This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Uses of Systems Thinking Tools for School Improvement




Prestridge, John

Type of Degree



Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Cornfield High School is a school located in St. Louis, Missouri, serving just over a thousand students, grades nine through twelve. While sharing many similarities of other high schools throughout the United States, Cornfield High School has a very unique feature. Cornfield High School has made an intentional effort to integrate systems thinking theory into their leadership practices. While many high schools use data to make decisions, Cornfield High School chooses to use systems thinking tools to help address causes to problems for the purpose of school improvement. The purpose of this study was to explore specific ways that systems thinking tools have been used at Cornfield High School for the purpose of school improvement. The participants consisted of teachers as well as members of the leadership team at Cornfield High School. Interview data, field note data, and a systems thinking document were all coded, and warrants and assertions were made based on patterns found in the data. Some administrators at Cornfield see systems thinking tools as a way to get people involved who might not otherwise be given a voice in the decision making process. The most common successes cited by members of the leadership team included practical uses that allowed for more involvement among all stakeholders, classroom utilization, and higher order thinking skills among students who used it. The most common successes identified by teachers include a more effective decision making processes, instruction in the classroom, increased collaboration among faculty members, and professional growth of teachers who us systems thinking tools. iii The most common possibilities of future uses of systems thinking tools identified by the leadership team were more mandated widespread usage of systems thinking tools, use of tools in conjunction with data, and a school wide deeper level of problem solving. The most common possibilities teachers identified for future uses of systems thinking tools included continued increase in administrator and teacher effectiveness, an ability to tackle deeper level problems, and using systems tools to further increase student achievement.