Should Systems Thinking be part of Education? A resounding YES is the answer. Besides the wonderful things it does for students – like improving analysis, evaluation, and creative skills – it is simply the way we think and learn.
Any instructor who has had good success with their craft will tell you that ‘routines and procedures’ are an important part of setting up for good instruction. The students know what to expect, when, and how. They have a good idea of how the social culture of the classroom operates, what is expected of them, and how to go about doing well in their course and more. That is good instruction. That is also an example of the use of systems in education.
Of course, the many and multi-faceted uses of systems thinking in education and instruction goes further than what has just been explained, but the greatest power of systems in education is in the simple structure of routines and procedures and basic instructional patterns.
Think about this: anyone who has ever worked in an environment in which you did not know the expectations, when things are to be done, how they should be done etc knows the ultimate frustration that results. You know you are in some sort of system, but you cannot see it or seem to learn about it.
Systems thinking is most powerful when it is about using knowledge of the systems surrounding us and making clear how those systems operate so that we can use leverage to gain more from them. This becomes very clear in any comprehensive approach in which systems are utilized for maximum instructional and learning gain!
Systems already have a place in education. They just need to have their place clarified and consciously utilized so that we can gain more and, benefit more. There is a good deal more to say on this subject and much more, I will say. Systems thinking in education is a wonderful field that can be used with conscious effort for excellent and very beneficial results.
Try deliberately using systems in anything you teach today! Start by thinking about the ‘whole’ rather than the fragments, parts, or bits of knowledge you want to impart. Come at your instruction by first making a picture in the learner’s mind of what the ‘entire’ concept is all about and how the parts fit together. When you have this communication in place, the fragments, parts, and bits have a place to land! A sticking point, I call it. When learners have frameworks in place, they can learn, store, and recall with much greater ability. Your job is to communicate the system. Good instructors have been doing this forever.