Randomized Controlled Trial Demonstrates OpenMind’s Effectiveness among Adult Learners

by Mar 17, 2022General

Randomized Controlled Trial Demonstrates OpenMind’s Effectiveness among Adult Learners

by Mar 17, 2022General

Randomized Controlled Trial Demonstrates OpenMind’s Effectiveness among Adult Learners

by Mar 17, 2022General

Statistics and charts on a piece of paper

OpenMind is excited to share the results of our first randomized controlled trial (RCT), confirming that the OpenMind online learning program has a significant positive impact on adult learners. This evidence affirms the important role OpenMind can play in reducing divisions within our society.

In mid-2021, OpenMind established a partnership with the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), a professional membership organization of more than 20,000 federal, state, and local finance officers across the US and Canada, all of whom are involved in planning, financing, and implementing governmental operations. GFOA leaders had launched a Rethinking Budgeting initiative, a project dedicated to experimenting with new ideas that might improve budget decision-making in local government. Since budgeting is an inherently political process, GFOA turned to OpenMind for a strategy to help combat political polarization and foster more constructive dialogue and decision-making among local government leaders. To address these goals, GFOA decided to run a pilot of the OpenMind online learning program for its members.

As part of this process, the OpenMind research team conducted our first randomized controlled trial (RCT) to examine the effectiveness of our program. This was an important milestone for OpenMind, as an RCT represents the gold standard in science because it controls for extraneous factors that can influence research results. In total, 284 GFOA members went through the full OpenMind program. Half were randomized to participate in OpenMind immediately, the other half waited 10 weeks before participating, and all participants completed a survey upon finishing the program.

The outcomes of the RCT provide strong experimental evidence of OpenMind’s effectiveness and learner satisfaction. Results of the study showed that participating in OpenMind led to improvements in:

  • Intellectual Humility: the ability to recognize the limits of one’s knowledge and the possibility of being wrong;
  • Affective Polarization: dislike, distrust, and avoidance of those who hold different political views;
  • Dichotomous Thinking: the tendency to think in terms of extremes, with no middle ground.

Graphs depicting increased intellectual humility and decreased affective polarization and dichotomous thinking after using OpenMind
This evidence confirms that our work has a significant, positive impact on adult learners. This reduction in tension and ability to identify common ground can help people work together towards solutions of our common challenges. Our second RCT, focused on measuring our impact on college students, is currently underway, with results set to be released later this year. Together, this body of research will establish the impact and importance of OpenMind’s programs at a time when the need for constructive dialogue in our nation is greater than ever before. 

Looking to the future, we plan to reach even more civic leaders in collaboration with GFOA by making OpenMind an ongoing continuing education offering for GFOA members and partnering with the International City/County Managers Association and The National League of Cities. We believe reaching more government leaders will promote collaboration when difficult decisions need to be made within communities. Additionally, this research has renewed our commitment to provide OpenMind’s tools to workplaces and other adult communities to spread these practices to a broad and diverse group of Americans. We also plan to disseminate our findings at academic conferences, in scientific journals, and in popular press outlets to help establish intellectual humility and constructive dialogue as civically indispensable.

To learn more about OpenMind, or to explore implementing the program at your workplace, please contact Mike Wasserman at mike@openmindplatform.org.