When we refer to schools as “systems,” our minds may be immediately drawn to the idea of a traditional school district. Typically, a school district consists of buildings organized by grade levels with teams of teachers leading classrooms full of same-age students in their respective grade levels. Although a traditional school district is, indeed, an example of a school system, 21st Century educational systems vary tremendously across the United States. Whatever “system” in which you may be, it is important to incorporate edupreneur mindset in ensuring all parts of the system are working to create the benefits you desire for your constituents.
Diverse Educational Systems
In our current educational context, a system may include any of the following examples:
- a single classroom with one teacher facilitating student learning
- a complex organization consisting of several schools, housing hundreds of students, across multiple campuses
- an online learning community of just a few learners or even hundreds of learners
- a network of schools joined by a unifying philosophy or educational approach
- (Please see our Sample School Models and Budgets).
Regardless of the size, composition, or organization of these systems, all schools operate with a purpose centered upon enhancement of student learning and creating value for all constituents. All schools also utilize practices and procedures to reach their goals. These practices and procedures work together to influence the intended outcome and fulfill the organizational goals of the school.
Applying Systems Thinking to a Single Classroom
A classroom is a system consisting of many parts: teachers, students, facilities, curriculum, technology, etc. In a single classroom, resources are needed to facilitate learning. These resources can include:
- A qualified teacher
- Student desks
Understanding the ultimate goals of the system will help us to define the resources that are needed to achieve organizational goals. For example, if our outcome goal is to encourage students to integrate technology into their learning, we will need to be certain that the teacher we employ is skilled in technology and that we have the technological resources available to meet our end goal. If our end goal is language acquisition through an immersion model, we will want to be certain that our teacher is fluent in that language and that we have resources to support student learning of a second language. Additionally, the types of resources invested into the system will influence the “way things are done” (activities) at the school. For example, technological resources may allow us to offer a hybrid, or blended learning, approach with some instruction offered online.
External and Internal Conditions
Additionally, because a systems approach considers influences both inside and outside of the organization, community context including community interests, needs, resources, and economic conditions may influence the outcomes of our organization. They also might influence the goals of the organization, resources available, and the types of activities that we employ to reach educational goals. In sum, effective leaders understand efficiencies that can be accomplished by matching resources, activities, outputs and outcomes and by considering external forces that influence student learning.
- How has the external factor of your state’s “economic conditions” effected student learning in your school system?
- How has economic conditions effected your school’s activities? Its outputs? Its outcomes?
- As an edupreneur, how can your school be successful in spite of fluctuating economic conditions?