SCME Introduction to the Parallel Series: Institutional Side

Sociocybernetic Control Model of Education (SCME): K-12 edition will focus on the innovation and intervention needed to bring the theoretical foundations and operations of primary and secondary schools up to date. On the MAWMedia Group blog, I will post the institutional innovation side of the equation. On the COACH Live! blog, I will post the individual interventions that attend the change. The posts will be written in “brevity style.” As opposed to full training expositions, brevity style provides an extended outline of the concepts prompting the user to explore the concepts in more depth on their own. As with many of my posts, the extended version of the posts will be collected in a text forthcoming.

Sociocybernetic Control Model of Education: Institutional View

The first and most important institutional innovation is to update the theoretical foundations of education to our current understanding of behavioral modification. Today, we understand that children (and all humans for that matter) are not simple dogs who we can condition to salivate upon the ringing of a bell. They are complex organisms. But, our ability to influence behavior has evolved to understand the parameters of choice. At the institutional level, we build a more intentional foundation for behavior change by structuring Operations, Choice Architecture, and Organizational Leadership to create a CULTURE of learning community, self-management, and organizational learning.

Operational Modeling
Operational research provides a standard process for organizing an operational goal. First, determine the outcome you want. Make it observable and measurable. In the case of primary and secondary schools, the goal must be “student mastery of competencies” rather than “complete delivery of content.”

Second, we forecast what are termed “uncontrollables.” In a school system, these are always the human elements: teachers, students, administrators, parents, and community members. We need to identify these in order to plan for the complexity that they represent.

Third, we select “controllables” in order to impact the objective we identified in the first step. In this case, we want to maximize the objective of student mastery of competencies. The question in this third step is THROUGH WHAT MECHANISM. We know the complexities. Now, we must prepare for them operationally.


Decision Systems and Choice Architecture
The task is to create a system model that operationally provides a predictive structure for the human elements in our school. Choice Architecture is our signature theory. It suggests that how we present the choices will impact the choices that are made by the people in the system. It is our job to structure the environment so that it supports the choices that result in student mastery of competencies.

Consider the school as a control system. It has inputs, a system of activity, outputs, and a feedback loop. Expanding the view to a Sociocybernetic control model expands the system beyond the barriers of the school itself. The community at large is the “educational system.” This allows two important inclusion in the choice architecture: 1) “parents” are now considered “family systems,” 2) “community members” are now considered a vital part of the operational process of education.

This SCME system will have intentional integration of these new conceptions. Rather than the “parent involvement” call, the new system will intentionally engage parents even outside the walls of the school in the grocery store, churches, dentist offices, restaurants, and car repair shops. Rather than open community volunteer opportunities, the new system will engage community members to relay and reinforce the messages of the school system.

Presenting to Principals
Organizations rise and fall on the culture created by their leaders. Indeed, the primary task of organizational leadership is to manage culture (Schein, 2010). If you are a school principal, it is important to understand the mechanics of culture change. It is a parallel process between messaging and marketing on one hand, and structure of doing on the other. Your messaging and creation of posters, recitations, interaction phrases, and talking points is vital to the success of SCME innovation. It is also of the utmost importance that you take an active role is recruiting organizational experts to champion elements of the SCME system and goals providing a structure of meetings and recreation (re-creation) that are in line with the culture desired.

If you are not the principal, you will want to outline and prepare examples of the full campaign both marketing and structure for presentation to the principal. Communicate the benefit and process for each element of the system: assessment of students, improvement of knowledge delivery, integration of community supports, engagement of family systems, mastery of competencies, data-collection & reporting, and school improvement. The presentation needs to be complete with specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time oriented targets.

Switching from an assembly line model to a control system model is an important first step in conceptualizing innovation in K-12 schools. The SCME innovation provides such an operational framework for system change. By focusing on mechanism, choice, and leadership student mastery of competencies can become a reality.


[Michael A. Wright, PhD, LAPSW is MAWMedia Group President. An individual and institutional consultant, Wright has over 16 years and dozens of consulting contracts completed. For educators, associations, and organizations, Dr. Wright offers curriculum, online strategy, and capital development consultations. Contact Dr. Wright here!]