Conducting a Rapid System’s Analysis in a Small Group

In our last class meeting, we broke into small groups to analyze the movie Detropia through Banathy’s (1973) second lens of system theory. This allowed us to consider the movie from a system perspective rather than focusing on the particular problems of the city or even how the producers of the movie portrayed the city.

We had a group of five which included me, Stacey, AZ, Charles, and Randell. It was helpful to work in a group this size, because it gave us a variety of perspectives and backgrounds to draw upon as we considered the movie and how Detroit and the various systems depicted in the movie fit with systems theory. The many contributions of the group members made our model much richer than it would have been if I had tried to work on it alone.

The model is very confusing, and most of us felt completely lost in places. For example, we did fine when attempting to apply the concepts of image and purpose, but none of the group members felt sure about the definition of systems specifications as they related to Banathy’s second model. We felt like we needed further explanation or examples prior to being asked to apply this part of the model in practice.

My microphone was giving off a terrible echo, so I ended up having to turn off my mic and using only chat. That led to a rather quiet session, as I am the most vocal of the people who participated in my group. Fortunately, Charles stepped up and started sharing via his microphone, and Stacey, Randell, and AZ all contributed via chat.

Because I controlled the breakout room, I think I naturally assumed the leadership role. It was easy enough to capture the assignment from Canvas, copy it into a Word document, and share it on my screen. Then as the discussion took place, I was able to make notes in the document. I asked Randell to keep track of time. Not being able to speak hindered the process greatly. I think it might have been more effective if we had all been able to write in the document rather than just me, perhaps using the collaborative features of Google Docs.

I think next week I’ll ask for a different person to lead the group and we’ll select someone to serve separately as note-taker. That way we can all take responsibility for the creation of the document. I also think I’ll move the document to a Google document and share the link before class with my group members. I’ll ask them to have it open when we go to our breakout room. This way we can all collaborate on it together. We may experiment with Google Hangouts.

I’m fine with the fact that others in my team are quiet. Their silence is just a communication style; it does not reflect their level of contribution to the team or the work. We work well together and they have very different insights to contribute. I won’t push for microphone contributions, even thought it would speed up the process.


Banathy, B. H. (1973). The functions/structure model. In Developing a systems view of education: The systems-model approach (pp. 59–97). Salinas, CA: Intersystems Publications.

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