Systems Thinking: A Lens and Scalpel for Organizational Learning.Report as inadecuate

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This paper examines the role of systems thinking in higher education, explaining that university examples provide a sense of what systems thinking entails when applied within large, complex organizations. It shares insights provided by the system dynamics approach for approaches to organizational leadership in education. A system dynamics approach aims to identify how streams of decisions and resources interact to produce behaviors recognized as problematic for an organization (for the purpose of intervention and performance improvement). The system structure is based on two types of feedback loops: positive (self-reinforcing) and negative (self-correcting or balancing). Archetypes are systems thinking tools that can help construct dynamic pictures of the operation of various systems, providing assistance in diagnosing, predicting, and addressing problems in organizational behavior by identifying structures responsible for such behaviors. The paper presents a sample of archetypes and examples of their occurrence in educational settings (e.g., attempts to introduce and spread technology use throughout the curriculum in all schools in a district). It describes systems thinking and university structures, highlighting publicly funded institutions that have recently faced more stringent operating environments. It concludes by illustrating how a systems approach helps at a wider institutional level. (Contains 15 references.) (SM)

Descriptors: Educational Finance, Higher Education, Institutional Characteristics, Institutional Evaluation, Leadership, Systems Approach

Author: Galbraith, Peter


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