Systems Thinking for Sustainable Living Environment, 2018

WHEN: 3.1.-14.2.2018
TEACHERS:  Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen & Aija Staffans
MORE INFO: Official transcription: WebOodi, Photographs: CS Flickr

Systems Thinking for Sustainable Living Environment (SPT-E1050) is a compulsory course for all CS students. It aims to form an understanding of what systems are, how they function and why they behave like they do. While the course has been around since the beginning of the Creative Sustainability program, this year was the second time when the students from Spatial Planning and Transportation Engineering joined to the course. This provided a good opportunity to learn with students from another studying programme.

Teaching / Learning

The learning in the course is conducted with various methods. One of the key ideas is learning from, and together with the peers in a multidisciplinary group. This year, the course included:

  • Lectures, visiting lecturers, readings, videos, case studies
  • Reading a book on applied systems thinking and teaching the content to the peers
  • Learning through discussions and individual & group tasks
  • Individually conducted real-life case study (with a double blind peer review)

“Throughout the course there was a good balance between critical and empathic discussions.” Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen

Learning outcomes

  • Key concepts of Systems Thinking; mental models, complex adaptive systems, feedbacks, resilience and emergence in systems
  • Understanding on various types of systems
  • Concepts of Planetary Boundaries and Anthropocene
  • Skills to apply systems thinking to practical problems and to the challenges of sustainable environment


Both the teachers and students agree that one of the success points this year was genuinely multidisciplinary and open atmosphere. The topics prompted active discussions with a good balance between critic and empathy, Katri-Liisa and Aija sums up. Also the variety of activities in the classes were useful for learning and made the four hours long lectures to feel shorter. The course covered a number of Systems theories, which was seen useful, but also challenging.

“The course provided me with tools to understand absolute sustainability, in contrast to only being more sustainable.” Joel Wolff, CS Design Student

Most of the Creative Sustainability students in the course were 1st year Master’s students. The students described the course helpful for understanding sustainability more in depth and especially how to get to sustainability. While most of the learning happened in a mindset level, also some concrete tools, such as systems mapping, was learnt.


Posted by Creative Sustainability
1 year ago

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