Research Topic

Systems Thinking in the K-12 Classroom: Perspective, Practice, and Possibilities

About this Research Topic

Systems thinking is a perspective that recognizes coherence of elements within a system and how a system functions to achieve a particular goal. It already forms the basis of academic disciplines such as environmental science, organizational behavior, and sustainability science. Its influence is increasingly seen in fields such as engineering, business, and design, among others. With this Research Topic call for participation, we are looking for papers that investigate a systems thinking approach in K-12 pedagogy.

Westernized K-12 learning historically has prioritized discrete subject learning with the goal of content mastery. As we shift towards a globalized economy, educators are acknowledging the need for an interdisciplinary project-based approach that highlights critical thinking, imagination, and problem solving. In an innovative systems thinking classroom, teachers and students identify patterns and relationships within and between disciplines, take up various perspectives on a phenomenon, identify ways to interrupt and disrupt broken systems, and emphasize the interdependency and interconnectedness of humans, societies, and the natural world.

In this Systems Thinking Research Topic, we seek to explore:
• What does a systems thinking K-12 classroom look like?
• What is the impact of systems thinking on the nature of K-12 schooling, from teacher, student, parental, and community points of view?
• Why does it matter that students are learning to think with a systems approach?
• How can this type of approach be assessed?
• What are the ramifications for teacher education and professional development? What issues of power are revealed?
• What can principals and other school leaders do to better support teachers who are incorporating systems thinking in their classrooms?
• What are the implications of systems thinking pedagogy for school leadership?

We are interested in theoretical and empirical papers using a range of research methodologies that will contribute to the discourse and pedagogy of systems thinking. We welcome papers for audiences interested in classroom, school, and district practices, approaches to assessment, theoretical advancement, and teacher education and leadership.


Keywords: systems thinking, critical thinking, K-12 schooling, K-12 curriculum, student engagement


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Systems thinking is a perspective that recognizes coherence of elements within a system and how a system functions to achieve a particular goal. It already forms the basis of academic disciplines such as environmental science, organizational behavior, and sustainability science. Its influence is increasingly seen in fields such as engineering, business, and design, among others. With this Research Topic call for participation, we are looking for papers that investigate a systems thinking approach in K-12 pedagogy.

Westernized K-12 learning historically has prioritized discrete subject learning with the goal of content mastery. As we shift towards a globalized economy, educators are acknowledging the need for an interdisciplinary project-based approach that highlights critical thinking, imagination, and problem solving. In an innovative systems thinking classroom, teachers and students identify patterns and relationships within and between disciplines, take up various perspectives on a phenomenon, identify ways to interrupt and disrupt broken systems, and emphasize the interdependency and interconnectedness of humans, societies, and the natural world.

In this Systems Thinking Research Topic, we seek to explore:
• What does a systems thinking K-12 classroom look like?
• What is the impact of systems thinking on the nature of K-12 schooling, from teacher, student, parental, and community points of view?
• Why does it matter that students are learning to think with a systems approach?
• How can this type of approach be assessed?
• What are the ramifications for teacher education and professional development? What issues of power are revealed?
• What can principals and other school leaders do to better support teachers who are incorporating systems thinking in their classrooms?
• What are the implications of systems thinking pedagogy for school leadership?

We are interested in theoretical and empirical papers using a range of research methodologies that will contribute to the discourse and pedagogy of systems thinking. We welcome papers for audiences interested in classroom, school, and district practices, approaches to assessment, theoretical advancement, and teacher education and leadership.


Keywords: systems thinking, critical thinking, K-12 schooling, K-12 curriculum, student engagement


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

22 February 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

22 February 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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