OLP303 - Systems Thinking

Outline info
Last revision date 2018-07-20 13:27:01.674
Last review date 2018-07-20 13:27:15.675

Subject Title
Systems Thinking

Subject Description
There is increasing awareness that conventional solutions to problem situations are not working as well as expected. Our current model of scientific inquiry is based on the belief that we will best understand how something works by breaking it into parts, giving rise to ever more specialized faculties of knowledge.

However, because of its narrow focus, the application of purely specialist knowledge to single, isolated problems ignores the connectedness and complexity of how our world works, so it has not provided lasting solutions, and has caused even more problems over time.

This systems thinking course introduces ways of examining a problem in the context of a larger focus that reveals connections to the situation that must be considered if the solution is to be sustainable, so that problems do not recur but stay fixed.

The course offers a wide-angle thinking lens that is appropriate to the complexity of the world. It teaches tools to view problem situations in any area of life in a way that allows us to transcend the limitations of expert knowledge and to see how situations evolve over time to generate unexpected consequences.

Who should take this course?

  • Everyone looking to do things differently
  • Decision makers, planners, community leaders
  • Teachers, parents, mentors

If everybody took this course the world would be in a different place.

This program partially satisfies the requirements of the Organic Land Care Advanced ? Level 3 program.

Credit Status
3 credits (42 hours) toward the Organic Land Care Advanced – Level 3 Program

Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this subject the student will be able to:

  • Contrast the worldview of systems thinking to the reductionist way of doing science.
  • Explain the importance of understanding feedback and nonlinear behavior.
  • Use causal loop diagrams (CLDs) to improve understanding of problems.
  • Describe system archetypes and their utility in problem solving.
  • Develop a working knowledge of the essential steps of inquiry in systems thinking.
  • Describe several frameworks for systems thinking.

Cheating and Plagiarism
Each student should be aware of the College's policy regarding Cheating and Plagiarism. Seneca's Academic Policy will be strictly enforced.

To support academic honesty at Seneca College, all work submitted by students may be reviewed for authenticity and originality, utilizing software tools and third party services. Please visit the Academic Honesty site on http://library.senecacollege.ca for further information regarding cheating and plagiarism policies and procedures.

All students and employees have the right to study and work in an environment that is free from discrimination and/or harassment. Language or activities that defeat this objective violate the College Policy on Discrimination/Harassment and shall not be tolerated. Information and assistance are available from the Student Conduct Office at student.conduct@senecacollege.ca.

Accommodation for Students with Disabilities
The College will provide reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities in order to promote academic success. If you require accommodation, contact the Counselling and Disabilities Services Office at ext. 22900 to initiate the process for documenting, assessing and implementing your individual accommodation needs.


Topic Outline
Module 1:  Why Systems Thinking?
Module 2:  A Systems Thinker's View of How the World Works
Module 3:  Visualizing Our Mental Models - Mind Maps
Module 4:  Complex Systems Science vs. Reductionist Science
Module 5:  Feedback Causality
Module 6:  Probing the Boundaries Question
Module 7:  Systems Archetypes
Module 8:  A Method of Systems Thinking Practice
Module 9:  Working with Simulation Models
Module 10:  Systems Thinking Applied to Improving Sustainability
Module 11:  Introduction to System Dynamics Simulation
Module 12:  Systems Thinking Practice
Module 13:  Holistic Management

Mode of Instruction
This subject will be delivered via the internet. This involves the use of the online materials and/or text, possible group discussions and consultation with your instructor via the online course platform. Students will be responsible for completing all online activities and participating in group discussions and working through textbook readings, quizzes, assignments, as required.

Prescribed Texts

Title: Thinking in Systems
Author: Donella Meadows
Publisher: Earthscan, UK, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-84407-726-7
Title: Vensim Modelling Software (Free)
Edition: http://vensim.com/free-download/

Reference Material

Required Supplies

Promotion Policy

Grading Policy
A+ 90%  to  100%
A 80%  to  89%
B+ 75%  to  79%
B 70%  to  74%
C+ 65%  to  69%
C 60%  to  64%
D+ 55%  to  59%
D 50%  to  54%
F 0%    to  49% (Not a Pass)
EXC Excellent
SAT Satisfactory
UNSAT Unsatisfactory

For further information, see a copy of the Academic Policy, available online (http://www.senecacollege.ca/academic-policy) or at Seneca's Registrar's Offices.

Modes of Evaluation
A passing grade in this course requires a minimum of 75% for each written assignment and a minimum of 75% for the discussion participation.  A certificate of completion with a final grading of Excellent (over 90%) or Satisfactory (75 – 89%) will be awarded when the minimum passing grade has been achieved. Below passing grade of 75% constitutes a failing grade (Unsatisfactory).

Format for Assignments
Students must use the standard, APA style for quoting sources.   Help is available at:  http://library.senecacollege.ca

Grading is based on the following marking scheme:

Assignments and Grading

Detailed assignment pages will be available for each assignment.  
Discussion Board Commentaries and Responses (6) 17%
Assignments (5) 83%

All the academic policies of the College at which you registered apply. This includes, but is not limited to policies related to grading, supplemental exams, deferred exams and accommodations.

Approved by: Denis Gravelle