Why Systems Thinking Matters?

For the last three days, I have spent time learning about Systems Thinking in the Classroom. It was great to be a school leader in a room of teachers from second grade to tenth grade, just learning, not leading or directing traffic. The training was built upon the work of many people including the work of Peter Senge made popular through the book the Fifth Discipline.

Systems Thinking training looks at a number of areas, the first being the habits of a systems thinker. These thirteen habits really tapped into the ideas of critical thinking, deep learning, and bringing a larger perspective to the daily learning of students. Some of the habits of the systems thinker include: observes how elements within systems change over time, generating patterns and trends, changes perspectives to increase understanding, and considers both short and long-term consequences of actions. Taking these ideas to my staff as essential areas of growth for our kids seems like an appropriate first step for bringing this training to life for my staff.

The training also examined a number of structures that promote individuals being able to bring sense to complex situations, and in a world of global interconnectedness, it is so important that work in systems in an essential part of our students' lives. We talked about looking at Behavior Over Time Graphs which examine patterns and behavior, and we examined the Ladder of Inference that allows us to see that our beliefs and perceptions impact our action.

We spent time looking at the Iceberg Model, which allows us to use events, structures, and behaviors to dig deeply into the mental models that we hold. Another essential structure was the Causal Loop Diagram which provided a way of looking at reinforcing and balancing loops. Ultimately, these loops were broadened to look at the archetypes that emerge from these loop patterns. It was definitely a new lens to view so much through.

A couple of other structures that we examined were Stock Flow Diagrams and Connection Circles, both ways for kids to tell the narrative of science and social studies. We also looked at a number of ways to use the structures to examine literature in a rational way. It is good to step away to grow, and I'm ready to have some fruitful conversations with my teachers about using these items in their classrooms, but it will take some time for me to lead using these structures. I think that I will find myself reflecting using these tools, but to use these structures as a way to grow the capacity of my staff may take a bit longer.

It would be great to connect with some school leaders using these structures in their daily leadership efforts.