Open Systems Theory Edwin D. Bell
Open Systems • This theoretical perspective started with the research of Ludwig Von Bertalanffy in biology • (click on “Open system)
Definition • System theory is basically concerned with problems of relationships, of structures, and of interdependence, rather than with the constant attributes of object (Katz and Kahn, 1966). Webster defines a system as a "regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole," which "is in, or tends to be in, equilibrium".
Definition (continued) • Negandi says that "a system's attributes, which are the interdependence and interlinking of various subsystems within a given system, and the tendency toward attaining a balance, or equilibrium forces one to think in terms of multiple causation in contrast to the common habit of thinking in single-cause terms". (Hong et al., no date, par. 2)
Significance • The emphasis on multiple causation is particularly important as you think through the relationship among your independent and dependent variables in the logic model of your action research.
Pros of Using Systems Perspective to Manage Change • Applying systems theory gives the students (and educators, who are learners as well) cohesion to disparate facts giving better problem solving skills. It also increases the understanding of relationships between systems. For example, giving a group of students the task of developing an amusement park requires them to look at economic, social, environmental, educational, and construction factors. …
Pros (continued) • It requires them to use traditional material (math, reading, spelling, grammar, biology, physics, etc. skills) as well as giving students additional understanding about how these pieces mesh together to make a whole. It demonstrates to them first hand how the most basic concepts contribute to the larger figure. It encourages students to change from being passive absorbers of information to active learners seeking knowledge. (Hong, et al. ,No Date, par 20)
Cons of Using Systems Perspective to Manage Change • Educational reformers must carefully analyze and thoroughly understand the information needs of the system and its primary subsystems as well as the interactions of the system with its environment. Interrelationships among parts of a system have to be recognized and understood or the reform will fail. • It requires a shared vision so all the people involved have an idea of that they are trying to accomplish. It has to be a cohesive effort from all participants. …
Cons (continued) • It requires leaders to assume new roles and master new skills, which may require training and willingness. It requires regular, wide-spread evaluation and feedback to remain an open and viable system. (Hong et al. No date, par. 21)
Summary • An open systems perspective allows you to use analytical, empirical, and intuitive data in the design of a logic model that is the best fit and the most accurate predictor of behavior in your organization. A good working model of your organization is a necessary condition for effective action research.
References Hong, N; Al-Khatib; Magagna, B; McLoughlin, A; and Coe, B. (No Date). Systems Theory (Retrieved from http://www.ed.psu.edu/insys/ESD/systems/theory/SYSTHEO2.htm on 3/15/07) Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, Passages from General systems theory (1968) ( Retrieved from http://www.panarchy.org/vonbertalanffy/systems.1968.html on 3/15/07)