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This self-paced interactive lesson guides students through the process of identifying and analyzing a system. Students cover systems thinking basics and then examine the dynamics of soil health through videos and online exercises that make the system visible using tools such as loop diagrams. The resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection. Lesson components include:
Systems are Everywhere
What Makes a System a System
Analyzing Soils as systems
Types of Systems
Identification and analysis of a system of your choice
The focus is on the skills associated with a systems thinking approach to analyzing problems and seeking solutions.
There is a growing conviction that systems thinking is critical to meeting the challenges faced by our planet and its inhabitants. Understanding Dynamic Systems is a valuable resource in helping students acquire the skills necessary to become effective system thinkers and thus better change agents.
The generic nature of this resource means that it has broad application across the curriculum. It may be used in Social Studies for example in dealing with issues of causation - why did things happen? It may be used in the Science curriculum to analyze ecosystems or human impact on the planet. It may be used to Health to identify the interplay of income, education and well being. It may be used in English Language Arts to analyze interaction between plot and character.
It serves as a tool. It outlines a process and is therefore largely independent of particular curriculum content
The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives||Good|
The aim of the resource is not to examine a particular topic or issue but to outline a process - systems thinking - that may be used to examine any issue to greater effect.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives: |
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions||Very Good|
System thinking as advocated by the resource is intended to help student's recognize the complexity of most issues and to provide them with a strategy to analyze the factors at play. The key is to have students not just think about the parts of the problem, but how the parts all work together to produce the results they see.
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions: |
Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.
|Respects Complexity||Very Good|
The resource starts with a recognition of the complexity of many issues and guides students through the basics of system thinking as a response to this complexity. Students learn what makes a system a system,how to identify the parts of the system and its boundaries, and how to diagram the causal connections in a system.
|Respects Complexity: |
The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.
|Acting on Learning||Satisfactory|
The final step in systems thinking has students verify their loop diagrams that outline causes and effects. Once complete, students are asked to consider areas to leverage, where a small change can have a large impact by asking themselves - What changes in the diagram should lead to a more desirable behaviour? What strategy could I use or recommend to achieve these changes?
In some situations, students may be able to act upon these changes themselves and then observe real world results. In others, it may be possible to use a simulation model to test their assumptions.
|Acting on Learning: |
Learning moves from understanding issues to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community, or for the planet
In applying system thinking to the resolution of problems/issues, students will be required to identify the various factors at play and subsequently what weight to give to particular factors if they are to intervene in the system. Deciding on the importance of a given factor is part of any process of values clarification.
|Values Education: |
Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.
|Empathy & Respect for Humans||Poor/Not considered|
While not the focus of the resource, one might expect that as students become more effective system thinkers, they may better understand the difficulties and perspectives of others and thereby avoid the rather simplistic thinking that is often the source of our antipathy towards others.
|Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).|
|Personal Affinity with Earth||Satisfactory|
In order to illustrate the system involved in a given issue, the resource includes a video on soil health in which soil is approached as a dynamic system that is critical to our well - being and how we may damage the the health of the soil or act to improve it.
|Personal Affinity with Earth: |
Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.
To help students understand what makes a system a system, they are asked to think about the world they know- what is going on that they find interesting, or that's causing a problem for them or others. They then fill out a chart - My System - to determine whether this thing is actually a system or just a heap, or collection of things. The resource thus starts with the familiar and moves to the less familiar.
The concluding activity directs students to choose a new system that interests them and which they are concerned about and to apply what they have learned about system thinking to better understand the issue and to determine what might be appropriate action.
|Locally-Focused Learning: |
Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community.
|Past, Present & Future||Satisfactory|
Tone is positive in that the resource submits that our current problems/issues may be resolved in favour of a better future if we adopt a systems approach in our analysis of and response to these challenges.
|Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.|
|Open-Ended Instruction||Very Good|
Understanding Dynamic Systems does does argue for a particular answer to the challenges we face but for a process that will provide better answers.
Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.
|Integrated Learning||Very Good|
The process of systems thinking as outlined in the resource is generic and therefore transcends particular subjects or disciplines. In asking students to recognize the interplay of all relevant factors, system thinking promotes a multidisciplinary approach to learning.
|Integrated Learning: |
Learning brings together content and skills from more than one subject area
|Inquiry Learning||Very Good|
Understanding Dynamic Systems provides students with the tools to engage in more productive discovery learning by challenging the effectiveness of the linear thinking that is promoted by many current resources.
|Inquiry Learning: |
Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.
Understanding Dynamic Stsyems is a self-paced interactive resource that allows students to proceed at their own rate.
|Differentiated Instruction: |
Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.
Students learn the process of identifying and analyzing a system by viewing a video, completing online exercises and using tools such as causal loop diagrams that help make the system visible. This process helps to bring a concreteness to a rather abstract concept
|Experiential Learning: |
Authentic learning experiences are provided
Understanding Dynamic Systems is a self-paced lesson but students are encouraged to verify with others the causal loop diagram they create and make any resulting changes before undertaking any action designed to intervene positively in the system as outlined.
|Cooperative Learning: |
Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.
|Assessment & Evaluation||Satisfactory|
The self-paced nature of the lesson means that there is a degree of personal assessment as the student moves through the steps as outlined. Students are also asked to discuss their system diagram with others and seek suggestions prior to making a presentation to others, which represents another level of assessment.
|Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.|
The final step as outlined in the lesson asks students to make a presentation of the causal loop diagram they developed. The interchange that is expected to occur as a result of the presentation provides an opportunity for the presenter and the listeners to gain a better understanding of the topic and the process.
|Peer Teaching: |
Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.
A case study on the factors that affect soil health is used to illustrate the principles of system thinking.
|Case Studies: |
Relevant case studies are included. Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore concepts in an authentic context.
|Locus of Control||Good|
The student controls the pace of the lesson as he/she moves through the interactive steps outlined in the lesson plan.
|Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.|