Students (ages 14 to 18) enhance their critical thinking skills through the creation and analysis of models and simulations using the system dynamics modeling method. When students have a chance to study problems they care deeply about, using a visual representation of the problem components and interconnections, the analyses are very thorough and thoughtful. (See Student Projects.)
Models are created to study real-world dynamic problems containing feedback in science, math, health, economics, and social science. Some disciplines have introduced the concept of feedback within the context of problems discussed in their classes. Creating models whose focus is on the feedback within complex systems empowers students. They gain a deep understanding of the interconnections and how each connection changes the behavior of the system as they build and analyze models in stages.
Potential policies are tested to try to determine levers to promote sustainability in situations that have previously led to functional deterioration. Again students feel as if they have the power to formulate potential solutions to some very serious systemic problems because they can test their policies to see if they have an actual chance to work.
“In other classes, I am often asked to posit logical solutions to problems or am given the solutions reached by other people. Using models of complex systems I can test out my own theories and confirm those of others instead of faithfully accepting them as fact. Where other classes ask me to memorize, this one dares me to explore.”
—Tommy H., grade 11