Introduction to Systems Thinking
for School Leaders
What are systems?
Ruth Deakin Crick
With thanks to Patrick Godfrey and...
2
Learning Together
What are Systems?
Exploration of
- what a system is
- what systems thinking is

In the context of the
need for social
sust...
What are systems
“A system is a set of parts
which, when combined, have
qualities that are not present
in any of the parts...
Introducing systems thinking
Systems Thinking is a way of
thinking used to address complex
and uncertain real world proble...
What is a system?

Input

Output

Essentially it is any two or more elements that are
interconnected for a purpose.
Differ...
A complex system

Output or
Outcome

Input

Many to many connections
Influencing or sending messages
7
Learning Together
A real world system

8
Learning Together
Synergy

whole

>∑

9
Learning Together
Your Systems
•  Technically
–  Brain
–  Skeleton
–  Nervous
–  Skin
–  Blood circulation
–  Sensory
–  Emotional
–  Cognit...
What are systems
“Engineers are increasingly concerned
with complex systems, in which the
parts interact with each other a...
Consortium on Chicago School
Research (CSSR) Bryk et al 2010
"schools are complex organisations consisting of
multiple int...
6 Principles
1.  Debate, define, revise and pursue
the purpose
2.  Think holistically
3.  Follow a systematic procedure
4....
A Systems Thinker’s Goal is to fulfil Purpose
•  Purpose is the result, outcome or effect that is
intended from the system...
1st Emperor of China
Qin Shihuang
(259 - 210BC)

A great systems thinker

Purpose Unification of
China
•  Constantly assai...
Defined the Boundaries
•  The sea, Himalayas, Great Wall.
•  By Emperor Qin’s order, in nine
years, they connected all the...
Developing synergy

Whole > ∑ Parts

Strategy: make friends with distant states whilst making
war with the neighbours!
•  ...
Common language now Mandarin

18
Learning Together
Systematic method
Customised mass
production

19
Learning Together
Standardised manufacture, and technology
enhanced life cycles

20
Learning Together
Standardisation of weights and measures
Imperial edict of Qin reads:
“In Year 26, the Emperor has
defeated all dukes and a...
Much more to be learned

22
Learning Together
Three key ideas for systems thinking

Layers
Loops
Processes
23
Learning Together
Layers ……
Community
Learning

Leaders
Learning

Teachers
Learning

Students
Learning
Loops….
Leaders	
  
Learning	
  

Employee
Learning

Teacher	
  
Learning	
  

CommunityL
eadership
learning

Systems
Thin...
Processes….
Leaders	
  
Learning	
  

Developing a shared, rich and multifaceted language and values for
learning across t...
Teacher	
  
Learning	
  

Designing teacher authentic enquiry
aimed at student deep learning and
engagement
Research Infor...
Taking responsibility for my own learning
processes and performance
Student	
  
learning	
  

Understanding myself as a le...
29
Learning Together
Framework for Systems Thinking
Integrating models

Starting here

Parts, wholes
and layers
Connections
and loops
Processes...
Boundaries outside - inside
Meta = µετά =
"after", "beyond"

Outcomes or outputs
Outside = Meta-system

Inside
Systems bou...
Holon - anything both a part and a whole
A bigger
holon

Another holon
Another holon

Another holon

Holon

Another holon
...
Inside outside layers - nested models
•  Systems within systems
•  Each provides the context
for the ones inside
•  Partic...
Boundaries on Bio-fuel?
•  Why - the purpose of the System?
•  How?

Supplying Energy

Supplying
Renewable
bio-fuels

Supp...
Boundaries on Bio-fuel?
We need to understand
relationships between components
– system architectures
Supplying Energy

Su...
Where do we start? Our meta system

Our
World
Dimensions of Sustainability
Triple bottom line

PESTE

37
Learning Together
Comparing
Policy level
Frameworks

38
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Dimensions of Educational Sustainability
PPESTE

political

Sustaining
and
improving
student
learning and
achievement
econ...
Forum for the Future
Five Capitals

40
Learning Together
Halstar at Project level
•  Policy framework
–  5 capitals

•  Project framework
–  350 Issues
–  5-6000 criteria

Key to ...
Illustrating Project Issues

Example of Project
Issues Scoring Wheel

© Halcrow Group Ltd
(2008) all rights reserved

Lear...
Agent Based
Modelling?

Project

Top Down

Bottom Up

Thinking in layers Policy

Systems
dynamics?

Occupancy
Performance
...
Systems Orientation Chart
Soft, people
Engagement
in learning

simple
small
short term
many
tactical
tame
closed

Leadersh...
Group Work : fill in the chart for your
school system

45
Learning Together
Loops
Integrating models

Parts, wholes
and layers
Now here

Connections
and loops
Processes
How change happens

Context
B...
Connections and loops
•  The relationships between the holons and their
ability to communicate determines the emergent
beh...
Connections and loops
Action and reaction
Doing Process B

Doing Process A
Influence or message

Doing Process A

Feedback...
Feedback loops

Setting desired
water level:
(the success target)

Acting by
turning the
tap

Thinking
about the
gap

Flow...
Systems Dynamics
•  Systems Archetypes
•  Negative and Positive Feedback
•  Key References:
–  Senge, P. M. (1990) The Fif...
Example – Fixes That Fail

• 

http://futuresavvy.net/category/systems-dynamics/

51
Learning Together
Example – Shifting the Burden

• 

http://lindaboothsweeney.net/blog/?cat=17

52
Learning Together
Feedback Loops

http://www.marketskeptics.com/2008/10/positivenegative-feedback-loops.html

53
Learning Together
Learning Circle Activity
•  As a group, refer back to your Rich Picture
from the Soft Systems exercise and note the
key sy...
Problem solving loop
Define problem
Evaluate feedback

Take action

Make a
decision

Set up theoretical
model

Deduce resu...
PLAN
Choosing
Observing &
Describing
Generating Questions
Uncovering Stories
Mapping

DO
Designing
improvement protocol
Im...
Relationship with Educational Leadership
•  Systems Thinking is an essential
capability for Educators which is shared
with...
Relationship with engineering

Systems Thinking
Disciplines eg Engineering
Specialists
eg Materials Testing

58
Learning T...
The relationship between components
influences performance

Outcomes or outputs

Inside
Part
Part

Part

•  Wholes and par...
Loops
Integrating models

Parts, wholes
and layers
Connections
and loops

Now here

Processes
How change happens

Context
...
New Process - How change happens
•  A holistic view of process
–  people and physical processes
–  consistency helps integ...
62
Learning Together
63
Learning Together
Integrating soft and hard
People provide an essential dimension of the
success of every system and all its processes.
1.  ...
Integrating models
Finally here

Integrating models

Parts, wholes
and layers
Connections
and loops
Processes
How change h...
Capturing complexity in a
real world
From
research

Perceived
real world
problem
situation

Action to
Improve

Soft System...
Points of view
SEE
DO
GET

Our belief
system
filters what
we see
(perceive)
It’s the way we see things

67
Learning Togeth...
After Joseph McNair (Rev. 2004)

A view of a belief system
stories

myths

legends

heroes/
heroines

role
models

jokes

...
Twin focused approach to integration
Past

Evidence
Hindsight
Prediction
Statistics
Literature
reviews
Case studies
Models...
Coping with complexity
Core Process

A meta-framework for integration

Learning Together

70
Stakeholders in
tourism in Grenada

71
Learning Together
Using his HALSTAR framework to
identify the issues

© Halcrow Group all rights reserved
Learning Together

72
Design Framework for SUSTAINABLE TOURISUM IN GRANADA

73
Learning Together
Examples of interdependent loops

Loop of issues affecting tourists and operators
Limitations to
growth

Establish an econ...
In Conclusion
Purpose of this unit

Learning outcomes

Other stakeholder
needs
Inside
Sustainable Systems Unit
Systems bou...
Recommended Reading
•  Blockley, D & Godfrey, P. S. (2000) Doing it Differently :
Systems for rethinking construction, Lon...
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What are systems and how does this apply to school leadership

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A presentation about systems thinking and its application to school leadership. With thanks to Patrick Godfrey and David Blockley from the Systems Centre at Bristol.

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What are systems and how does this apply to school leadership

  1. 1. Introduction to Systems Thinking for School Leaders What are systems? Ruth Deakin Crick With thanks to Patrick Godfrey and David Blockley and the Systems Centre Chile January 2014 Learning together
  2. 2. 2 Learning Together
  3. 3. What are Systems? Exploration of - what a system is - what systems thinking is In the context of the need for social sustainability and resilience - why systems thinking is needed 3 Learning Together
  4. 4. What are systems “A system is a set of parts which, when combined, have qualities that are not present in any of the parts themselves. Those qualities are the emergent properties of the system. Source: ‘Creating systems that work’ Royal Academy of Engineering 2007 4 Learning Together
  5. 5. Introducing systems thinking Systems Thinking is a way of thinking used to address complex and uncertain real world problems. It recognises that the world is a set of highly interconnected technical and social entities which are hierarchically organised producing emergent behaviour. INCOSE UK Z7 Guide http://www.incoseonline.org.uk/Documents/ zGuides/Z7_Systems_Thinking_WEB.pdf Learning Together 5
  6. 6. What is a system? Input Output Essentially it is any two or more elements that are interconnected for a purpose. Difference between Output and Input = Change Emergence: A systems is said to have ‘Synergy’ when the whole is more than the sum of its parts. We design systems to get a synergistic outcome. Learning Together 6
  7. 7. A complex system Output or Outcome Input Many to many connections Influencing or sending messages 7 Learning Together
  8. 8. A real world system 8 Learning Together
  9. 9. Synergy whole >∑ 9 Learning Together
  10. 10. Your Systems •  Technically –  Brain –  Skeleton –  Nervous –  Skin –  Blood circulation –  Sensory –  Emotional –  Cognitive Complicated! •  How does that relate to –  your environment –  your feelings –  You! Complex! 10 Learning Together Learning Together
  11. 11. What are systems “Engineers are increasingly concerned with complex systems, in which the parts interact with each other and with the outside world in many ways – the relationships between the parts determine how the system behaves. Intuition rarely predicts the behaviour of novel complex systems.” Source: ‘Creating systems that work’ Royal Academy of Engineering 2007 11 Learning Together
  12. 12. Consortium on Chicago School Research (CSSR) Bryk et al 2010 "schools are complex organisations consisting of multiple interacting sub-systems. Each subsystem involves a mix of human and social factors that shape the activities that occur and the meaning that individuals attribute to these events. These social interactions are bounded by various rules, roles and prevailing practices that, in combination with technical resources, constitute schools as formal organisations. In a simple sense, almost everything interacts with everything else". Source: Organising Schools for Improvement: lessons from Chicago, Chicago University Press, 2009:45. 12 Learning Together
  13. 13. 6 Principles 1.  Debate, define, revise and pursue the purpose 2.  Think holistically 3.  Follow a systematic procedure 4.  Be creative 5.  Take account of the people 6.  Manage the project and the relationships. Source: ‘Creating systems that work’ Royal Academy of Engineering 2007 13 Learning Together
  14. 14. A Systems Thinker’s Goal is to fulfil Purpose •  Purpose is the result, outcome or effect that is intended from the system. Purpose is the answer to the question: Why are we doing this? It is the driver of intended change and defines unintended consequences. •  A requirement is an unambiguous statement of a capability that the system must deliver. A requirement is expressed in operational terms (what the system will do) rather than solutions (how the system will do it). 14 Learning Together
  15. 15. 1st Emperor of China Qin Shihuang (259 - 210BC) A great systems thinker Purpose Unification of China •  Constantly assailed by warring neighbours Qin decided to unify China within its natural boundaries. •  He did it in 10 years! 15 Learning Together
  16. 16. Defined the Boundaries •  The sea, Himalayas, Great Wall. •  By Emperor Qin’s order, in nine years, they connected all the existing bits and pieces, restored and extended them. •  Hence the shape of the Great Wall was formed. •  It was roughly 5,000 km long and ran from west to east, separating China from Mongolia. 16 Learning Together
  17. 17. Developing synergy Whole > ∑ Parts Strategy: make friends with distant states whilst making war with the neighbours! •  He established prefectures and counties, ruled directly by the emperor. •  Based on the original rules of the Qin State, the emperor adopted some regulations of other rival states to form a workable law of the Qin Dynasty. •  In economy, he claimed that both the agriculture and commerce were very important. People should have them developed together. 17 Learning Together
  18. 18. Common language now Mandarin 18 Learning Together
  19. 19. Systematic method Customised mass production 19 Learning Together
  20. 20. Standardised manufacture, and technology enhanced life cycles 20 Learning Together
  21. 21. Standardisation of weights and measures Imperial edict of Qin reads: “In Year 26, the Emperor has defeated all dukes and annexed the whole land. The whole land under the sky is at peace and the first Emperor has been entitled. The Prime Minister is sent to check the weights and measures and this measure is authorised.” Integrating Soft (people) and hard (physical) Learning Together Imperial Edict on: Copper plate 99 X 62 X 2 mm Probably attached to a wooden measure 21
  22. 22. Much more to be learned 22 Learning Together
  23. 23. Three key ideas for systems thinking Layers Loops Processes 23 Learning Together
  24. 24. Layers …… Community Learning Leaders Learning Teachers Learning Students Learning
  25. 25. Loops…. Leaders   Learning   Employee Learning Teacher   Learning   CommunityL eadership learning Systems Thinking & Processes Community Learning Student              Parent learning learning  
  26. 26. Processes…. Leaders   Learning   Developing a shared, rich and multifaceted language and values for learning across the whole community Leading for Effective Teaching Leading, modelling and planning for complexity Evaluating wider outcomes and using data holistically for improvement Harnessing collective intelligence
  27. 27. Teacher   Learning   Designing teacher authentic enquiry aimed at student deep learning and engagement Research Informed practice Teaching for Effective Learning Collaborative learning across schools Using technology to enhance collaborative learning Professional learning (accredited and non accredited) as a pathway to impact for research
  28. 28. Taking responsibility for my own learning processes and performance Student   learning   Understanding myself as a learner Knowing how to construct new knowledge through authentic enquiry Authentic assessment and performance Service learning and citizenship as an outcome of authentic enquiry Using EnquiryBlogger to enhance my learning
  29. 29. 29 Learning Together
  30. 30. Framework for Systems Thinking Integrating models Starting here Parts, wholes and layers Connections and loops Processes How change happens Context Belief systems Perceptions Viewpoints Boundary (open or closed) Holon/Hierarchy Emergence Synergy Relationships Communications Feedback / Foresight Learning loops / Life cycles Purpose Requirements Progress/Evidence Opportunity and risk 30 Learning Together
  31. 31. Boundaries outside - inside Meta = µετά = "after", "beyond" Outcomes or outputs Outside = Meta-system Inside Systems boundary 31 Learning Together
  32. 32. Holon - anything both a part and a whole A bigger holon Another holon Another holon Another holon Holon Another holon Another holon Another holon Another holon Another holon Layers of holons 32 Learning Together
  33. 33. Inside outside layers - nested models •  Systems within systems •  Each provides the context for the ones inside •  Particularly helpful when describing human behaviour The first Russian nesting doll! - Matryoshka 1890 33 Learning Together
  34. 34. Boundaries on Bio-fuel? •  Why - the purpose of the System? •  How? Supplying Energy Supplying Renewable bio-fuels Supplying Non - Renewable using heat pumps wind hydro tidal solar coal oil & gas nuclear tar sands 34 Learning Together
  35. 35. Boundaries on Bio-fuel? We need to understand relationships between components – system architectures Supplying Energy Supplying Food food miles renewable bio-fuels fertilisers non-renewable It helps to have a framework orientated to purpose Learning Together 35
  36. 36. Where do we start? Our meta system Our World
  37. 37. Dimensions of Sustainability Triple bottom line PESTE 37 Learning Together
  38. 38. Comparing Policy level Frameworks 38 Learning Together
  39. 39. Dimensions of Educational Sustainability PPESTE political Sustaining and improving student learning and achievement economic 39 Learning Together
  40. 40. Forum for the Future Five Capitals 40 Learning Together
  41. 41. Halstar at Project level •  Policy framework –  5 capitals •  Project framework –  350 Issues –  5-6000 criteria Key to visualisation of scores Learning Together © Halcrow Group Ltd (2008) all rights reserved 41
  42. 42. Illustrating Project Issues Example of Project Issues Scoring Wheel © Halcrow Group Ltd (2008) all rights reserved Learning Together Key to visualisation of scores 42
  43. 43. Agent Based Modelling? Project Top Down Bottom Up Thinking in layers Policy Systems dynamics? Occupancy Performance 43 Learning Together
  44. 44. Systems Orientation Chart Soft, people Engagement in learning simple small short term many tactical tame closed Leadership decisioning examinations timetables Accounts complex large long term unique strategic wicked & messy open Health and safety Hard, physical After Oxenham D. (2008) Learning Together 44
  45. 45. Group Work : fill in the chart for your school system 45 Learning Together
  46. 46. Loops Integrating models Parts, wholes and layers Now here Connections and loops Processes How change happens Context Belief systems Perceptions Viewpoints Boundary (open or closed) Holon/Hierarchy Emergence Synergy Relationships Communications Feedback / Foresight Learning loops / Life cycles Purpose Requirements Progress/Evidence Opportunity and risk 46 Learning Together
  47. 47. Connections and loops •  The relationships between the holons and their ability to communicate determines the emergent behaviours and the possibility of unintended consequences. •  It is generally useful to think in terms of feedback and feed-forward loops to create learning and foresight and so to manage the processes involved. •  Systems Dynamics is one way of simulating processes 47 Learning Together
  48. 48. Connections and loops Action and reaction Doing Process B Doing Process A Influence or message Doing Process A Feedback Loop Doing Process B 48 Learning Together
  49. 49. Feedback loops Setting desired water level: (the success target) Acting by turning the tap Thinking about the gap Flowing water Perceiving the water level Blockley and Godfrey ‘Doing it Differently’ 2000 Jay W. Forrester MIT 1996 49 Learning Together
  50. 50. Systems Dynamics •  Systems Archetypes •  Negative and Positive Feedback •  Key References: –  Senge, P. M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, London, Random House. 50 Learning Together
  51. 51. Example – Fixes That Fail •  http://futuresavvy.net/category/systems-dynamics/ 51 Learning Together
  52. 52. Example – Shifting the Burden •  http://lindaboothsweeney.net/blog/?cat=17 52 Learning Together
  53. 53. Feedback Loops http://www.marketskeptics.com/2008/10/positivenegative-feedback-loops.html 53 Learning Together
  54. 54. Learning Circle Activity •  As a group, refer back to your Rich Picture from the Soft Systems exercise and note the key systems archetypes you see •  Individually, draw at least one simple systems archetype from the Rich Picture •  Add ‘+’ for any positive (reinforcing) feedback and ‘-’ for any negative (diminishing) feedback •  Share your thoughts with your group Learning Together 54
  55. 55. Problem solving loop Define problem Evaluate feedback Take action Make a decision Set up theoretical model Deduce results Interpret meaning 55 Learning Together
  56. 56. PLAN Choosing Observing & Describing Generating Questions Uncovering Stories Mapping DO Designing improvement protocol Implementing improvement protocol ACT Revise, Refine, Collaborate. Present and Redevelop STUDY Measure change Analyse Results
  57. 57. Relationship with Educational Leadership •  Systems Thinking is an essential capability for Educators which is shared with many disciplines e.g. Engineering •  Design Educational Engineering and Development is an approach to school self evaluation which uses systems thinking to integrate school effectiveness with school improvement 57 Learning Together
  58. 58. Relationship with engineering Systems Thinking Disciplines eg Engineering Specialists eg Materials Testing 58 Learning Together
  59. 59. The relationship between components influences performance Outcomes or outputs Inside Part Part Part •  Wholes and parts •  Synergy Whole >∑ of the parts •  Leading to emergent behaviours and unintended consequence Systems boundary Part Part Part From the debate identify examples of emergent behaviours and unintended consequences 59 Learning Together
  60. 60. Loops Integrating models Parts, wholes and layers Connections and loops Now here Processes How change happens Context Belief systems Perceptions Viewpoints Boundary (open or closed) Holon/Hierarchy Emergence Synergy Relationships Communications Feedback / Foresight Learning loops / Life cycles Purpose Requirements Progress/Evidence Opportunity and risk 60 Learning Together
  61. 61. New Process - How change happens •  A holistic view of process –  people and physical processes –  consistency helps integrate hard and soft –  helps to align stakeholders to purpose •  Process define ‘How change happens’. –  includes natural, hard (physical) and soft (people). Why = How (who, what, where and when) 61 Learning Together
  62. 62. 62 Learning Together
  63. 63. 63 Learning Together
  64. 64. Integrating soft and hard People provide an essential dimension of the success of every system and all its processes. 1.  All hard (physical) systems need to be seen as being embedded in soft (people) systems 2.  All systems (hard and soft) are highly interconnected and interdependent processes that have to be managed to success. 3.  Complexity is reduced if we use “New process” 64 Learning Together
  65. 65. Integrating models Finally here Integrating models Parts, wholes and layers Connections and loops Processes How change happens Context Belief systems Perceptions Viewpoints Boundary (open or closed) Holon/Hierarchy Emergence Synergy Relationships Communications Feedback / Foresight Learning loops / Life cycles Purpose Requirements Progress/Evidence Opportunity and risk 65 Learning Together
  66. 66. Capturing complexity in a real world From research Perceived real world problem situation Action to Improve Soft Systems Methodology (after Checkland, 1990) Learning Together All models are wrong!!! But some can be fit for purpose Models of relevant purposeful activity systems Comparison of models with perceived real world situation Finds Learning points which enable A structured debate about desirable and feasible changes 66
  67. 67. Points of view SEE DO GET Our belief system filters what we see (perceive) It’s the way we see things 67 Learning Together
  68. 68. After Joseph McNair (Rev. 2004) A view of a belief system stories myths legends heroes/ heroines role models jokes beliefs A Person norms values mores standards of excellence ethical codes attitudes aesthetics behaviour artefacts 68 Learning Together
  69. 69. Twin focused approach to integration Past Evidence Hindsight Prediction Statistics Literature reviews Case studies Models Provide Integrated systems design Process Soft People Purpose Hard Products Function Performance Innovate Future Evidence Foresight Vision Values Opportunity and Risk Scenario Models Source after ‘Doing it differently (2000) Blockley and Godfrey www.thomastelford.com/books/bookshop_main.asp?ISBN=0727727486 69 Learning Together
  70. 70. Coping with complexity Core Process A meta-framework for integration Learning Together 70
  71. 71. Stakeholders in tourism in Grenada 71 Learning Together
  72. 72. Using his HALSTAR framework to identify the issues © Halcrow Group all rights reserved Learning Together 72
  73. 73. Design Framework for SUSTAINABLE TOURISUM IN GRANADA 73 Learning Together
  74. 74. Examples of interdependent loops Loop of issues affecting tourists and operators Limitations to growth Establish an econometric systems dynamics model to quantify the outcomes 74 Learning Together
  75. 75. In Conclusion Purpose of this unit Learning outcomes Other stakeholder needs Inside Sustainable Systems Unit Systems boundary Learning outcomes By the end of this unit you should be able to: •  “Demonstrate a thorough understanding of the key challenges inherent in changing complex systems to become more sustainable •  “Select and establish a measurement regime for a specified complex sustainability problem which is new to you •  “Select, develop and apply an appropriate systems architectural framework for the specified complex problem •  “Establish an implementation process that will recognise unintended consequences and provide opportunities for significant improvement in systems performance through synergy •  “Demonstrate creative and innovative thinking in your approach to systems design” 75 Learning Together
  76. 76. Recommended Reading •  Blockley, D & Godfrey, P. S. (2000) Doing it Differently : Systems for rethinking construction, London, Thomas Telford. •  Hoverstadt, P. (2008) The Fractal Organisation: Creating sustainable organisations with the Viable System Model, London, Wiley •  Jackson, M. C. (2000) A Systems Approach to Management, New York, Kluwer. •  Senge, . M. (1990) The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, London, Random House. •  Sterman, J. D. (2000) Business Dynamics : Systems thinking and modeling for a complex world, Boston, Mass., Irwin McGraw-Hill. •  Wheatley, M. (2006) Leadership and the New Science 3rd ed. San Francisco, Ca., Berrett-Koehler 76 Learning Together

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