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9 FEBRUARY 2003 / NOTE: THIS COURSE DESIGN IS UNDERGOING REVISION; this description, on which the revised course will be based, is provided for your information while adjustments are made to readings and assignments.
Check back on 1 March 2003.

Mondays, 7:00 - 9:50 pm
Dr. Wendy L. Schultz

Course Description | Assignments: Essay | System Examples | Model

In the twentieth century, people began to see that their home planet was not merely a collection of villages, bioregions, nations or spheres of economic influence, but was in fact a single, finite system [unless one is speaking metaphysically]. A system within which decision makers were faced with increasingly complex problems many of which seemed interrelated in ways difficult for people to unravel and address. In philosophy and the sciences, a paradigm shift occurred which balanced reductionist positivism with a wholistic approach stressing the analysis of systems structures.

This course will acquaint participants with systems science and its contributions and usefulness to the field of futures studies. Starting with a history of systems science and its branch fields, the course will identify and define the assumptions and basic concepts underlying systems science, reviewing examples of systems analysis in various subject areas [approximately the first quarter of the course]. Next participants will practice applied systems modelling using examples of their own choosing [second quarter]. Linked to systems theory are the assumptions and basic concepts of equilibrium theory, complexity theory, and chaos theory, which have emerged in the latter half of this century as formative paradigms in both natural and social sciences. The course will introduce students to the basic assumptions, concepts, and emerging applications for these theories [third quarter]. Finally, participants will review the critiques of systems science and related theories.


  • sign up on the WebCT course site as a student, and enter at least one comment or question or example per week on the discussion board (10% of the total grade).
  • review the bibliographies on the course site, choosing one book as a focus, and write a 2000-word essay on the meaning and value of the systems perspective (15% of final grade).
  • collect a set of example system descriptions illustrating each of the five different types of systems covered in class [assignment handout will define and describe the five types] -- two examples per system type are required (50% of final grade);
  • choose a system you are interested in analyzing, and model and explain its structure, using the techniques learned in class (25% of the final grade).

Formats for each assignment/class activity: specific, detailed descriptions of the format and content required for each assignment are posted on the site under "Assignments."

Grading: see grading policy specified in Course Information. Any written work may be revised and resubmitted for a grade revision, on the student's initiative, prior to the end of term.


  • Understanding the development of systems theory and its core assumptions and concepts;
  • Identifying different types of systems and their behaviors;
  • Modelling system structures, simulating system behaviors, and explaining those behaviors in terms of system structures;
  • Understanding the basic concepts in equilibrium, chaos, and complexity theories;
  • Communicating the preceding clearly to others via discussion, presentation, and writing;
  • Using the Internet and WorldWide Web for research.

Required Texts (as available from http://www.amazon.com/):

THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization
Peter M. Senge
Paperback - 423 pages (October 1994)
Currency/Doubleday; ISBN: 0385260954

SYSTEMS ONE: An Introduction to Systems Thinking
Draper L. Kauffman
Paperback (June 1980)
Future Systems, Inc.; ISBN: 9996280519

SYSTEMS THINKING BASICS: From Concepts to Causal Loops
Virginia Anderson and Lauren Johnson
Paperback (March 1997)
Pegasus Communications; ISBN:1883823129


AND selected short articles handed out in class.

Recommended Texts
THE FIFTH DISCIPLINE FIELDBOOK: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning

Peter M. Senge, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross, Bryan Smith
Paperback - 593 pages (July 1994)
Currency/Doubleday; ISBN: 0385472560

Fritjof Capra
Paperback - 368 pages (October 1997)
Doubleday; ISBN: 0385476760

CHAOS: Making a New Science
James Gleick
Paperback - 352 pages Reprint edition (December 1988)
Penguin USA (Paper); ISBN: 0140092501


PRINCIPIA CYBERNETICA WEB: Cybernetics and Systems Theory

High Performance Systems, Inc. TEL: 603-643-9636 // FAX: 603-643-9502
http://www.hps-inc.com and available in the Futures Lab


> Resources > Course Syllabi > Intro | Classics | Systems | Methods | Facilitation | Governance | Images | World | Leadership

15 February 2003. Email IF.
Copyright © 2003, Wendy L. Schultz
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