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Systems Thinking Research in Science and Sustainability Education: A Theoretical Note

Systems thinking is a very important skill in both science education and sustainability education. In order to achieve sustainable development goals (SDGs), the quality of education should be increased to be able to deal with the complex problems of today, and the systems thinking skills of students and teachers should be developed. Many studies have so far investigated systems thinking skills within the science education and sustainability education context, and they have shown that systems thinking skills can be developed at different grade levels using various teaching strategies. The aim of this literature review is to examine these studies in terms of topic, research methodologies and systems thinking models. Moreover, 32 articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals from 2009 to 2019 were selected and examined. The data were analyzed through qualitative content analysis. The results revealed that the topics that the majority of researchers focused on included sustainability problems, complex systems and earth system (especially water cycle). In the 13 articles, researchers studied systems thinking skills with lower secondary school students. Fewer studies were conducted with primary school, upper secondary school and undergraduate students. Furthermore, 17 articles included intervention studies and the most frequently used teaching strategies were inquiry-based teaching and computer simulation programs. Systems thinking models used in the selected articles were also examined and discussed. This literature review provides several directions for future studies.

Table of Contents: Transitioning to Quality Education