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Connecting Critical System Thinking Principles with Hands-On Discovery Activities

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Teaching Methodology & Assessment 2

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Mary E. Johnson Purdue University at West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Mary E. Johnson is a Professor in the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She earned her BS, MS and PhD in Industrial Engineering from The University of Texas at Arlington. After 5 years in aerospace manufacturing, Dr. Johnson joined the Automation & Robotics Research Institute in Fort Worth and was program manager for applied research programs. Fourteen years later, she was an Industrial Engineering assistant professor at Texas A&M - Commerce before joining the Aviation Technology department at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana in 2007 as an Associate Professor. She is a Co-PI on the FAA Center of Excellence for general aviation research known as PEGASAS and is Associate Head for Graduate Programs. Her research interests are aviation sustainability, data driven process improvement, and aviation education.

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Yilin Feng California State University, Los Angeles Orcid 16x16

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Yilin Feng is an assistant professor at California State University, Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. degree from Purdue University. Her research interest is in airport simulation, operation, management, and aviation education.

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Graduate students in university-level aviation and aerospace management may choose to take a Critical Systems Thinking (CST) course. The objective of the CST course is to improve the student’s ability to solve complex problems by identifying and assessing the system from the systems thinking perspective. Traditional teaching methods of a CST course may include textbooks, case studies, and modeling. In a previous version of the CST course in this program, students read textbooks and cases, and then discussed the systems and archetypes. Research has shown that real-life experiences and other life experiences are essential to enable students to learn systems thinking principles. However, the previous teaching methods of the CST course in a classroom environment may not provide these experiences. In an attempt to provide to students with experiences where students interact with systems, the instructor of this CST course introduced hands-on discovery activities (HODAs) as a complement to the traditional teaching methods in 2017. HODAs are a way to provide students with opportunities to experience, explore, and analyze the systems they learned from the lectures in a classroom environment.

This paper presents the system archetypes and principles that are included in the CST course, as well as a list of HODAs that are used to illustrate system archetypes and principles. This paper discusses the objective, preparation, and implementation of one HODA used in the CST course. Student feedback is used to discuss the relationship of the HODA to the lecture topics and to evaluate the performance of the HODA. The changes made by the instructor since 2017 are summarized. In addition, due to the COVID-19 safe practices guidelines, changes to the HODAs are made. An alternative open-ended project is used where student teams develop and present systems models of complex systems in the aircraft and airline industries. This project is outlined and discussed.

Johnson, M. E., & Feng, Y. (2021, July), Connecting Critical System Thinking Principles with Hands-On Discovery Activities Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36837

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