Presented at: 23rd Annual Fall Leadership Conference

Tools to Encourage and Sustain Learning: A Lesson from Ecology

Session Description

Complex systems in nature are diverse, and unpredictable. Systems and subsystems comprise ecologies such as a rain forest or desert. Human interactions cause similar interdependent systems to form human ecologies such as colleges or businesses. Given the unpredictability in living systems, how do make a significant difference? How do we lead staff and faculty build relationships? Using tools of Human Systems Dynamics, this session will teach you recognize and address challenges productively.

Session Goals

Investigate the similarities between ecologies in the natural world and generative, self-sustaining learning systems in schools, including features of healthy ecologies: adaptation; coherence; and interdependence.

  • Consider cases in which school leaders use three concrete tools based on this ecological perspective: Adaptive Action; Four Big Questions to Set Conditions for Change; and Simple Rules.
  • Apply these tools to participants' challenges.

Full Description

  • A very quick review of natural ecosystems and how various parts of any ecology interact and adapt.
  • Discussion of how one small change in a natural ecosystem can cause the entire system to flourish or die. Such as the introduction of non-native plants to Hawaii or the rise of bubonic plague in Europe.
  • Look at a community college campus as an ecosystem. How can one small change affect the entire system? What can we do to adapt to the changes in our ecosystem?
    • Adaptive Action – We look for patterns in our ecosystems (campus), both healthy patterns and unhealthy patterns. Then we ask questions about those patterns.
    • Ask the four big questions - – We’ll help participants look at the patterns to ask What do the patterns mean? So What do these patterns mean? –Now What do we want to be different about the patterns? Then What do we want to happen in the future?
    • Simple Rules – Each ecosystem has to develop a set of beliefs and rules the members live by. We’ll discuss the ways organizations can set their simple rules and give some “rules about the rules.”
  • We’ll close by letting the audience quickly walk through the process with a change they are experiencing in their ecosystem and talk about one with the group in general.

Presented by: 
Klemm, JoTisa
Patterson, Leslie

Single Session

2:00 pm - 2:50 pm


Instruction Building