To recall, the Big Little Thinking (BLT) framework provides a set of connected theories, models and concepts for thinking through complex problems in contested spaces. Specifically, the framework consists of:
Collectively, this structure facilitates meaningful choices and creations from almost infinite possibilities and problems.
Big Little Thinking (BLT) understands thinking as an integrative process that requires attention to the relationships and contexts of mind, matter, mood and meaning that relate to problems and solutions.
BLT is a relational and contextual framework that encourages three general ways of thinking:
BLT's basic unit of thinking is the zygo - a 'pair' of concepts (e.g. subjective-objective, passive-active, literal-symbolic, parts-whole) that be related as 0, 1, 2, 3 or an infinite number of things.
BLT encourages both-and-either-or-neither-nor and in-between ways of thinking about real-world problems. Metaphorically, BLT encourages thinking outside, inside and about the circle (or box).
BLT is for teachers, leaders and learners who need critical, consilient and creative solutions and approaches to real-world problems.
Modern teachers and learners face challenges and opportunities characterised by polarising social issues, technological disruptions and existential uncertainties that present 'wicked problems'.
Twenty-first century teaching and learning requires relational and contextual ways of thinking that can deal with complexity, and recognise and reconcile 'opposing' positions. These ways of thinking require critical, consilient and creative approaches that are aided by frameworks, models and processes like BLT.
In many ways, BLT is a response to calls for new frameworks (Gardner, 2004) that foster:
Gardner, H. (2004). How education changes: Considerations of history, science, and values. In M. M. Suarez-Orozco & D. B. Qin-Hillard (Eds.), Globalization: Culture and education in the new millennium (pp. 235–258). Berkeley: University of California Press.
BLT can be used to explore almost any problem - big to little, simple to complex, serious to playful. However, it is most specifically designed to facilitate thinking about wicked problems, social issues, cultural conflicts, and dilemmas.
Generally, a Big Little Problem:
For example, BTL can be used to think through everything from a bullying incident in a school, political polarisation on environmental issues, national responses to a global pandemic, and whether to leave the toilet seat up or down.
Problems and solutions are not clear-cut black and white concepts in the BLT framework. They accommodate broad relational approaches to issues about which reasonable people may reasonably disagree.
Controversial social issues are those that ‘divide society and for which significant groups within society offer conflicting explanations and solutions based on alternative values’ (Stradling, Noctor and Baines, 1984, p. 2). To paraphrase several of Rittel and Webber’s (1973) criteria for wicked problems, they:
Models represent complex ideas and relationships in visual, spatial, and tactile ways.
As a model, the ZYGO has two basic forms that represent different levels of understanding:
Whilst both the simple and complex ZYGO are depicted by a round model, the BLT framework can be modelled in many different ways, including squares. Some alternative models are provided.
There are digital versions of the models on this site but they have also been specifically designed to be made from paper using the templates provided. The material models allow more tactile engagement with the framework.
What is the Big Little Thinking (BLT) process?
The BLT process provides an adaptable way to apply the framework to real-world problems.
8. ITERATE or DISRUPT
The world is unhinged. As many people see it, this is true in both sense of the word: the world is out of joint and it has gone mad. We are wandering aimlessly and confused, arguing for this and against that. But a statement on which most people can agree, beyond all antagonisms and across all continents, is ‘I don’t understand the world anymore’. - Ulrich Beck