Winston-Salem Event Raises Money for Systems Thinking Camp

Winston-Salem Event Raises Money for Systems Thinking Camp

6:36pm Jun 18, 2013
Peter Senge will teach his "systems thinking" model to educators and students during the Snowball Summer Camp in July at Wake Forrest University.

Author and national business strategist Peter Senge spoke to Triad business leaders and educators during a luncheon Tuesday at the Embassy Suites in downtown Winston-Salem. 

Peter Senge is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founding chair of the Society of Organizational Learning (SoL) Council. He has also written several books on hierarchy and leadership roles in businesses and other organizations. 

His “systems thinking” learning strategies are used in the workplace and in some classrooms across the country, including Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.  He says a system can be a family, a classroom, a team or other group that uses a hierarchy structure.

“Any system operates because it operates largely because of assumptions and habits. These are the two most powerful things that shape any system. Ideas that we have in our heads that we don’t test and ways we do things because we have always done them that way,” says Senge.

Senge says “systems thinking” uses critical thinking skills to solve problems.  The hierarchy structure is minimized. Participants work in small groups and collaborate with each other during the process. 

But “systems thinking” has drawn criticism from some educators.  Last year, Senge addressed members of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board. Some members raised concerns over emails and internet articles that say his method uses Socialist viewpoints.

But Senge disagrees with these statements. He believes this type of learning is more engaging for students.

“The very first thing that you notice when we walk through any of these schools is that you almost never see a group of students sitting at their tables in rows. You see students sitting in small tables in groups of three or four.  It doesn’t look like a traditional classroom,” says Senge. “The second thing you will notice is that the kids are talking all of the time. The teachers are giving students puzzles and challenges, or raising questions and the kids are working with each other to try to figure them out.”

Senge added, “Because the teacher is spending less time standing in front of the class talking, the teacher has more time to spend really seeing how kids are doing.”

Senge is currently conducting research about the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. It's a set of federal education standards designed to create a more unified curriculum structure across states. N.C. is one of 45 states that have adopted the new standards.

The State Board of Education is now planning a review of the curriculum.

Senge says it’s too early to tell what the impact will be on our education system. But he’s worried some states will give up on the standards too soon.  

“Right now it is a big challenge because it is one more thing. The schools still have all of their standardized tests and nothing has changed. On top of that, there is a whole new set of assessments that are for the first time being implemented this year.”

Senge says, “The best schools systems are actually bringing parents in and they are starting to learn about the Common Core, so they know what their kids are doing. This is really important because in any difficult transition this is a high risk proposition and you are going to need the public support.”

The Winston-Salem State University Business School sponsored the luncheon for local business leaders to interact with Senge on Tuesday.

The proceeds of the luncheon will go toward scholarships for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools students to attend Camp Snowball this summer at Wake Forest University.

Senge says the camp brings together educators, students and parents from across the country to discuss systems learning techniques.

The school board voted 5 to 4 in February to cut its ties with Senge’s organization after this year.

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