This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

A Middle School's Use of Systems Thinking To Make Decisions




Haynie, Gregory

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Flair Middle School is a middle school that is located in the suburbs of a major Midwestern city in the United States. It houses grades six through eight, along with more than seven hundred students. Flair Middle School faces the same challenges as any other middle school across the country as it attempts to find ways to better serve its students. In 2011, Flair Middle School began to incorporate systems thinking into its process for making school decisions. The purpose of this study was to determine how middle school leadership team members at Flair Middle School were using systems thinking to make effective evidence-based decisions pertaining to the school organization. The participants in this study consisted of school administrators and teachers who made up the school’s leadership team, as well as other teachers in the school who were using systems thinking in the classroom. The data collected, which included interview data, observational data, and organizational documents, were analyzed and coded. Warrants and assertions were made as a result of the findings contained within the data. Teachers and administrators at Flair Middle School viewed the tools associated with systems thinking as a successful way to make sense of the enormous amounts of various school data. The majority of participants agreed that systems thinking played a role in the practical application of data for school decision making purposes. Other successes identified by the participants of the study included increased collaboration among school leaders, faculty, and staff. The majority of participants reported that systems thinking created an avenue for more voices to be heard in the decision making processes of the school. The last major finding of the study dealt with the importance of professional learning. The majority of participants held the opinion that high quality professional learning was critical to the successful use of systems thinking in the school organization.