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Let's Be Changemakers: Systems Thinking

An online resource guide addressing social innovation and changemaking education resources

Systems Thinking in Education

Systems Thinking is employed in many educational contexts. Rather than memorizing facts and dates, students are encouraged to learn relationships among historical events, for example, or among the plants and animals of a specific environment. This approach helps students grasp concepts such as cause and effect, structure and function, and life cycles and change. Because critical thinking is a fundamental part of most school curricula and educational standards, developing skills in systems thinking helps students widen their scope, interpret relationships, infer meaning, and draw reasonable conclusions. A common vocabulary, inquiry and discussion skills, and communication through dialogue are verbal strategies that encourage systems thinking. Kinesthetic strategies, including games, role-play, and computer simulation, use physical means to demonstrate systems thinking and predict behavior.

Systems Thinking - The Iceberg Approach

One systems thinking model that is helpful for understanding global issues is the iceberg model. We know that an iceberg has only 10 percent of its total mass above the water while 90 percent is underwater. But that 90 percent is what the ocean currents act on, and what creates the iceberg’s behavior at its tip. Global issues can be viewed in this same way.

Catalyst 2030

UN Agenda for Sustainable Development

Quality Education

4.1 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes

4.2 By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education

4.3 By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university

4.4 By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship

4.5 By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations

4.6 By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy

4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

4.A Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, nonviolent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all

4.B By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries

4.C By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing states

Systems Thinking Overview

Books on Systems Thinking

Current Literature on Systems Thinking