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Introduction to Systems Theory

Introduction to Systems Theory

An introduction to defining, framing, and understanding systems—for the purpose of changing them. 

[It] introduced me to a variety of new perspectives on systems thinking, assignments served to reinforce these contrasting points of view and help me apply them in my own work.

Objective & Outcomes

Systems thinking describes a way of seeing the world in which systems are constructs with defined goals, clear boundaries, rules, and interacting parts. Systems range from simple to complicated, complex, and adaptive. This course introduces students to different types of social, ecological, and technological systems in which humans are embedded. The course will teach students how to use various systems thinking tools to identify commonly observed problems and patterns; explore systems goals, rules, power dynamics, functions and dysfunctions; identify leverage points; and design for achieving systems change. They will develop a greater understanding of how systems shape their own lives and personal experiences.

Upon completing this course, students will demonstrate how to identify systems characteristics to define and propose change.

Typical Schedule

  • Session 1: Course Overview: Types of systems & worldviews
  • Session 2: Family Systems & Trauma Informed Design
  • Session 3: Systems Thinking Tools & Archetypes
  • Session 4: Goals, Power Dynamics & Root Causes
  • Session 5: Leverage Points & Design Interventions
  • Session 6: Social, Ecological & Technological Systems
  • Session 7: Course Wrap-Up: Working in systems design