Using Conceptual Frameworks of Earth Systems to Frame Future Directions in Systems Thinking Research
The importance of an earth systems approach to education has been well-documented. However, students face significant challenges when learning an earth systems approach:
- developing accurate mental models of near-surface earth systems (Herbert, 2006)
- seeing the earth system as a whole instead of disconnected parts (Orion and Ault, 2007)
- encountering sophisticated, initially counterintuitive conceptions of causality and mechanism (Stillings, 2012, p. 104)
- recognizing that Earth is a dynamic system (Orion and Libarkin, 2014)
This workshop will explore and build upon findings from a recent synthesis of work on systems thinking in the context of Earth systems (Scherer, et al., 2017), which identified four conceptual frameworks:
- Earth systems perspective. Emphasis on high-level interconnections between major Earth spheres (bio-, hydro-, litho-, etc.); systems thinking abilities related to conceptualizing the Earth system as a whole and identifying connections between the spheres.
- Earth system thinking skills. Emphasis on transformation of matter in Earth cycles (e.g. water cycle); systems thinking abilities related to identifying and organizing system components, processes, and relationships and dynamic and cyclic thinking.
- Complexity sciences. Emphasis on the scientific study of complex systems; systems thinking abilities related to recognizing complex system characteristics such as feedbacks, emergence, and self-organization.
- Authentic complex earth and environmental systems. Emphasis on knowledge of a specific complex near-surface Earth system (e.g. a lake) or phenomenon (e.g. coastal eutrophication); systems thinking abilities related to reasoning about the specific system or phenomenon.
These frameworks provide a starting point for operationalizing systems thinking both teaching and researching systems thinking; they will inform discussions that draw on participants' experience and expertise. Participants will leave the workshop with new strategies for how to identify and describe student systems thinking abilities in the context of classroom instruction and geoscience education research studies.
This workshop is designed for participation from a broad range of EER attendees.
Experts and newcomers to systems thinking are encouraged to participate
Teaching and research interests both welcome
By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:
Identify different perspectives on systems thinking that are used in research and instruction
Implement new strategies for how to identify and describe student systems thinking abilities in the context of classroom instruction and geoscience education research studies
Strengthen teaching, student learning, and assessment of systems thinking in existing courses and activities
Workshop activities will be centered around strengthening participant conceptual understanding of key systems thinking ideas and preparing them to apply new ideas in practice. The workshop design will be responsive to the needs of participants. Strategies employed will include:
Structured group brainstorming exercises
Brief presentations and learning activities that address key concepts
Small group design tasks
Individual application and reflection time
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