About this site
LSN Maths Extended
More on this topic
About Systems Thinking
Systems are mental constructs that
enable us to describe and 'make sense of '
complex situations. Systems thinking is
especially useful when we need to work with
entities that are large, complex diverse
and disparate (in time and place). Schools
system are a good example of such entities.
NB. Systems thinking has a potential down side.
People have been known to confuse systems with
reality. When things are not going so well it
can be very tempting try to impose a systems
view on the actual reality. This is unrealistic.
Reality will always assert itself. It also
unfair to others who are closer to the core
action of the 'system'.
layers of activity
A typical school system has several layers
- Society, the wider community, the
- The Department, Local Authority, Schools
District, The Board, or ....
- Schools, Colleges, Campuses, ... (and
their local communities)
- Teachers & Classes
- Learners (and their families)
- The local & wider community and
The diagram represents (or implies) a particular view of governance
and draws attention to who does what and what might flows from one
level to another. Decision making is built around the management of
processes, especially core processes
The diagram clarifies core processes (and associated purposes) at
each level in the system. Without this clarification there is an awful
lot of confusion, disruption, and tampering between levels. I suspect
that this is a worldwide phenomenon.
Aim of a School System
It is the belief of the author that the aim of a school system is to
make it as easy as possible for teachers and learners to work well
together to achieve the purpose of schooling.
The purpose of schooling is to demonstrate to all learners that they can
- construct their own knowledge, understanding and skills,
- with the help of teachers, peers, family, and others, and then
- use this learning to add value to their own lives and to the family and community,
- and that it is likely to be well worth the risks and effort
The Staff (in cooperation with students and their families) takes a broad approach to schooling and assumes that there is no one best way to educate all children.
The School values effort, achievement, participation, caring and co-operation in all their aspects : academic, social, cultural, sporting, ....
Staff, facilities, equipment and operating finances are not the
only forms of 'resources'. A huge proportion of the resources
available to school systems go un-noticed and un-managed.
Information, eg, curriculum, regulations, agreements, details of
strategies and processes that have worked well elsewhere, is a vital
Other essential resources include good will, cooperation, shared
values and purposes, time, support, guidance, encouragement and
assistance with problem solving and prevention as well as a whole
range of tools to process information for the purposes of planning,
managing, assessing, continuous improvement...,
Purposes of the
The ideal purpose of each level in a layered
structure is to help ensure the success &
well-being of the next level (both now and in
the future). This is associated with leadership,
empowerment and the development and provision of
tools to those in the lower level.
Sadly, in reality, it is more usual the
purpose of each level often defaults to one of
authority and control over those in the next
level. This approach is increasingly
The purpose of local and wider community is
ensure the success and well-being of it members
(both now and in the future)
To a greater or less extent each level uses
processes to undertake activities and to achieve
various purposes. Each level
- Selects (personnel, 'customers',
resources, approaches, tasks ....)
- Makes provision for the next level. This
provision should help to the success and
well-being of those in the next layer of the system. (Note: only those in the next layer
can verify whether the provision does indeed
help to ensure the success and well-being at
Each level also
- Reflects and Learns
- Refines its own activities
- Acts to improves its achievements (if
permitted and encouraged by the higher levels)
- Represents itself to each adjacent level
- Represents each adjacent level to the
other adjacent level
Each level also consults and informs both the
next and previous levels. Pete Block is correct:
"Everyone is caught in the middle"
The above identifies
- a very large number of opportunities for
- a very large number of opportunities for
the application of quality