Maintaining stock and flow: A constructive alignment approach to training system dynamicists
System dynamics in higher education influences the quality of future system dynamics professionals, practice, research and, hence, the field of system dynamics itself (Pruyt, 2009). Educators strive to propagate knowledge by assembling effective courses1 that challenge and educate future generations of system dynamicists. Educators have adopted the notion that every element in a course (learning objectives, teaching and learning activities, and assessments, to name a few) must be aligned to maximize learning, also known as the theory of constructive alignment (Biggs and Tang, 2011). This research note explores how university-level educators can develop systemdynamics courses that take full advantage of recent advances in teaching and learning theory. A conceptual example is provided, whereby constructive alignment is applied to the recent reported consensus of system dynamics best practices (Martinez-Moyano and Richardson, 2013) to develop learning objectives aligned with teaching and learning activities and assessments (e.g. Biggs and Tang, 2011; Angelo, 2013). In doing so, we extend empirical contributions from university-level system dynamics educators (e.g. Pruyt, 2009; Richardson, 2014a, 2014b, 2014c) to further clarify the necessary components and structure of effective system dynamics university courses. For students, as with all individuals, to think in terms of causality, dynamic environments and seeing a phenomenon as part of a system is cognitively demanding, as the level of complexity lies beyond normal bounded rationality (Simon, 1982; Sterman, 1989; Senge, 1990; Dörner, 1996; Sterman et al., 2007; Sloman, 2009). Pala and Vennix (2005) suggest students experience great difficulties in constructing dynamic models and applying a general understanding of systemconcepts. Yet evidence suggests that formal systemdynamics teaching has a significant impact on the ability of individuals to better understand and apply key system dynamics principles (Sterman, 2010).