Bridge the Gap: spanning the distance between teaching, learning and application of systems thinking in the workplace

Rupesh Amritlal Shah, Elaine Wedlock, Martin Reynolds


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This paper reports on a study looking at teaching, learning and application of systems thinking ideas for the workplace. It provides suggestions for designing learning systems to enhance the application of systems thinking in the workplace.

Drawing upon a qualitative interview process, the research looked at experiences of mature part-time students on a distance learning postgraduate programme in systems thinking in practice at the Open University, UK. The study also investigated the experiences of alumni (from the same programme) from the point of view as employees seeking to apply the learning from their studies in the workplace. Interviews were also conducted with employers of the alumni. Finally, a range of stakeholder including those who took part in the interviews were invited to a workshop to explore the design questions to enhance applicationof systems thinking.

The paper briefly describes three phases of the research. A review of the outcomes of this study prompts some key recommendations for future design of part-time postgraduate courses in systems thinking for professional practitioners. Two broad areas of insight emerge: changes in the way learners are supported during study and attempting to influence the landscape of practice by creating demand for systems thinking skills.


Systems thinking; education; design; application

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