Thinking differently about sustainability: experiences from the UK Open University

Christine P Blackmore, Raymond Leslie Ison, Martin Reynolds

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Systems thinking is often invoked as a panacea for dealing with issues of sustainable development. Imperatives towards being more holistic - getting the bigger picture - are often coupled with a need for greater interdisciplinarity - joined-up-thinking - particularly amongst triple bottom line disciplines of economics, social studies and natural sciences. So why are systems thinking courses not more prevalent? And how might the teaching of systems thinking enhance the value of thinking differently about sustainable development? The Open University, UK, is a recognised international leader in the provision of Systems education for over 40 years. More recent experiences with the launch of a postgraduate Systems Thinking in Practice suite of qualifications at Certificate, Diploma, and Masters level, suggest an appetite for systems thinking amongst mature-age part-time students from a variety of professional backgrounds with an interest in learning for sustainability. This paper outlines three key features of the two core modules of the programme - epistemic understanding, active pedagogy, and design praxis. Significantly, these attributes have helped to complement rather than replace existing skill-sets amongst professionals from different sectors working in the field of sustainable development.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntegrating Sustainability Thinking in Science and Engineering Curricula: Innovative Approaches, Methods and Tools
EditorsWalter Leal Filho, Ulisses M Azeiteiro, Sandra Caeiro, Fatima Alves
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
Pages613 - 630
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9783319094731
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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