Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Systems Thinking Encourages Interdisciplinary Approach

Academic journal article T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)

Systems Thinking Encourages Interdisciplinary Approach

Article excerpt

Absenteeism, dropouts and declining achievement haunt many school systems in the United States. In a cooperative program involving the Georgia Pacific Corp., High Performance Systems, Inc. in Hanover, N. H., and Georgia's Glynn County School System, teachers, administrators and community leaders see the potential for dramatic improvement in school outcomes.

In the spring of 1991, Georgia Pacific decided to invest in the Glynn County School System. The result was the Partners in Education Program. After a year of planning, the program leaders decided to adopt a "systems thinking" approach, using modeling and simulation tools as vehicles for understanding the interrelationships within physical, biological, social and business systems.

Use of this approach is gaining popularity in many school systems across the United States. Its emphasis on relationships naturally leads to an interdisciplinary, learner-directed curriculum. Program leaders feel that as a result, the approach will engender thinking and problems-solving skills that will be essential in the workplace of the 21st century.

* Integral to the Approach

An integral part of implementing the project's systems-thinking approach is STELLA II software, produced by High Performance Systems, Inc. STELLA II is a model-building and simulation tool useful for learning and discovery. The program allows students and teachers to model processes, test theories and depict relationships underlying any system--whether based on the hard sciences or the humanities. It also allows teachers to introduce aspects of the "real world" into their curriculum.

Students play an active role in the learning process; they help create the models and then, through simulation, test their assumptions. The software thus helps students think critically about important issues. "Systems thinking and STELLA II are the best things that have happened to Glynn County schools in a long time," says Jeff Giddens, social studies teacher at Glynn Middle School. "Over time, I anticipate that interdisciplinary models of social issues will replace my social studies textbooks."

With STELLA II, simple building-block icons are used to map out a process. As teachers (or students) create a map, the software automatically generates the equation framework needed for simulation. …

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