Systems thinking is an important means of solving organizational problems and implementing wide ranging results that lead to solutions to problems. More importantly, the solutions arrived at by using systems thinking tend to consider the overall situation of the organization and not only separate factors and components. Systems thinking is not only necessary in the organization, it helps coordinate the efforts of individuals in the organization to the overall attempts to develop and improve the organization as a whole.
Such a holistic approach is necessary if the whole organization were to solve its problems and improve (Senge, 1990, p. 53; Flood, 1990, p. 52). One of the possible contributions of systems thinking to an organization is the identification of root causes of problems, which can help unearth the true source of the problems being encountered by the organization (Curie, & Galliers, 1999, p. 143). A haphazard approach will stop at identifying the symptoms and dealing with them. Doing so, however, will only deal with the symptoms and not the root causes.
In the long run, the cause of the problem will create further symptoms and if the process is repeated, it will become a recurring problem and the root cause will not be addressed. There may be criticisms in using the Fifth Discipline in terms of empirical support and its overall usefulness. Yet, understanding a problematic situation in its entirety can surely help the organization rethink its strategy and approach the problem from a macro view. In doing so, the organization can take into account the different options it has and different factors that must be fixed if it were to become efficient and effective (Kochan & Useem, 1992, p. 312).
A Problematic Situation in an Academic Setting Although systems thinking originated from the business sector, its application is wide-ranging and can be made to work in various setting such as in politics, in organizations and even in schools (Stacey, Griffin & Shaw, 2000, p. 178). For this reason, systems thinking will be applied in a problematic situation in an academic setting. By using the systems thinking and related methodologies, this problem can be explored more deeply and will lead to a better understanding of the situation and the academic system as a whole.
Description of the Problem Situation. The problem situation concerns the poor performance of students in a public school. Such poor performance may be measured through the SAT scores, performance in examinations and the lack of desire of the students to excel in any given field. The immediate explanation to this kind of problematic situation would be the lack of interest and the poor reception of the students to the lessons being taught to them. Such analysis, however, is incomplete, especially because there are other factors influencing the situation and the performance of the students in their class.
A deeper analysis may point to the performance of the teachers and the strategies they use in teaching. The plight of the teachers and the manner in which they teach could also be influenced by a number of factors such as the pay structure, their teaching load and the possibility of burnout. In addition to this, there may be resources that are not available to the students and the teachers, making it difficult for them to deal with assignments and other school requirements. The following section deals with the different possible causes of the poor performance of the students while enumerating the different stakeholders involved.
Students. One glaring possible source for this problem would be the time allotted of the students for studying. Their time spent inside the classroom is important but it is hardly enough. The assignments given by teachers and the reading that accompanies serious studying will certainly help them improve their performance. But if they are not doing such activities, then they will not be able to perform well. This also brings out another important issue concerning time spent in studying. Do most students work to support themselves?
If they do, then this also affects the time they spend in studying and learning the lessons being taught by their teachers. The interests of the students may also dwindle before, during and after the class. If the classes are perceived as boring by students, then their interests may simply get caught somewhere else. In this case, the challenge to the teacher will be much greater as he has to capture the interest and the attention of the students. Poverty and lack of access to resources could also be a factor in the poor performance of the students.
While the learners may not have much control over this factor, their performance will suffer if they do not have the necessary tools and resources in completing assignments and continuing their studies even outside of the classroom setting. Teachers The performance of the teachers may directly reflect on the quality of teaching that the students receive. If the teachers are effective, then they can influence the performance of the students. However, if they are taking on too many subjects and too many tasks, they will not be able to give their best for the students.
There may be a lack of teachers in the school, which will lead to overworked teachers on the verge of burnout. Such a scenario will impact the quality of their teaching and will lead to poor performance among the students. Internal politics in the administration and the teachers in the school can also affect the quality of teaching of the teachers. If, on top of their teaching duties, the teachers also have to deal with internal squabbling and additional matters that do not have direct bearing on their teaching jobs, then the quality of teaching will certainly deteriorate and this will show in the poor scholastic performance of the students.
School Facilities and Learning Resources The facilities of the school also help nurture the scholastic performance of the students. If there are computers, a sizable library and good facilities in the school and the students are encouraged to use these facilities, then their learning experience will be richer and more dynamic. The provision of Internet access will also be a big help to the students as they deal with their lessons and the requirements of their classes.
As teachers give them assignments and they become motivated enough to do them, the facilities and learning resources in the school will greatly help the scholastic achievements of the students. The students, the teachers and the scholar facilities and learning resources interact together to enhance the learning experiences of the students. Sometimes they work, other times they do not. There may be other factors involved in this process but these are the salient ones directly affecting the problematic situation at hand.