Developing Systems Thinking

Tuesday 1:30pm-4:00pm REC Center Lower Gym Meeting Room
Mini Workshop


Hannah Scherer, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ
Rachel Seman-Varner, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ

Many of the challenges we now face require complex solutions that cross disciplinary boundaries and take into account multiple perspectives. How do we as educators prepare students to think in this way? Participants will be introduced to the components of systems thinking (e.g. boundaries, reservoirs, feedback, resilience) through an interactive activity and learn about strategies for incorporating systems thinking in undergraduate courses through a guided exploration of existing resource collections. The remainder of the workshop will be determined by the needs of participants, but may include: work time, further exploration, small group discussion, or focused discussion of emergent questions and concerns from participants.


By the end of the workshop, participants will

  • be able to explain the ways in which scientists approach complex systems
  • have a collection of resources and strategies for teaching systems thinking that is tailored to their needs


Note: Participants should bring a device for exploring web-based resource collections to the workshop

1:30 Welcome and defining participant goals: Please complete this brief survey

1:45 Interactive systems thinking activity: participants will be introduced to the ways that scientists describe and analyze systems through an activity they can use in their classes. [Student hat]

2:15 Debrief the activity [Teacher hat]

2:45 Exploration of resources and strategies for teaching systems thinking (InTeGrate, SERC collections, etc.)

3:15 Share out resources and strategies; identify things that will work for you; use of Systems Thinking Interest Group

3:45 Flex time based on needs of the group

4:15 Adjourn



The On Cutting Edge site on complex systems and InTeGrate's pages on teaching systems thinking are two excellent general references and there are lots of links within these pages to explore for further information and ideas for classroom activities. For some other resources, see: