Systems thinking and the theoretical nature of seeing coherence
[S.l.] : [S.n.]
XII Conference of European Researchers in Didactics of Biology - ERIDOB 2018, 03 juli 2018
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Radboud Docenten Academie (RDA)
SubjectCultivating Creativity in Education
Systems thinking has become synonymous to developing coherent understanding of complex biological processes and phenomena from the molecular level to the level of ecosystems. The importance of systems and systems models in science education has been widely recognized, as illustrated by its definition as crosscutting concept by the Next Generation Science Standards (2013). However, there still seems no consensus on what systems thinking exactly implies or how it can be fostered by adequate learning and teaching strategies in secondary education. In this paper we stress the theoretical or abstract nature of systems thinking. Systems thinking is not just perceived here as ‘coherent understanding’, but as metacognitive learning strategy in which systems theoretical concepts are deliberately used to explain and predict natural phenomena. Based on a literature study on empirical reports on teaching or assessment strategies on systems thinking, we argue that systems thinking is not to be defined as set of skills, that can be learned ‘one by one’, but instead asks for consideration of systemscharacteristics and the systems theories they are derived from—such as the systems boundary or the vertical coherence between systems at different organizational levels that cannot per sé be perceived by the senses.To bridge the gap between theoretical notions of systems thinking and educational practice we did a literature search on empirical studies that reported on ‘teaching strategies’ or ‘student assessment’ of ‘systems thinking’ in biology education. Preliminary results showed 10 relevant studies which were further analysed on the extent to which explicit attention had been given in classroom practice to the matching of natural phenomena to underlying system theoretical explanations, i.e. derived from general systems theory, cybernetics and dynamic systems theory. Preliminary results show that that there is a there is no consensus on what coherent understanding of complex systems entail, or how it should be fostered. Limitations in students systems thinking abilities have been related to a lack of awareness of general patterns of systems interactions. Explicit reference to aspects of systems theories, and thereby addressing the theoretical nature of coherence, is suggested.
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