ICCS2004 Application Submission/Review

Abstract for
"Science General Education As A Way to Attract More Students to Studying Complex Systems"


Where in our current educational programs do students encounter direct study of systems? If they are not exposed to the joy and power of systems integrated science, how can they choose it as a career path? One of our obligations as an emerging new science is to design, test, and deliver new systems education programs. Are we fulfilling this obligation? Some NSF programs include systems tools and concepts for K-12 (e.g. Leroy Hood’s Systems Education programs or Jay Forrester’s Systems Dynamics Simulation-based Creative Learning Exchange). But there are few similar examples for the college curriculum. The SISGE (Systems Integrated Science General Education) program would offer a national collaborative alternative adaptable to virtually any community college or university curriculum. It fulfills the entire science general education requirement in a year of computer augmented study. The plan is to form an association of user-producers, called the S.I.S. (Systems Integrated Science) Alliance, who will cooperate to enrich existing ISGE systems-based computer modules and case studies. Development of this program was enabled by NSF, HHMI, and CSUS support. This poster will introduce the 40 obstacles that inhibit effective science general education and design of interdisciplinary, systems-based courses and the 25 special methods and frameworks embedded in the SISGE courseware for overcoming those obstacles. It will explain the basic idea behind the courseware and the several methods used to integrate study of the key phenomena, facts, and tools of seven sciences, not as separate disciplines but as natural systems with many significant similarities. Student performance and assessment data from seven test pilot runs of the courseware at three universities will be cited. The strategy of “stealth” systems science in GE service is to expose the student who has not yet considered science to take science and perhaps even to study complex systems. Edward Witten, who has revolutionized string theory, began college as a history major and expected to be a journalist. But after changing majors to science, he became one of our current leading physicists responsible for a dozen breakthroughs in theoretical research. If we could expose large numbers of college GE students to systems science, probability would favor a concomitant increase in students entering the “pipeline” that supplys educators and researchers for complex systems. For maximum impact, SISGE will first encourage adoptions across the California State University System of 23 universities and an enrollment of 375,000 students. 90% of these students are non-science, non-engineering majors eligible for taking SISGE. We would follow with a coordinated set of adoptions at our 109 California Community Colleges with an enrollment of 2.9 million students. Having the same course available to satisfy the year of required science general education in both systems would greatly ease the continuing problem of articulation between both systems and loss of student time to degree. Follow-on NSF proposals for national dissemination could allow exposure of additional large number audiences at systems like SUNY, CUNY, or Texas, and interested liberal arts colleges. The more students exposed to systems, the greater likelihood of increased numbers of students continuing in the study of complex systems.