Publication Date



Social System Design Lab, Washington University in St. Louis


K-12 education presents an incredibly complex system that makes solving problems challenging.

Often, we implement changes with the best of intentions, only to see problems get worse rather than better. Many of the structures that cause these patterns can be found all around us - in schools, in businesses, in non-profit organizations, in health systems, and in communities. By learning about these common structures or system archetypes, we can start to identify and anticipate them.

The purpose of this brief is to describe how education stakeholders can use system archetypes as a tool for recognizing, anticipating, and addressing the system dynamics driving the common patterns of problems in their school communities.

Series Number

Methods Brief Series 1.07: Systems Thinking Foundations

Document Type

Research Brief