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Journal of Chemical Education

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Recently, there have been calls to integrate systems thinking approaches into chemistry education in order to strengthen students’ conceptual understanding, build their problem-solving capabilities, and prepare them to make informed, ethical decisions about globally relevant issues, such as sustainability. Unfortunately, implementation of systems thinking approaches in chemistry classrooms currently poses challenges. Exemplar systems thinking materials with a STEM focus are limited, particularly at the tertiary level. Moreover, the science education community has yet to agree upon a systems thinking definition or develop a comprehensive list of systems thinking skills that students should develop. Thus, a current priority for the advancement of systems thinking in chemistry education is the development of resources for instructors and students alike. In the current project, we constructed a tool that provides an operational definition for systems thinking in chemistry education and serves as guide for the design, analysis, and optimization of systems thinking activities. The Characteristics Essential for designing or Modifying Instruction for a Systems Thinking approach (ChEMIST) table identifies five essential characteristics of a systems thinking approach, along with corresponding systems thinking skills through which students can demonstrate their engagement in each essential characteristic. Here, we describe the inspiration and development of the tool. We also provide examples of how the tool might be used to support chemistry teaching and learning from a systems thinking approach. Finally, we present some initial ideas about the relationship between systems thinking and other approaches to chemistry education reform.


First-Year Undergraduate/General; Second-Year Undergraduate; Upper-Division Undergraduate; History/Philosophy; Problem-Solving/Decision Making; Learning Theories; Student-Centered Learning


Chemistry | Physical Sciences and Mathematics

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