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Teach Systems Thinking

This page draws on materials developed at the 2010 Cutting Edge workshop on Complex Systems and the 2012 InTeGrate workshops on Teaching the Methods of Geoscience and Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences.

Effective Strategies for Teaching Systems Thinking

Several effective strategies for teaching systems thinking have been identified by Cutting Edge and InTeGrate workshop participants, including using computer modeling, an inquiry-based approach, and role-playing. Other strategies include:

Why Teach Systems Thinking?

Systems thinking is particularly well-suited to teaching about the complex challenges that lie at the intersection of Earth systems and human interactions. Topics such as climate change, energy, population dynamics and resource use benefit from a systems-based approach.

Additional reasons to incorporate systems thinking into your teaching include:

Opportunities to Strengthen Systems Thinking in Your Classroom

Systems thinking is prevalent across the curriculum, especially with regard to sustainability issues. Even if you don't explicitly call it systems thinking, you can always make connections and point them out to your students. Simple examples of systems (predator-prey relationships, ice-albedo feedback) can be taught in general education courses to underscore the prevalence of systems in everyday life. In upper-level courses, you can use systems thinking to teach mathematics and quantitative reasoning. And you can always work with other faculty in your department to integrate systems thinking across your curriculum, or with faculty in other departments to integrate systems thinking across campus.

Resources for Teaching Systems Thinking

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