was created. This meant that we worked constantly on the client’s perception of the problem in the present, with early and significant results. We experimented with a different process (which we labelled “speed dating”) described by Tim Carey in an article on the Method of Levels, where the clients talked about their issue and the interviewers moved from one client to the next at intervals. This focused the interviewers’ attention on looking for disruptions, either verbal or non-verbal, and drawing the clients’ attention to the higher level thinking possibly associated with the disruption. We also experimented with using Method of Levels questions within the regular interviewing process, with success.

Don’s work on conflict resolution tied directly into the MOL process, and offered us ways to stay grounded in difficult situations as well as things to be, say and do when confronted by difficult people.

We intend to offer another ACT 2 as soon as demand is evident – at the moment we are thinking of next year, but it could be earlier if enough people ask for the training.

Restitution Script

Here is a script of a “real” interview between a teacher and student – well done, S!!

Morning Don
I thought I would write to tell you that I had a go at Restitution yesterday. A perfect situation occurred! Nicolas had a fight on the playground and came back into class really upset. I asked the Aide to read the class a story whilst I sat in the play area with Nicolas and we talked as we wrote sums up on the board. The conversation went something like this:

S: So Nic, what happened out there? I can see you are a little upset. I’m not out to blame anyone I just want to know what happened. (Stabilising the identity)

N: Yeah, Steven punched me so I punched him back and it is not fair as I had to do a time out

S : Yeah sometimes things don’t seem fair. So it seemed like you wanted to defend yourself
(Validating the intention behind the behaviour)

N: yeap

S: It is important to defend yourself. Would I tell you not to? (Drawing the energy)

N: Nuh

S: But what do we believe at (school) about care and respect for others (Seeking the belief)

N: I know….to keep our hands and feet to ourselves

S: So do you believe in that

N: Yeah but he punched me

S: Yeap and that must have hurt, (Stabilising) but do you believe that we need to be safe?

N: Yeah

S: So do you want to fix the problem? (Seeking Restitution)

N: Yeah I won’t do it again

S: But it has happened, so what can you do about that problem…what about when you see Steven?

N: I could say sorry

S: So will you do that?

N: Yeh

S: How will I know you’ve done that? When could you do that? (Building commitment)

N: At lunchtime

S: So what does that say about you as a person? (Seeking the Ideal Person)

N: That I am a good person?

S: I would say also that you are a responsible and caring person. (Values)

At lunch I happened to be on duty, and Nic had forgotten…I went over and gave him a gentle reminder. He went up to Steven and said sorry. Steven said sorry, and then I asked them. Is there something else you could do for each other to apologise? Could you shake hands? They did and I congratulated them on the way they resolved their conflict. I then gave them 2 bonuses each for their amazing efforts! I will write up the script to help me It was good to get practice and I was lucky that it was a pretty easy one to begin with.

See ya Don. Regards S

Thinkers’ Workshop postponed

The original dates (September 16/17) have crept up on us a bit too fast – so we are going to reschedule to a later date. The content will be mainly Perceptual Control Theory and what it means as we apply it in our own lives or with others.

Book Review: Creating Classrooms Where Teachers Love to Teach and Students Love to Learn

Bob Sornson, Ph.D. Love and Logic Intsitute, Golden, Colarado, 2005.

This is a very readable “How to” book written in a narrative style as it follows the experiences of a small, dedicated group of teachers who are attempting to apply the principles of “Love and Logic” teaching. The key to the success of these methods is in developing and expressing genuine empathy for the students in the teacher’s care. The book describes the nine essential skills for the love and logic teacher:

  1. Neutralising student arguing
  2. Using delayed consequences
  3. Using empathy
  4. Using the recovery process
  5. Developing positive teacher-student relationships
  6. Setting limits with enforceable statements
  7. Using choices to prevent power struggles
  8. Using quick and easy classroom interventions
  9. Guiding students to solve their own problems

There are suggestions of ways teachers can learn these skills to implement in the classroom. Having read the book I find myself wanting to go out and apply my learning in the classroom and to share what I have read with others. This review is an attempt to do so.

How does it link with applied control theory? Well to me the book’s appeal is to that picture of the kind of teacher I would want to be and then offers some suggestions as to how I might move closer to becoming such a teacher. It’s worth the read. It may be available in Australia but you can definitely get it through

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