Framing professional competencies for systems thinking in practice: final report of an action research eSTEeM inquiry

Reynolds, Martin; Shah, Rupesh and van Ameijde, Jitse (2018). Framing professional competencies for systems thinking in practice: final report of an action research eSTEeM inquiry. The Open University, Milton Keynes.



The Open University eSTEeM project (The OU Centre for STEM Pedagogy) was a 12-month inquiry beginning March 2017 building on an initial eSTEeM project (2014-2016) entitled ‘Enhancing Systems Thinking in Practice in the Workplace’ reported on in Reynolds et al (2016). The initial report highlighted the challenges of enacting systems thinking in practice (STiP) in the workplace after qualifying with STiP core modules at The OU. Expressions of interest were manifest amongst systems thinking practitioners and employers for having some kind of formalised externally validated ‘competency framework’ for professional recognition of systems thinking in practice.

The primary aim of the inquiry was to provide STiP alumni with externally recognised institutionalised professional backing for their newly acquired skill-sets associated with systems thinking. The project aimed to design a learning system – through the idea of an action learning lab – for developing a competency framework associated with systems thinking in practice.

The project was carried out by a core team of three academics – Reynolds, Shah, and van Ameijde, associated with the Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP) Group in the School of Engineering and Innovation, along with advice and support from other ASTiP colleagues – most notably Ray Ison and Chris Blackmore.

The inquiry comprised some desktop research on competency framings, a series of online interviews, the drafting of an interim report, a video recording of employee/ employer interaction regarding application of STiP competencies in the workplace, a workshop held in London Regional Office in June 2017, and follow-up reporting and conversations arising from the workshop. One significant outcome from this activity led to ideas and consultations with Employer representatives, professional bodies and the Institute for Apprenticeships to initiate a Trailblazing Committee for a new Systems Thinking Practitioner apprenticeship Standard.

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