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Explore the big ideas around complex, interconnected systems

interconnected systems illustrationJane Drake, Head of Curriculum Innovation and Alignment, asks “how might education hope to solve the complex problems surrounding us? How can education tackle environmental issues, disease, social media, conflict, food security or financial crisis?”

Complexity advisor Roland Kupers adds: “Deeply interconnected systems behave in ways that surprise. Whether it‘s the economy, social norms, the human body or ecosystems, the interconnected nature of systems leads to emergent behaviour that is not obviously triggered by a single cause. These systems can trip across thresholds into sudden transitions and they can react disproportionately to seemingly small triggers, or transform as a result of influences from within the structure itself.”

Jane explains, “Education drives us to attempt to reduce these complex systems into their parts and look for each of their drivers, but in doing so we discard the essence of their dynamic whole. Fortunately, we are increasingly developing tools to deal with complexity as it is, without assuming it away. This includes understanding emergence, the structure of networks and the application of agentbased modelling. Our challenge is to find ways to equip our students with the tools and theory they need to come to grips with complexity. Some teachers are already exploring these ideas with their students and some would like to start – is this you, or someone you know?”

This is an important idea that Jane and her team want to work on with IB World Schools, IB staff and complexity experts. Exploring how to integrate new insights into complex systems is the theme of the IB AEM pre-conference day ‘exploring the big ideas’. To be part of the conversation and explore ways of knowing and thinking about complex systems, use one of the channels below to share your questions and your experience in delivering systems learning in IB World Schools:

Coming soon

What is complexity theory and why is it important for our students? Look out for follow-up posts on our Blog.