Going Below the Surface Level of a System

Overview: Systems thinkers often use the image of an iceberg, the majority of which exists generally unseen, as a metaphor for systems. This section presents ideas for using the iceberg metaphor to explore how the structure of a system creates patterns of behavior, leading to observable events.

Lesson Objectives


Systems Thinking Concepts

  • Students will demonstrate understanding of the patterns over time, structural relationships, and mental models that produced events in a story, current or historical event, or other scenario.

Lessons exploring the effect that underlying structures have on patterns of behavior and events in a system are applicable in any curricular areas in which systems are studied, e.g. health/physical education (effects of habits on health), science (effects of environmental policy on populations), social studies (effects of cultural values on individual behavior).

  • interdependency

  • structure

  • change over time

  • mental models

  • leverage

  • structure generates behavior



Systems Thinking Tool(s)

  • Iceberg diagrams

  • Colored pencils

Depends on complexity of scenario and level of use of the iceberg analysis

  • Behavior-over-time graphs

  • Causal Loops


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