A multi-university cohort model for teaching complex and interdisciplinary problem-solving using system dynamics

Benjamin L. Turner, Melissa Wuellner, Erin Cortus, Steven Boot Chumbley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The complexity of agricultural and natural resources (AGNR) systems continues to thwart long-term management efforts to address root causes of problems. Unfortunately, capacity building in systems thinking and system dynamics (SD) modeling by AGNR educational programmes has not kept pace with other disciplines, stalled by accelerated specialization and disciplinary fragmentation. Here, we describe a 1-year, interdisciplinary cohort programme aimed at SD capacity building for AGNR education. Student cohorts investigated unresolved, real-world management problems following the SD approach. Problems included weed herbicide resistance in cultivated agriculture, land acquisition for biodiversity conservation and adoption of soil conservation practices by farmers. The fellowship process is outlined followed by descriptions of each cohort's model and insights they generated. Exit interviews illuminated valuable reflections regarding team cohesion, the role of SD in enhancing traditional graduate studies and structural adjustments to enhance future fellowship delivery. We conclude with recommendations to others interested in delivering similar programmes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-199
Number of pages15
JournalSystems Research and Behavioral Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 18 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by United States Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA NIFA) Higher Education Challenge Grant No. 2018‐70003‐27664 entitled ‘Curriculum Development for Wicked Problem Solving’.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • agriculture
  • curriculum development
  • interdisciplinary education
  • problem-solving
  • system dynamics


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