Systems Thinking Framework

About the Course:

Systems Thinking Framework introduces students to the history, evolution, and application of systems thinking. As an approach that emphasizes the connections among systems and ubiquity of systems, systems thinking has been adopted with varying success in many disciplines and professional fields, including engineering, physics, informatics, computer science, and medicine. Most recently, scholars and leaders in business administration, environmental research, and sustainability studies have adopted systems thinking not only to manage the production and usage of knowledge within their domains, but to establish active connections with other areas of scientific inquiry and work centers.

The wide adoption of systems thinking in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics was not replicated in the areas of social sciences and the humanities despite the usefulness of the systems thinking framework in understanding, analyzing, and explaining complex problems—the kind of problems representing the majority of subjects of inquiry in the latter two areas of inquiry. Emerging methodologies and technologies and changing local and global circumstances are transforming the learning environment. Such changes are making it possible, if not pressing, that social scientists and humanities scholars develop and apply the framework in order to integrate knowledge for a more holistic understanding of the issues.

The Systems Thinking Framework is not only useful in explaining perennial social problems including inequity, poverty, and human rights abuses, but also highly constructive and instructive when exploring the legacy of past civilizations and natural phenomena.

Learning Objectives:

In this course, students will be guided to achieve the following goals:

  • Understand the meaning and functions of systems;
  • Discover the types and properties of systems;
  • Learn specific skills and tools to identify, isolate, and study systems;
  • Define the Systems Thinking Framework in comparison to analytical and empirical theories and approaches; and
  • Apply and evaluate the systems thinking framework to specific conceptual and practical examples.


  1. Reading Packet (collection of articles, chapters, and books) will be made available online.