What is Decision Education?

Teaching students how to determine for themselves what they value, what is true, and what to do.

Decision Education (DE) is the teaching and learning of skillful judgment formation and decision-making.

It includes four Learning Domains that build skills from grades K-12, enabling students to form more accurate judgments and make more skillful decisions—on their own or as part of a group, both today and for the rest of their lives.

The skills and strategies embedded within Decision Education provide the foundation for making decisions proactively and rationally, empowering students in developmentally appropriate ways to determine what they value, what is true, and what to do.

Decision Education draws from multiple fields: behavioral sciences to neuroscience, mathematics to decision analysis, and from the wisdom of philosophy to the practices of education.

The four K-12 Learning Domains

Thinking Probabilistically

We live in a world with incomplete, imperfect, and sometimes misleading information. When we make decisions, we are estimating what we know in the present and predicting what we think may happen in the future. Thinking probabilistically improves our decision-making by aiding our judgments about the likelihood of possible outcomes associated with our options.

The skills, dispositions, and concepts in this domain support:

  • Managing uncertainty through numeracy
  • Estimating our confidence in current knowledge
  • Predicting what might happen in the future and the consequences of any outcome
  • Assessing the expected value, risks, and rewards associated with our different decisions
  • Understanding the relationship between skill and chance

Valuing and Applying Rationality

Being rational means adopting goals that are aligned with your values, holding beliefs that are commensurate with available evidence, making decisions skillfully (given one’s goals and beliefs), and taking appropriate action. It means pursuing one’s life goals using the best means possible.

The skills, dispositions, and concepts in this domain support:

  • Adopting long-term goals consistent with our values
  • Valuing truth-seeking to form more accurate judgments
  • Exercising active open-mindedness and intellectual humility to improve objectivity
  • Developing self-awareness of emotions, and thinking and working to improve it (metacognition)
  • Exercising self-regulation by managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

Structuring Decisions

We make multiple decisions every day; some are simple and some are complex, some we make as individuals and some as part of a group. Focusing on processes and skills for making quality decisions can improve our ability to reach decisions that work best for us in both the short- and long-term.

The skills, dispositions, and concepts in this domain support:

  • Building agency by embracing decisions as opportunities
  • Clarifying what we are deciding and what we value
  • Generating and researching different options
  • Making predictions about the risks, rewards, and consequences associated with different options
  • Committing and following through on our choice
  • Explaining and reflecting on a decision process

Recognizing and Resisting Cognitive Biases

Our minds rely on shortcuts—or heuristics—when we are forming judgments and making decisions. In general, these shortcuts are helpful—they decrease our mental load and increase our efficiency, usually without us even realizing it. However, these shortcuts often result in cognitive biases, a type of error in thinking when we are processing and interpreting information. Recognizing and resisting cognitive biases leads to better decision-making.

The skills, dispositions, and concepts in this domain support:

  • Identifying various types of cognitive biases and their negative impact on our judgments and decision-making
  • Actively monitoring and testing our thinking for cognitive biases
  • Setting up decision processes that reduce biased information gathering and thinking
  • Recognizing when others are influenced by their cognitive biases

For every student to have access to Decision Education, the support and leadership of educators will be required to ensure that these skills are taught in every school across the United States and included in their classes. It will require parents developing these skills at home and calling for their inclusion in school. It will require legislators working to insist on its inclusion. And it will require supporters across all areas to raise awareness and build demand. Learn how to engage and support this work.

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