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Using Systems Thinking to Help Former High Schoolers Develo

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Chris Carney

on 13 October 2017

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Transcript of Using Systems Thinking to Help Former High Schoolers Develo

Irrelevant Structure
For a variety of reasons, including
standardization, conformity, and antiquated models of teaching and learning
for the 21st Century, K-12 schools in the US are not adequately preparing students for college!
“The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution” -- Albert Einstein
Winner of the
Critics Choice Award
, American Education Studies Association, 2012
by Mark Garrison, Ph.D
"Learning happens in the minds and souls--not in the databases of multiple-choice tests" -- Sir Ken Robinson

Using Systems Thinking to Help Former High Schoolers Develop
Individual and Collegiate Identities in Our College Classrooms

by Dr. Christopher Carney, HCC Southwest College
"Spoon-feeding, in the long run, teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon" -- E.M. Forster
Defining Systems Thinking. . . .
www.all4ed.org; www.ets.org
While many of us in college classrooms may rightfully condemn the inaccuracy, irrelevancy, inconsistency, injustice, and all-around ineffectiveness of standardized tests (others may not),
we would do well to ask ourselves if any of our own
materials and methods
resemble the kind of
standardization that is
only epitomized in these

Too many schools still teach in the model of the industrial age, when education as we know it was born. This model consists of a
one-size-fits-all, teacher-centered classroom where memorization, conforming, and superficial demonstrations of knowledge are valued.
"Learning happens in the minds and souls--not in the databases of multiple-choice tests"
-- Sir Ken Robinson
Yet, in Reality, Students' Worlds are Anything But Conformed, Passive, or Superficial!

They are networked, expressive,
creative, active, enthusiastic,
conscientious, tech savvy, and
eager to make an impact in the

Sadly, However,
Most Students Would
Never Associate the
Activities of School
with These Things!

By the time they finish school, students know how to do
busy work
in order to get by, but not with their hearts and souls; they've been
trained to live and think in a compartmentalized world

They also
aren't motivated by the acquisition of facts
nor are they impressed by the delivery of facts
on our part, because they know information is freely accessible in the 21st century.

Students know they can often learn
more from friends or websites
than teachers.

So, as college educators, we might do well to ask
ourselves a few questions:

Do our teaching methods and materials provide former high school students with a (much needed) change in perception? In other words, are we facilitating a
paradigm shift
in their lives, or are we merely delivering more of the same?

Are we realistically
engaged in the 21st century
when it comes to our teaching, and are we really preparing students for work, life, and citizenship of the 21st century when they leave our classes?

Are we teaching in a framework of
(designed for children)

(designed for adult learners)?

Wagner's Seven Survival Skills:
From his book
The Global Achievement Gap
K-12: Where standardized tests direct curriculum and multiple intelligences are ignored.
Systems thinking has roots in a diverse range of sources, going back as far as the 1920's.
played a prominent role in it's origins, with the ideas of
Jay Forrester
culminating in the work of
Peter Senge
in 1990 (
The Fifth Discipline
). Another major influence in the 1980s and 90s was
Barry Richmond
(Dartmouth). Today, while Senge's work is still particularly influential in organizational leadership,
Derek Cabrera
(Cornell) is perhaps the most prominent new systems thinker, whose primary focus is on
systems thinking in education

Defining systems thinking is challenging because of it's diversity as a field, and because of it's dynamic nature

systems thinking has likewise been difficult because it has always been so highly theoretical

It is important to see systems thinking as non-linear, non-compartmentalized, and non-static (like atoms, which are essentially patterns of relationships)
“Even our ‘best’ schools are failing to
prepare students for 21st-century careers
and citizenship.”

“Across the United States, I see schools
that are succeeding at making adequate
yearly progress but failing our students. Increasingly, there is only one curriculum:
test prep."

Derek Cabrera's DSRP Model:
A Systems Thinker . . .
from www.watersfoundation.org

Changes perspectives to increase understanding
To understand how a dynamic system actually works, a systems thinker looks at the system from a variety of different angles and from differing points of view, perhaps in collaboration with others.

Examines Assumptions
A systems thinker will rigorously examine assumptions in order to gain insight into a system. Insight put into action can lead to improved performance.

Considers an issue fully and resists coming to a quick conclusion
A systems thinker is patient. S/he will take time to understand the system’s structure and its behaviors before recommending and implementing a course of action.

Considers how mental models affect current reality and the future
In any given situation, an individual perceives and interprets what is happening, thus creating a picture, or mental model, of some aspect of the world.

Quotes by Tony Wagner. . .
Seeks to understand the big picture
A systems thinker “steps back” to examine the dynamics of a system and the interrelationships among its parts. S/he sees the forest, rather than the details of any one tree.

Observes how elements within systems change over time,
generating patterns and trends
Dynamic systems are made up of interdependent elements, the values of which change over time.

Identifies the circular nature of complex cause and effect relationships
A systems thinker knows that the cause-effect relationships within dynamic systems are circular rather than linear.

Makes meaningful connections within and between systems
A systems thinker intentionally makes connections in order to better understand the relationships in systems. Learning is achieved when new knowledge is integrated with current understanding. A systems thinker creates meaning by considering how new information

A Systems Thinker...

from his book,

Systems Thinking Made Simple
Some Definitions . . .
“Systems thinking utilizes habits, tools and concepts to develop an understanding of the interdependent structures of dynamic systems”
-- The Waters Foundation (Systems Thinking in Education)

“Systems thinking is a vantage point from which you see a whole, a web of relationships, rather than focusing only on the detail of any particular piece. Events are seen in the larger context of a pattern that is unfolding over time.”
– Barry Richmond, isee systems

“Systems thinking is a perspective of seeing and understanding systems as wholes rather than as collections of parts. A whole is a web of interconnections that creates emerging patterns.”
-- Derek Cabrera

Spoken Word Poem that Speaks to the Heart of the Problem in K-12:

Tony Wagner's 7 21st Century Survival Skills Explained:
TED Talk: Derek Cabrera Explains DSRP:
Systems Thinking:
A Little Film About a Big Idea!
Cabrera Research Labs
Sir Ken Robinson: Do Schools Kill Creativity?
This was the Keynote Talk at the Very First TED Event in Monterey, CA (2006)

Dr. Ken Robinson (University of Warwick): Sir Kenneth Robinson is a
British author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts to government, non-profits, education and arts bodies
. He was the featured speaker at the very first TED Talks event in Monterey, CA (2006). His talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” is perhaps the most widely viewed TED talk!
Professor of Arts Education at Warwick and knighted for his contribution to the arts.
Dr. Tony Wagner Currently serves as an

Expert In Residence at Harvard University’s new Innovation Lab and as a Senior Research Fellow at the Learning Policy Institute.

Prior to these appointments, Tony was

the first Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology & Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, and the founder and co-director of the Change Leadership Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education for more than a decade

previous work experience includes twelve years as a high school teacher, K-8 principal, university professor in teacher education, and founding executive director of Educators for Social Responsibility.

He has written numerous articles and six books.

Among these,
Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World
(2012) received rave reviews and has been translated into 12 languages;
The Global Achievement Gap
(2008) continues to be an international best seller, with a Second Edition recently released.

For more on Tony Wagner, google his name for various videos featuring his talks in different venues on the “seven survival skills” or visit


from www.watersfoundation.org
-- Dr. Tony Wagner, Paraphrased
Full transcript