Postgraduate Module Descriptor

POLM883DA: Systems Thinking in Theory and Practice

This module descriptor refers to the 2021/2 academic year.


NQF Level7
Credits30 ECTS Value15
Term(s) and duration

This module will run during term 3 (13 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Maya Vachkova (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


Public service professionals operate within and must navigate complex socio-political-ecological systems. And understanding how systems are constructed, how they operate and how and where to intervene in soft systems is a critical skill set for the complexity-orientated public professional. These are the knowledge and skills that apprentices acquire in module two. Through taught systems theory and practice, apprentices gain understandings about soft systems concepts, systemic approaches to complexity management and are introduced to three key  approaches (the boundary critique, critical systems heuristics (CSH) and the viable system model (VSM)) that will help them tackle complex and wicked problems. This continues apprentice learning trajectories through an introduction to core systems and cybernetic concepts and conceptualisations (emergence, feedback, variety etc). The module commences with systems philosophy and then offers learning and practice of boundary critique and critical systems heuristics. Second, students are introduced to cybernetics (first and second order) and the viable system model. Finally, students are exposed to modelling and evaluation opportunities that systemic approaches offer. Thus, the module supports apprentice learning about systems modelling and analysis as a gateway to interventions and evaluation.


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