Revolution Lullabye

June 25, 2013

Melzer, Using Systems Thinking to Transform Writing Programs

Melzer, Dan. “Using Systems Thinking to Transform Writing Programs.” Writing Program Administration 36.2 (Spring 2013): 75-94.

Melzer explains Critical Systems Thinking (CST) and argues that it can be used by writing program administration to target “points of leverage” within writing programs that, if adjusted, can lead to system-wide change. His article builds on Porter et al’s call for institutional critique, and shows how CST’s focus on discovering holistic patterns and relationships as well as uncovering and addressing inequalities within larger systems serves as a useful methodology for writing program administrators who need to look beyond individual actors in order to make gradual change. Melzer uses an example from his institution, when he served on a reading and writing faculty senate subcommittee, to show how following a CST approach helped that institution target the junior writing exam as a leverage poin through which to rethink the campus-wide writing program from a focus of deficiency and placement to one that more fully embraced campus-wide, vertical writing instruction.

Notable Notes

CST thinking from management, systems thinking designed in biology and engineering, educational research

Stages in Critical Systems Thinking

1. Creating a model of the system and its underlying ideologies (his example of the flowchart that represents the existing writing program model, which includes an placement test, first-year writing, remedial writing courses, a junior proficiency exam, and upper-division writing intensive courses) (82-83)

2. Recognizing ideological differences and defining an alternative model of the system (84-85) (his example shows the principles, derived from CWPA, CCCC, and NCTE, that the subcommittee wanted the new writing program to be defined by, characteristics for both students and faculty in the program.)

3. Finding points of leverage to change the system (86-87) (his example is the junior writing exam, changing the requirement from passing an exam to taking a writing-intensive course, making the writing intensive course the “centerpiece of the campus writing program” (88))

Quotable Quotes

“Work for change at the systems level rather than tinkering with an isolated course, program, or department by finding points of leverage within the system” (90).

“Embrace the idea of perpetual change” (93).

“A systems thinker’s attention is on the ways the structure of a system will construct behavior” (78)

October 3, 2009

Atlee, Theories of Co-Intelligence

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This post is a summary of some of Thomas Atlee’s key ideas about co-intelligence. The Co-Intelligence Institute (www.co-intelligence.org), the foundation he founded and directs, has a website that contains numerous articles and links to resources and scholarship on co-intelligence.

Co-intelligence is an attitude that a person or a group can orient themselves to in order to draw on the diverse experiences, intelligences, and wisdoms of others in order to better solve problems. It requires that those involved in the group embrace and understand diversity as an asset in order to build a more holistic, dynamic intelligence. Those involved in co-intelligent initiatives and projects work consciously and deliberately to build and construct systems that encourage the development of co-intelligence among members, creating sustainable, organized systems that highlight the interconnectedness and relationships between people and ideas. Co-intelligence is intelligence “with”: with others, with systems, with a group, between groups and communities.

Atlee’s theories are used by scholars in design, ecology, philosophy, political science and governance, and organizational theory. Atlee argues that participation in co-intelligence – as opposed to what he terms “alienated individualism” – benefits the individual, the group, and society as a whole. When people work synergistically with others, they keep the big picture in mind, benefiting all.

Atlee presents two aspects of co-intelligence: collective intelligence and collaborative intelligence. Collective intelligence is drawing on the inclusive collective knowledge of a group (as opposed to one person’s individual intelligence) to better, more wisely solve problems. Atlee gives examples of how different levels of groups and communities, from small and large groups to whole states and countries, have used collective intelligence successfully. Collaborative intelligence is the spirit in which a group or person can engage in co-intelligence: working for the benefit of all instead of to dominate or oppress. This can happen through an open economy of sharing information.

Quotable Quotes

“This ability to wisely organize our lives together — all of us being wiser together than any of us could be alone — we call co-intelligence. In its broadest sense, co-intelligence involves accessing the wisdom of the whole on behalf of the whole.”

From “A Compact Vision of Co-intelligence”
“attention to collective intelligence is a key ingredient missing from most civic and political undertakings.” How about our scholarly undertakings?

“A major challenge in all collaboration is the creative use of diversity. One form of diversity is, interestingly enough, different cognitive styles or what some call multiple intelligences. Within and among us, we find analytical intelligence and emotional intelligence, verbal intelligence and musical intelligence, kinesthetic bodily intelligence and transcendental intelligence, and many more. How do analytical, intuitive and kinesthetically-oriented people apply their diverse intelligences collaboratively to generate a more powerful, complete collective intelligence?”

From “Ten Qualities of Co-intelligence”
“Co-intelligence is multi-dimensional, inclusive, wise, responsive, grounded in interconnectedness, synergistic, collaborative, self-aware, holistic and systemic, manifesting at many levels of human activity.”

“We build, invite and utilize partnerships to accomplish our goals. We seek interactivity to generate energy — and dialogue to generate wisdom. We value, above all, conscious, intentional co-operation and co-creativity. We are practicing the co-intelligent art of collaboration.”

“We arrange our lives and relationships, groups and organizations, communities and cultures so as to support these co-intelligent qualities. We know that the design of environments, relationships and processes influences consciousness, and that consciousness influences design. We are being mindful of the systemic nature of co-intelligence that manifests at many levels of human activity and reality.”

Notable Notes

The Tao of Democracy (Atlee 2003)

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