Promoting Systems Thinking and Problem Solving Skills through Active Learning

Promoting Systems Thinking and Problem Solving Skills through Active Learning

C. Koh (2010).  Promoting Systems Thinking and Problem Solving Skills through Active Learning. 20.

This paper is based on the experience of using contextualised practical activities to promote active learning, systems thinking and problem solving amongst the second year students of the Diploma in Chemical Engineering course at the School of Chemical and Life Sciences in Singapore Polytechnic. It provides a basic framework of systems thinking as a discipline, and some tools used in systems thinking training. It also discusses why students, not trained in systems thinking, usually cannot see the inter-relationships between constituents within a system. It highlights the use of a contextualised practical that involves the dismantling of an industrial scale centrifugal pump to promote systems thinking. The methods and approaches used in promoting systems thinking and systematic problem solving are outlined.

The paper also presents the results of the systems thinking exercise performed by the students, which demonstrated students ability to inter-relate between the various parts of the pump. The results of the application of problem solving techniques on the given case scenario by the students are also shown using the problem solving template provided. The students’ experiences of this new learning format was explored through a survey conducted to determine if the students were aware of the skills practised and whether these skills have benefited them in working through the scenario.

Students were asked to provide a response to a set of questions using a 5-point Likert Scale and the results of the survey are discussed. In closing, the paper identifies the key challenges faced and the level of staff commitment and administrative supported needed in conducting such training.


Authors (New): 
Chuan-Aik Koh
Singapore Polytechnic, Singapore
systems thinking
Problem solving
Active learning
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