Slow Education and Cognitive Agility: Improving Military Cyber Cadet Cognitive Performance for Better Governance of Cyberpower

Slow Education and Cognitive Agility: Improving Military Cyber Cadet Cognitive Performance for Better Governance of Cyberpower

Benjamin James Knox (Norwegian Defence University College, Cyber Academy, Lillehammer, Norway & Department of Information Security and Communication Technology, NTNU, Gjøvik, Norway), Ricardo G. Lugo (Dept. of Psychology, Inland University of Applied Science, Lillehammer, Norway), Kirsi Helkala (Norwegian Defence University College, Cyber Academy, Lillehammer, Norway) and Stefan Sütterlin (Faculty of Health and Welfare Sciences, Østfold University College, Halden, Norway)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/IJCWT.2019010104

Abstract

Governance of cyberpower from a military perspective are focused on the efforts to control and influence events occurring in cyberspace. For the Norwegian Defence, this means educating cyber engineers, responsible for governing cyberpower effects, beyond technical skills and competencies. To match the complexity of modern warfighting necessitates adaptive high-order thinking skills. Building on earlier cognitive engineering and human factors research in cyber defence this article suggests how Slow Education has the potential to improve cognitive performance among cyber cadets. Slow techniques were applied to 37 cyber cadets during a three-year bachelor programme at the Norwegian Defence Cyber Academy. The quantitative data for this study was gathered during a two-week Cyber Defence Exercise. Combining and applying a novel pedagogic method with psychological techniques suggests reflective pondering, self-regulation and metacognition as being associated with cognitive agility. This study helps develop and make metrics available that are suitable to evaluate human performance in cyber defence.
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1. Introduction

Cyberpower is an emerging phenomenon in the Defence realm. It is shaping attitudes, behaviours and decision-making as a result of its ability to: “…create advantages and influence events in all the operational environments…” (Kuehl, 2009, p. 38). Gray (2013) sees cyberpower as “the ability to do something strategically useful in cyberspace” (p. 9). This can be understood as giving agency to any actor, to support or undermine systems of governance, coordination, cooperation and competition (Nye, 2010). As a productive power, cyberpower manifests through relationships and network convergence (Stevens, 2016). One can argue that governing cyberpower is essential to absolutely everything a modern military hopes to accomplish due to its utility to “influence tangible and intangible assets through digital means” (Knox, 2018, p. 11). For this reason, Defence forces need to advance their understanding of the cyberspace military context, in order to mitigate negative consequences when human agency, empowered by cyberpower, is influencing and driving change at rates traditional good governance systems, and codes of practice cannot control (Stevens, 2015).

In the following the changing face of military operations is presented; detailing the effects of cyberpower and the need for adaptations in educational methods to meet the cognitive challenges these effects present. Previous research is introduced to frame the current contribution in the context of operating with cognitive agility in hybrid environments. The concept of Slow Education is then presented, and the importance of metacognition is made clear. The methods section begins with detailing the Slow Education interventions that were applied at the Norwegian Defence Cyber Academy (NDCA) to embed, inform and maintain metacognitive activity. Next, the methods section details how quantitative data was gathered to operationalize and assess cognitive performance in a cyber defence training environment. First, participants completed three trait questionnaires (Response, Self-regulation, Metacognition) before a Cyber Defence Exercise (CDX). Then during the same CDX participants plotted their cognitive focus in the Hybrid Space application (Jøsok et al., 2018) allowing for the researchers to observe for individual use of flexible cognitive processes (Knox et al., 2017). The results section shows the associations between specific cognitive strategies and cognitive agility, represented as cognitive focus movements in the Hybrid Space. Further, we discuss the results in the context of improving performance in military cyberspace operations before the paper concludes and presents future work.

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