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Abstracting and Engaging: Two Modes of Systems Thinking Education

José-Rodrigo Córdoba-Pachón School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London

This paper presents two modes of systems thinking education to help make sense of previous and future experiences. in this field as well as in soft operational research in general. Using Abbott’s ideas on professional knowledge I present these modes as based on either (1) abstracting or (2) engaging. The former emphasises the value of systems thinking in helping people understand abstractions to deal with complex situations. The latter focuses on using abstractions to facilitate students’ engagement with complex situations in areas outside operational research including sustainability and project management. I present each mode based on my experience in a higher education setting in the UK, and I highlight key elements and possibilities for these modes that could inform future developments in systems thinking and operational research education.

Key words: systems thinking; soft operational research; education; professional knowledge; abstracting; engaging

History: Received: June 2010; accepted: February 2011