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Learning about teaching: systems thinking and sustainability course in Finland

[Frank] Oppenheimer had a provocative approach to learning, which can be summarized by saying that …

the best way to learn is to teach, the best way to teach is to keep learning, and that what counts in the end is having had a shared, reflected experience.  (Delacote, 1998)

At the beginning of October, I had blogged about starting the first of two courses in the master’s program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University.  I’ve been maintaining the content online as open courseware, and have now added an index page.  The context map and the course outline have evolved, and should now have mostly stabilized with the conclusion of the lectures.

The course isn’t quite done yet, as the students have to write research papers.  I took responsibility for the course content, and Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen have taken responsibility for guiding the students through the university practicalities and evaluating their learning.

While I have previously instructed at the master’s and doctoral level before, I don’t claim to be the greatest teacher.  I see myself as a researcher who can share content with students, whom may have more or less interest in the topics.  Teaching this first class on Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (with a follow on of Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers scheduled five months later) has led me to some of my own learning, with overall conclusions that include:

  • 01. Sustainability is a topical theme that can be complemented by the systems sciences
  • 02. Designing for dialogues about future systems is distinct from designing future systems that will learn
  • 03. Open courseware is a foundation, and not a replacement for teaching
  • 04. Education on systems thinking from a systems sciences approach should include both theory and method
  • 05. Today’s students are comfortable with online materials, social communities and blogging

Having the course materials available on the Internet allowed me — with sufficient warning to students that they should check revision dates on documents — a luxury to revise materials just before the lectures … and following the lectures.  Thus, there are some specific learning on each of the content for each lecture:

  • 06. Map 01: Foundations for a systems approach
  • 07. Map 02: Boundaries, inquiry, perspectives
  • 08. Map 03: Learning categories, postnormal science, ignorance
  • 09. Map 04: Dialogue, engagement, intervention
  • 10. Map 05: Ecosystems, collapse, resilience
  • 11. Map 06: System design frameworks

My reflections are expanded, below.

01. Sustainability is a topical theme that can be complemented by the systems sciences

[Frank] Oppenheimer had a provocative approach to learning, which can be summarized by saying that …

the best way to learn is to teach, the best way to teach is to keep learning, and that what counts in the end is having had a shared, reflected experience.  (Delacote, 1998)

At the beginning of October, I had blogged about starting the first of two courses in the master’s program in Creative Sustainability at Aalto University.  I’ve been maintaining the content online as open courseware, and have now added an index page.  The context map and the course outline have evolved, and should now have mostly stabilized with the conclusion of the lectures.

The course isn’t quite done yet, as the students have to write research papers.  I took responsibility for the course content, and Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen have taken responsibility for guiding the students through the university practicalities and evaluating their learning.

While I have previously instructed at the master’s and doctoral level before, I don’t claim to be the greatest teacher.  I see myself as a researcher who can share content with students, whom may have more or less interest in the topics.  Teaching this first class on Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (with a follow on of Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers scheduled five months later) has led me to some of my own learning, with overall conclusions that include:

  • 01. Sustainability is a topical theme that can be complemented by the systems sciences
  • 02. Designing for dialogues about future systems is distinct from designing future systems that will learn
  • 03. Open courseware is a foundation, and not a replacement for teaching
  • 04. Education on systems thinking from a systems sciences approach should include both theory and method
  • 05. Today’s students are comfortable with online materials, social communities and blogging

Having the course materials available on the Internet allowed me — with sufficient warning to students that they should check revision dates on documents — a luxury to revise materials just before the lectures … and following the lectures.  Thus, there are some specific learning on each of the content for each lecture:

  • 06. Map 01: Foundations for a systems approach
  • 07. Map 02: Boundaries, inquiry, perspectives
  • 08. Map 03: Learning categories, postnormal science, ignorance
  • 09. Map 04: Dialogue, engagement, intervention
  • 10. Map 05: Ecosystems, collapse, resilience
  • 11. Map 06: System design frameworks

My reflections are expanded, below.

01. Sustainability is a topical theme that can be complemented by the systems sciences

Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities, Aalto University, Finland

At Aalto University — the institution resulting from the merger of the former Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics, and University of Art and Design Helsinki — there’s a new master’s program in Creative Sustainability.  I’m here to launch a pair of new courses:  Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (CS0004) in October 2010, and Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers (CS0005) scheduled for February 2011.

The design and delivery of this course has been in the agile Finnish style.  I’ve been working with Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen in transforming the reading list into a learning style suitable for a class of 24 to 30 students.

As an alternative to creating content in the traditional Powerpoint style, I’ve been putting content directly on the web.  Visual maps help to reduce confusion.  Here’s a map outlining the course.

http://coevolving.com/aalto/201010-cs0004/201010-cs0004-map00-context.png

The details are available in a course outline in long form text.  (This continues to evolve over the duration of the class).

The first lecture is on Foundations for a systems approach.

The second lecture is on Perspectives and diversity.

At Aalto University — the institution resulting from the merger of the former Helsinki University of Technology, Helsinki School of Economics, and University of Art and Design Helsinki — there’s a new master’s program in Creative Sustainability.  I’m here to launch a pair of new courses:  Systemic Thinking of Sustainable Communities (CS0004) in October 2010, and Systemic Thinking for Planners and Designers (CS0005) scheduled for February 2011.

The design and delivery of this course has been in the agile Finnish style.  I’ve been working with Aija Staffans and Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen in transforming the reading list into a learning style suitable for a class of 24 to 30 students.

As an alternative to creating content in the traditional Powerpoint style, I’ve been putting content directly on the web.  Visual maps help to reduce confusion.  Here’s a map outlining the course.

http://coevolving.com/aalto/201010-cs0004/201010-cs0004-map00-context.png

The details are available in a course outline in long form text.  (This continues to evolve over the duration of the class).

The first lecture is on Foundations for a systems approach.

The second lecture is on Perspectives and diversity.

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