Going further with systems thinking – students apply their conceptual knowledge

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Several weeks ago, I blogged about introducing systems thinking by using children’s literature with my grade 2 students. I was really enthused by their receptiveness to the process and how quick they learned, it almost seemed intuitive to some of them. Last week my teaching partner and I came back to the process and used it as one of the summative assessment tasks for our UOI on healthy living.

After a short introduction, we gave the students an opportunity to apply the skill of systems thinking and focus on areas of the UOI knowledge they felt they had learned most about.  We wanted to see how they connected with a key understanding we had identified in our planning – that of seeing the body as an interacting system. I was particularly interested in their response to the challenge of making their thinking visible, so took it upon myself to work with groups of 5 or 6 students at a time and provide support where needed through poignant questioning, challenging their ideas and envoking discussion. Observing the process, I was impressed with how much they had remembered about thinking systemically, it had been several weeks since our last experience with using the process, yet very little instructional guidance had to be given to the students. Another thing that I observed was how flexible this tool is in allowing students to express their thinking, once they had become familiar with the process, there was less time spent on the procedural knowledge of how to do it, which I think freed up the mental space needed to express their understanding. As an extension I asked if any students wanted to transfer their “round and round thinking” to a prezi, here is one student’s example.

Junk food prezi

I can’t help wondering how far you could take the concept of systems thinking and apply it to curriculum mapping models… I imagine the potential of a learner’s development when a school curriculum articulates and promotes systems thinking skills as a core value of their educational pedagogy, particularly if they are teaching for international mindedness. It seems obvious to me that conceptual thinking skills, which are pervasive and yet flexible enough to have positive application in a multitude of content areas and settings, should be a fundamental principal of 21st century education. Hope I am not in a minority forever on this one!


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