Apply Systems Thinking

If we change our perspective to consider macro problems in pursuit of systemwide education outcomes—and if we develop holistic, data-driven strategies that take into account the goals, resources, and constraints of each actor—then we will be more successful in implementing broader educational reform.

Even though we have researched and tested innovative educational strategies in pockets of the world, it has been difficult to scale change in this sector.

Applying systems thinking means:

  • Focusing on the problems and desired outcomes, transcending traditional compartmentalization
  • Understanding the goals, resources, and constraints of all actors and how they interact with one another
  • Leveraging data to understand the effects of potential interventions and inform continuous improvements

Emerging Model: Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPass)

iPass is focused on using tech-mediated coaching to enable student success in college. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded 42 universities and two systems (in Tennessee and North Carolina) in implementing iPass programs.

iPass applies systems thinking in three ways:

  1. Focusing on Outcomes. Advisors focus specifically on enabling student completion of higher-education certificates and degrees.
  2. Understanding the Goals and Constraints of System Actors. Advisors are motivated by student success and incentivized by student degree completion, but time constraints can make it difficult to provide in-person support to students. With iPass, advisors can sustain relationships and connect students to information they need by using technology.
  3. Leveraging Data. iPass programs leverage data systems to provide relevant information and reminders to students. iPass also uses analytics tools to provide early alerts to advisors and students when students are at risk of falling off track to graduation.