Abstract for:Assessing the Effectiveness of Systems Thinking and the Individual Learner: Improve Understanding of Socio-Ecological System Complexity

Education has historically taught us to break apart problems and fragment the world rather than focus on the connections, leading to incomplete mental models of highly interconnected systems (Richmond 1993). Even with the increased level of science-to-public communication regarding socio-ecological issues, there remains a significant disconnect within this exchange of information contributing to unsustainable practices. These issues are exacerbated by relationships and feedbacks inherent in socio-ecological systems (SES) between social and economic actors, political institutions and related ecosystem variables. This research argues that an incomplete mental model can result when information is not presented in a manner compatible to how an individual approaches learning about complex systems and problems. It is accepted that systems thinking and system dynamics (ST/SD) are effective methods for addressing complex problems and guiding education (Meadows 2008, Sterman 1994, Richmond 1993, Stave 2002, Vennix 1996). However, it is relatively unknown whether ST/SD processes are equally effective for all individuals. This research will utilize ST/SD to analyze which processes are most effective for different individual learners. Surveys, an adapted Bloomís Taxonomy assessment, and the participantís ability to successfully complete ST/SD exercises will be used to evaluate and assess the relationship between individual learning and systems thinking skills.