Asee peer logo

System Thinking for Everybody

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

A Systems-Thinking Approach to Solving Problems

Tagged Division

Systems Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1364.1 - 22.1364.6



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Yumin Zhang Southeast Missouri State University

visit author page

(Fisher) Yumin Zhang
Assistant Professor
Department of Physics and Engineering Physics,
Southeast Missouri State University.
Phone: 573-651-2391.

visit author page


David K. Probst Southeast Missouri State University

visit author page

David Probst is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Engineering Physics at Southeast Missouri State University. He regularly teaches an upper-level interdisciplinary course invovling both majors and non-majors.

visit author page

Download Paper |


System Theory for EverybodySystem theory was originated in the field of engineering, and now it is widely used in manydifferent fields, such as in biology and economics. However, in most universities the courses onsystem theory are still limited to the college of engineering. In order to make it available to allstudents, we propose to open a university wide introductory course.The concepts in system theory are not hard to understand, for example, stock and flow, positiveand negative feedback. In addition, the mathematics in introductory system theory is not verydemanding either, and many useful examples can be analyzed with the background of collegealgebra. Furthermore, with powerful and user-friendly software, such as STELLA®/iThink®,students can investigate many practical problems in different areas. Therefore, it is feasible toconsider system theory as a course of general education that is offered to all the students.As the students in this course come from different majors, the topics we discuss are also fromdifferent fields, such as physical system, engineering system, chemical system, biological system,ecological system, economic system and social system. One of the salient problems of moderneducation is the trend of over-specialization; as a result, the students often develop tunnel visionin a specific direction, and with blind sight to closely related areas. By learning this course,students can realize that there is a common thread cross-cutting all these different fields.Therefore, they will be able to analyze problems with a wide perspective in the future.

Zhang, Y., & Probst, D. K. (2011, June), System Thinking for Everybody Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18933

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015