25 Jul 2022


Community Observation: How to Get Started

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Academic level: University

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The meeting attended was a legislative meeting of the Board of Directors of the School District of Cheltenham Township. The meeting was held on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, at 7:16p.m in the Administration Building, 2000 Ashbourne Road, Elkins Park, PA. The decision to attend the meeting was triggered by the fact that I am a new resident of Cheltenham Township, and as a taxpayer it is important to me to gain a better understanding of the township’s education system and how the board addresses issues and concerns regarding the school. I spoke with Kate Thomson about the meeting. I choose to speak with her because based on the research of the board members I was intrigued with her extensive executive leadership experience, additionally, she was the most approachable of all.

Meeting summary

The meeting environment was characteristic of collective work from all the parties involved in the meeting. Team effort approach was used in the meeting whereby the recognition of each contribution was embraced without questions an effective way of achieving their goals than encouraging individualism and development of competition in the members attending the meeting. there were no complains about the meeting set up, previous minutes of the last meeting, agenda or even follow up. No complaints were raised by any member in the meeting. Members in attended seemed to unanimously agree on the issues presented and deliberated on. This was enabled by the fact that communication on the various issues to be discussed and the all the aspects of the meeting was well done throughout the meeting. Communication was vital among the members and all the stakeholders involved.

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The interaction between the adults and students in the meeting was a healthy and informed interaction in which everyone’s contribution was valued. The meeting facilitator was in good control of the discussions carried out in the meeting and seemed aware of the impacts of member’s personalities on the progress of the meeting in order to account for everything. This is from a systems theory approach which was applied in analyzing the meeting. Systems theory is a cross disciplinary study of the complex organization of an aspect separate from their components or type ( Marinopoulou, 2017) . The approach investigates principles that exist in all complex institutions and the models that can be used to explain them. A system is made up of four main components. The first is the objects involved. These include all the parts, existing elements and variables that are within the system/institution. The second component is attributes. This refers to the qualities of the system and its associated objects. The third component is internal relationships while the fourth one is the environment in which the system is found in.

A system is therefore a number of things that impact one another in an environment in which they exist and form part of a bigger pattern that differs from all the parts ( Michailakis & Schirmer, 2014 ). The basic association model for systems for analysis of an organization consists of stages of input, processing of information and the output ( Marinopoulou, 2017) . These stages show the idea of openness or closedness of a system. In cases where the system is closed, there is not interaction with the environment in which the system exists. Therefore, the system absorb information and thus there is a possibility of an atrophy. However, in cases where the system is open, information is received and in turn used to associate in a dynamic way with the environment in which the system exists (Schirmer & Michailakis, 2019) . The aspect of openness leads to an increased probability for survival and prosperity. This aspect of openness was so evident in the meeting that was attended. This was demonstrated by the fact that the members were at liberty to air their views and every person’s view was accorded equal value.

Furthermore, members were given a chance to seek for clarification in areas that were communication was to ensure that everyone received the right information. The inclusion of students’ representatives in the meeting also demonstrated the aspect of openness. This ensured that the students were involved in major decisions made in the school thus providing them an opportunity to air their views and become part of the decisions making process. This is because most of the decisions and policies made affect them in one way or the other and besides being students they are stakeholders in the institution. It is a fact that communication between all stakeholders is crucial for the success of the implementation of decisions made.

According to the systems theory, the characteristics of an open system include: the aspect of the fact that the whole is greater than all the parts put together; associations; understanding causes; pattern of influence; chain of command; major systems and subsystems; internal regulation; orientation towards a goal; interaction with the surrounding; the requirement for balance and equality for all involved in the system ( Marinopoulou, 2017) . In this case, communication is an important and integral aspect.

As evidenced by the minutes of the meeting attended, the members discussed and approved the resolution to urge the General Assembly to adequately invest in public schools. The unanimous resolution by the members portrayed a sense of orientation towards a common goal for the well-being of the public schools and the community in general. From the meeting, the more than 1.7 million students in Pennsylvania’s public schools deserve the highest quality of education and the public school in the state perform best when they are provided with the necessary resources required to accord each student an equal chance of succeeding in life. In addition, the state ranked 46 th out of the 50 states in the United States on the amount of money states allocate to assist in elementary and secondary education. This was among the lowest throughout the country. In addition, the members were able to identify areas in which the state has failed such as the inability of the state to keep up with the increasing demands of mandated special education for students with special needs. These and several others prompted the members to urge the state to allocate more funding for public schools.

This can be explained by the fact that systems take input from their surroundings, in form of information or resources. The received input is then processed internally and then released as output into the environment in an effort to restore balance in the environment (Schirmer & Michailakis, 2019) . In addition, the system looks for feedback to assess if the released output was efficient in bringing back balance in the community/ environment. Therefore, a system approach aims at ways to ensure the survival of an organization and lay emphasis on goals that are long term and not short term goals in the process of goals achievement ( Michailakis & Schirmer, 2014 ). The approach can therefore be described as an external line that evaluates the effectiveness of an organization according to growth in the long term and an organization’s sustainability even in the future.

As indicated in the minutes for the meeting attended, the inputs made into the organization and the processes thereof yielded some positive outcomes which demonstrates some level of effectiveness. For example, the approval of the MCIU 2019/2020 budget would make the necessary resources for carrying out the organization’s activities available and therefore initiate the process stage and finally the outputs. In addition, the resolution to recruit a number of teachers in the various schools mentioned in the meeting agenda is an input to the organization in an attempt to meet the needs of those who depend on their decisions in this case the students who require education.

An effective system is evidenced by a steady position known as homeostasis. The aim this internal balance is to prevent interruptions of the equilibrium state and cause a dynamic independent aspect of a system that is not stable ( Marinopoulou, 2017) . Therefore, if an organization or an institution is able to maintain balance which not only aims at ensuring that it survives but also ensures growth, it can be considered as effective. Analyzing the meeting using this approach gives a wider and extensive view than an approach that aims at goals attainment. This is because, a system’s approach goes beyond assessing the effectiveness related to meeting goals controlled by strong internal associations that can or cannot become propitious to the institution as a whole ( Michailakis & Schirmer, 2014 ). Effectiveness ought to measure by identifying how well and effectively organization/institution is able to meet the needs of the different groups/individuals/organizations/institutions that are related or depend on their activities, decisions and actions.


In conclusion, the meeting showed that the organization is a relatively open organization as evidenced by the minutes of the meeting. The agenda discussed shows that the organization follow up its environment and gathers information on the existing gaps and problems in the environment which becomes its input. For example, it was able to identify the need for more funds allocation for special needs education, need for education resources to ensure learners success. In addition, the need for teachers for the different schools was identified and acted upon. However, despite the fact that the meeting demonstrated major strengths, the fact that there was no public input is a limitation. The public is a major stakeholder in this and therefore, comments from them is crucial since it helps in identification of the issues on the ground and if the implemented actions have borne fruits that meet the expectations of the public. A lesson on the different ways of community institutions and how each type operates has been learn. In addition, knowledge on the applicability of theory to practice has been gained and how different components interact to ensure equilibrium in the environment. This will be crucial in my practice of social work in the future.


Marinopoulou, A. (2017). Systems theory.  Critical Theory and Epistemology . doi:10.7228/manchester/9781526105370.003.0005 

Michailakis, D., & Schirmer, W. (2014). Social work and social problems: A contribution from systems theory and constructionism.  International Journal of Social Welfare, 23 (4), 431-442. doi:10.1111/ijsw.12091 

Schirmer, W., & Michailakis, D. (2019). Systems Theory for Social Work and the Helping Professions. doi:10.4324/9780429022104 

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 17). Community Observation: How to Get Started.


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