New students definitely don't get it right when they are trying to do economic problems: And nearly every new student will try to draw a CLD of supply and demand, or price. Similarly, when they try to draw their CLDs of topical social phenomena – or even processes from their own professional lives - they don't demonstrate clear operational understanding.
I think this is because these systems are already characterized by their own specialist language, the syntax of which tacitly posits its own structural understanding.
Students do get it right when they creatively and independently draw feedback loops from their own more intimate experiences, without trying to use examples that parallel the CLDs taught in the lectures.
I believe that this is because students can use more 'primitives' when they talk about their own lives. This works better than starting with words (linguistic constructs) that tacitly subsume some sort of structure. Seems to me that the more specialist words have a structural syntax already built into their meaning – a syntax that may or may not align with CLD/SD logic.
I think that there is a linguistic hierarchy. When we do group model building, I find that we are constantly trying to boil down to the essence of what people really mean by their words, continue unto the absolutely irreducible.....and then use these uncontaminated words in conjunction with the structural logic of SD in order to reconstruct the system/their worldview.
Clarity on variable definitions precedes clarity on feedback structure. Thus, the self-generated examples (the more interesting and creative ones, too) naturally tend to be causally correct more often.
Also, interestingly, I have noticed that a few students have a causal dyslexia. They get everything perfectly backwards. For example, if there is a variable and then an effect on variable, they draw the causal link from the variable to the effect, rather than from the effect to the variable. It's amazing! Of the few students who exhibit this, most usually exhibit it consistently/systematically.
I will ask some students if they mind me posting some of their CLDs in order to illustrate these points.