Systems Thinking and How to Challenge Mental Models

With four decades of experience in educational leadership, Kathy Minardi will pursue a new venture in July of 2016, following her tenure at Aidan Montessori School. With the launch of Whole School Leadership, Kathy Minardi will consult on systems thinking, community building and peacemaking, and implementing the tools of emotional intelligence in school settings.

People who use systems thinking focus on understanding underlying structures in order to interpret data and act with meaningful and positive impact. In school settings, they look at the organic ways that people in the institution interact with each other in order to create effective results and to solve challenges.

A good place to begin when introducing systems thinking to students is to challenge their mental models, which are the preconceived assumptions that influence their perception. Simple requests, such as having students cross their arms in the opposite direction or walk upstairs beginning with the opposite leg, take them out of their comfort zones to analyze change from a new perspective. Physical activities work best for mental-model stimulation, because they engage multiple senses and encourages students to feel.

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