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Developing a Systems Thinking Integration Approach for Robust Learning in Undergraduate Engineering Courses

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Systems Engineering Division Technical Session 4 – Systems Thinking Integration and Systems Engineering Skills Evaluation

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

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Paper Authors


Federica Robinson-Bryant Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University- Worldwide Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Federica Robinson-Bryant is an Assistant Professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University- Worldwide. She is the Program Chair for the Master of Systems Engineering program and a member of the Dept. of Engineering and Technology.

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Traditional engineering programs tend to foster discipline autonomy and teach domain-specific technical matter despite diminishing boundaries among the engineering disciplines. Little-to-no coursework aims to help students understand the holistic implications of design decisions and inherent limitations of discipline views over the lifecycle of systems. Promoting the learning of meta-competencies rather than competency development is suggested to better prepare engineering students for the ill-structured problems they will likely face after graduation. Researchers have raised the question of whether the objective of education is one of imparting highly specialized domain knowledge or rather learning and making connections across domains. This helps to prepare students to learn new skills as needs emerge, hence the emergence of the notion of ‘robust knowledge’. The adaptation of the underlying Knowledge Learning & Instruction Framework yields a novel approach to integrating systems thinking skills in engineering courses, despite conflicting schools of thought of how and when integration should occur.

This work in progress paper describes a systems thinking skills intervention developed for an online, Project Management course for 3rd and 4th year engineering students. The application of a vertical, course thread fosters “deep, connected and coherent” exposure to systems thinking skills. The Conceptual Systems Thinking Integration approach introduced herein not only outlines instructional events, learning events, knowledge features and assessment events that will be applied to facilitate robust learning of systems thinking skills, but also provides a literature-based discussion of the growing importance of developing an orientation towards systems thinking skills for all engineers.

Robinson-Bryant, F. (2018, June), Developing a Systems Thinking Integration Approach for Robust Learning in Undergraduate Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30294

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