Abstract: We evaluated the education system of the United States from 1870 to 2011 using emergy methods. The system was partitioned into three subsystems (elementary, secondary and college/university education) and the emergy inputs required to support each subsystem were determined for every year over the period of analysis. We calculated the emergy required to produce an individual with a given number of years of education by summing over the years of support needed to attain that level of education. In 1983, the emergy per individual ranged from 8.63E+16 semj/ind. for a pre-school student to 165.9E+16 semj/ind. for a Ph.D. with 2 years of postdoctoral experience. The emergy of teaching and learning per hour spent in this process was calculated as the sum of the emergy delivered by the education and experience of the teachers and the emergy brought to the process of learning by the students. The emergy of teaching and learning was about an order of magnitude larger than the annual emergy supporting the U.S. education system (i.e., the emergy inflows provided by the environment, energy and materials, teachers, entering students, goods and services). The implication is that teaching and learning is a higher order social process related to the development and maintenance of the national information cycle. Also, the results imply that there is a 10-fold return on the emergy invested in operating the education system of the United States.
Abstract: This paper explores what it means for a business school to embed systems thinking and sustainability into the curriculum by looking at both the application of systems thinking to the design of sustainable programmes and the teaching of system thinking to support understanding of sustainability. Although programmes that include systems thinking and sustainability as “bolt ons” are becoming more common, how these may best be integrated throughout the curriculum is still largely unexplored. In this paper, curriculum design is viewed through the lens of Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model; viewing the management curriculum in this way emphasises the essential interconnectedness of the subject matter rather than its reduction into blocks of knowledge that are containable within standard size teaching modules. Merely recognising the interconnected nature of management knowledge does not go far enough, though, and there is a complementary need to equip students with approaches for describing more complex and pluralistic views of the world and to address such complexities. In this paper, the specification of a module, underpinned by Flood and Jackson’s System of Systems Methodologies, that might serve to achieve these ends by introducing business students to a range of systems approaches is discussed. The challenges that realizing such an undertaking in practice might involve are also reflected on.
Abstract: Many small businesses suffer from inadequate management skills which can lead to poor business performance and unsustainable businesses. Research to date has focused on traditional skills such as communication, time management and people skills, yet critically many business managers have no systems thinking skills. This paper presents a framework targeted at delivering systems thinking skills to managers of small businesses utilizing some key characteristic of small business managers. The design is also based on a systems analysis and guided by both adult learning theory and teaching theory. The quality of a training framework depends on the quality of the content design and the right training delivery methods. The systems thinking skills training framework structured systems thinking knowledge into three modules in order to meet the needs of different levels of managers. The framework advocates blended training delivery methods and it also presents possible pitfalls based on training experiences. Additionally, the framework incorporates a continuous improvement process for ongoing systemic improvement.
Abstract: Designing and implementing functional Socio Technical Systems (STS) is becoming increasingly important, as technologies become more pervasive and critical to everyday life. Socio technical systems are said to be efficient and useful when they are “jointly optimized” yet few system designers understand what joint optimization is, and how to achieve it. The paper explains the core tenets of Joint Optimization and identifies the need for artifacts to support the built in design of joint optimization in socio technical systems from the early stages of development. JOM (Joint Optimization Metamodel) is proposed, as a cognitive artifact to help conceptualize and model joint optimization, and five types of JO are identified resulting from conceptual evaluation of the metamodel.
Abstract: This article discusses how a Systems Thinking (ST) approach to student learning, employing Problem-Based Learning (PBL) interventions, at several different universities in Sydney, Australia was incorporated into a broader trans-disciplinary research project, the aim of which was to examine how urine diversion in an urban, institutional setting might form the basis of phosphorus collection—phosphorus being a non-renewable resource used in agricultural fertilizers. The article explores how the ST approach employed by the researchers themselves was adapted to embrace student engagement opportunities and how it permitted opportunities for Problem-Based Learning interventions. Five academics forming part of the research team consider the effectiveness of ST-styled student engagement via Problem-Based Learning in three action research cycles used in the research project. In sharing their experiences they provide an honest, “no-holds barred” review of what worked and what could be done more effectively with the benefits of hindsight.
Abstract: The methodologies advocated in computational biology are in many cases proper system-level approaches. These methodologies are variously connected to the notion of “mesosystem” and thus on the focus on relational structures that are at the basis of biological regulation. Here, I describe how the formalization of biological systems by means of graph theory constitutes an extremely fruitful approach to biology. I suggest the epistemological relevance of the notion of graph resides in its multilevel character allowing for a natural “middle-out” causation making largely obsolete the traditional opposition between “top-down” and “bottom-up” styles of reasoning, so fulfilling the foundation dream of systems science of a direct link between systems analysis and the underlying physical reality.