• Katherine

    28 June 2020 at 7:42 am

    The systems thinking tools push us (the user) to look at issues through different lenses, broadening perspective, and thus expanding the opportunity for discussion and learning. By broadening our perspectives we are then able to identify more of these leverage points and brainstorm more ideas for action/solutions.

    I think too that if more of us were to use more systems thinking tools in class we would, in turn, get more ideas of issues to explore and possible cross-disciplinary work from the student’s responses. This would then create a positive feedback loop (more system thinking means more systems understanding which leads to even more systems thinking and so on). It kind of goes back to an earlier point that Kevin made in a previous forum; systems thinking tools, especially if used in collaboration, can reveal some of our ignorance, and then that ignorance can instigate a desire to learn. (Thank Kevin for making that point and sharing the Ted talk).

    • Laurence

      28 June 2020 at 10:18 am


      You make a great point about the benefits of having a critical mass of users of systems thinking and how that, in turn, would benefit the cross-disciplinary needs of schools. Truth be told the trends are certainly going in that direction so this talk of service learning, sustainability and systems thinking is all very much in line with the outcomes we hope to generate in terms of student learning.

  • Ian

    28 June 2020 at 9:30 am

    Teaching and learning is enhanced with these tools because they take complex concepts and simplify them through visualization strategies. They encourage deep, critical thinking to discover causes, effects, problems, and solutions.

    I can see quite a few opportunities in my context (6-9 ELA); already stealing / borrowing from this ES team for a migration book club unit in grade 6, and stealing from the HS teacher for sustainable community issues in The Giver (grade 6 dystopian fiction) and Lord of the Flies (grade 7 human nature). We’ll be utilizing both of those novels for the first time in our curricula next year, and I’m really excited to design them through some different lenses.

    • Laurence

      28 June 2020 at 10:19 am


      There is no stealing when things are given away willfully. As I always say learning (as with pretty much everything) is done better when there is collaboration and opportunity to use, reuse, refine and expand tools, learning experiences, etc. Great to know that some of these things are useful for you!

  • Ereeny

    28 June 2020 at 9:46 am

    Engaging students in these activities enhances collaboration and communication skills. Students have different perspectives and they become aware that they need to respect other points of view. They do not necessarily have to agree with it, but they can simply respect it.

    I can use system tools with students and teachers to brainstorm an initial idea of a project during the investigation process. We will have a visual framework of what they are planning for.

    • Laurence

      28 June 2020 at 10:21 am


      Your role as coordinator is a bit more difficult in terms of the need to coordinate across and within groups, but you serve very much as the ‘pollinator’ of ideas and processes and are a critical piece to the cultivation of a service culture in your community. I hope these things – or at least some of them – are useful in that context. Keep up the good work!

  • Deleted User

    Deleted User
    28 June 2020 at 12:26 pm

    Systems thinking tools encourage us to broaden our perspective by scaffolding our thinking in such a way that we are analysing instead of identifying. They are definitely valuable to our own learning as educators (student well being, curriculum design, unit planning, etc).

    In my own context, I think these tools and strategies would be best used in conjunction with each other (where possible) and not treated as separate tools. Any strategy that gets students thinking critically, sharing their thinking with each other and explaining cause/effect is going to be beenficial in developing those ’21st century skills’!

    • Laurence

      29 June 2020 at 5:35 am


      I love that you bring up the use of the tools in conjunction with each other. In a note I just wrote to Ian, using it in this way actually really deepens the understanding of systems and relationships in students. I think that analyzing an issue (for example) by having groups of students use different tools simultaneously and then presenting out on their thoughts would really allow for students to not just make connections to the content, but also make connections between the tools and how the learning is presented visually. It has great potential!

  • Kevin

    29 June 2020 at 6:51 am

    I think it broadens the scope with which students can see an issue. At first, students may devise simple solutions to problems. These systems thinking tools allow both students and teachers to see the ‘whole picture’ on things. The iceberg is also a useful visible thinking routine to use for students in the toolbox.

    • Laurence

      11 July 2020 at 5:51 am

      Great points Kevin. You are correct. You’ll find that there are a few ‘recurring themes’ (as I call them” within systems thinking and the interconnections to a whole picture figure prominently in that. If students are able to develop their thinking habits so that they can do that more regularly they also become better cricital thinkers and more empathetic decision makers.