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Making Thinking Visible: Connection Circles


Connection Circles are thinking tools. The goal of the circle is to clarify our thinking about the underlying causes of complex issues. Connection circles help us brainstorm about what is changing and to trace webs of causal relationships within systems to understand those changes. It can be a handy graphic organizer that helps students understand the main ideas in their reading.

In Systems Thinking the connection circle has a much broader purpose in our endeavor to heighten students’ awareness of the causes of change all around them. The purpose of a connection circle is to uncover the causal loops that could be causing the problem we have observed. That means that there are two essential elements: a problem behavior pattern and the causal loops driving it.


Do You Want Fries With That? from The Shape of Change
By Rob Quaden and Alan Ticotsky with Deb Lyneis
Students use connection circles to examine an article about the health risks associated with rising French fry consumption.

Keystone Species in an Ecosystem from The Shape of Change
By Rob Quaden and Alan Ticotsky with Deb Lyneis
Students read a chapter from a skillfully written science book and use connection circles to unravel a mystery of nature.

Studying The Lorax with Feedback Loops
By Rob Quaden and Alan Ticotsky
Students read "The Lorax," by Dr. Suess, and then develop a connection circle and causal loops to understand and illustrate the themes of the story.



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