Bronfenbrenner’s ecological theory holds that an individual’s development is reflective of five environmental systems: microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem (Bronfenbrenner, 1986, 2004; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998, 2006).

The microsystem is the system in which the adolescent lives. The parts of this system include the adolescent’s family, peers, school, and other immediate influences on the individual such as their church, workplace, sports groups, and neighborhood. The adolescent is actively engaged and influenced by this system.

The mesosystem is the system that is among the adolescent’s microsystem. This system is all the interactions that those in the adolescent’s microsystem have with each other and whether or not they actually know one another. Interconnections within the adolescent’s microsystem are a positive part to the adolescent’s development, because that means that there is good communication between all aspects of the adolescent’s life, but this can also be negative if the adolescent has done something wrong, because everyone would know about it.

The exosystem is the system of institutions that the adolescent does not directly interact with, but the institutions will indirectly affect their microsystem as well as the adolescent. These institutions include, but are not limited to government/social policy, the community Parent Teacher Organization, the broader community, mass media, and businesses.

The macrosystem involves the culture and subculture of where the adolescent lives. This system involves the attitudes, ideologies, behavior patterns, and other products of the world around the adolescent.

The chronosystem includes environmental events, transitions over the life course, and sociohistorical circumstances. Environmental events are natural events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. Transitions are divorces, death of a family member, or other life altering events. Sociohistorical circumstances are large socially historical events in that person’s life.


As a teacher, I will see many different influences that impact the lives of my students, for each of them come from a different microsystem, mesosystem, and to a degree their macrosystem (1.4). Although the majority of my student will have similar exosystems and chronosystems, they are still individuals and the impact of these systems will all be slightly different for each of my students. Because each student will have a different microsystem and the mesosystem within their microsystem, it will be important for me to understand that each student will react to me in different ways. For example, let us say I am teaching a Geometry class and we are working on the different ways to find the volume and surface area of a cone, pyramid, cube, and cylinder. With Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems model in mind, I would divide my students into groups A, B, C, and D based on each student’s subculture or macrosystem. I would have each group work on their own specific three-dimensional shape and become experts in how to find the surface area and volume of that three-dimensional shape. After each group has a complete understanding of how to find the surface area and volume of their specific three-dimensional shape, I will then create groups with one A, one B, one C, and one D student and have them teach their new groups how to find the surface area and volume of their three-dimensional shape. This will allow students to learn from and interact with students that are not influenced by the same macrosystem to understand and learn from others and experience maybe a slightly different way of learning mathematics from a slightly different perspective.