Using the Systems Thinking Approach in Educational Policy Setting

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


According to the systems thinking perspective, a system is an integrated and complex composition of many interconnected components. Considering a system as a whole is assumed to produce better outcomes with fewer unintended consequences than analyzing and improving each element on its own. In this sense, systems thinking may be a useful strategy for policy setting processes when policy makers confront dynamic and complex circumstances. Public educational systems make a unique case. They are characterized by heterogeneity of needs and expectations, and by contradictory interests, agendas and values. Their components are inherently loosely coupled and fragmented, creating a difficulty when attempting to consider an educational system as an integrated whole. The point of departure for the current chapter is that educational policy setting processes are seldom a rational integration among the system’s components qualities and goals. Rather, it is an act of choice among compromises, each representing a different combination of interests and qualities. Based on an analysis of the policy plan articulated by the Israeli National Task Force for the Advancement of Education, the current chapter offers a typology of the compromises made by policy makers. It is suggested that setting reasonable boundaries for systems thinking processes performed in loosely coupled systems is essential if these processes are to assist rather than increase the complexity policy makers confront.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLeading Holistically
Subtitle of host publicationHow Schools, Districts, and States Improve Systemically
EditorsHaim Shaked, Chen Schechter, Alan J Daly
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780203712184
ISBN (Print)9781138559929
StatePublished - 2018


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