Systemic Approach to Curriculum Design and Development

  • Inés Ecima
  • Maurcio Pardo
  • Gloria González-Mariño
Conference paper
Part of the Food Engineering Series book series (FSES)


Traditional skills and knowledge are no longer the most important goals of an engineering curriculum at the university level. Due to the influence of technology and globalization, traditional engineering skills are now considered a commodity. Nowadays, the trend is to invite engineers to solve problems and make decisions based on a broader perspective instead of concentrating on a specific discipline. A branch of engineering education that has inadvertently acknowledged the need for innovation to meet the demands risen due to technological and scientific advances in the new century is food engineering. As a consequence, it has become important to reorient engineering education so that engineers are more prepared to understand the societal context of their work from both a local and global perspective. Furthermore, innovation and creativity should be coupled with the engineer’s ability to gather information, analyze it, make decisions, and take the right course of action. One way of doing this is by adopting the practice of systems thinking, a pattern of working that is not disciplinary in scope but can act as a bridge between the physical, natural and social sciences. Four universal conceptual patterns that have been observed in every system have been identified as tools that could be applied to systems thinking in any situation. This chapter introduces these tools and shows how to put into practice the systemic approach in a curriculum design, and presents an example carried out at a Colombian higher education institution called Universidad de La Sabana.


  1. Apelian D (2007) The engineering profession in the 21st century – educational needs and societal challenges facing the profession. AFS Hoyt Memorial Lecture. American Foundry Society. International Journal of Metalcasting Fall 07Google Scholar
  2. Bertalanffy L von (1968) General system theory: foundations, development, applications. Braziller, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  3. Cabrera D, Colosi L (2008) Distinctions, systems, relationships, and perspectives (DSRP): a theory of thinking and of things. Eval Program Plann 31:311–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cabrera D, Colosi L, Lobdell C (2008) Systems Thinking. J Eval Prog Plan 31:299–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Coulston AM, Feeney MJ, Hoolihan LE (2003) The challenge to customize. J Am Diet Assoc 103(4):443–444Google Scholar
  6. Friedman TL (2005) The world is flat: a brief history of the twenty-first century. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Higgins KT (2007) Meeting the challenges of customized manufacturing. BNP Media. Food Engineering online magazine:
  8. Ison RL (2008) Systems thinking and practice for action research. In: Reason P, Bradbury H (eds) The Sage handbook of action research participative inquiry and practice. Sage, London, pp 139–158. ISBN 1-4129-2029-9, 978-1-4129-2029-2CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kim DH, Senge P (1994) Putting Systems thinking into practice. Syst Dyn Rev 10(2–3):277–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. National Academy of Engineering (2004) Educating the engineer of 2020: Adapting engineering. Education to the New Century. Available for free online:
  11. O’Connor J, McDermott I (1998) The art of systems thinking. Thorson, LondonGoogle Scholar
  12. Senge P (1990) The fifth discipline. Doubleday Dell Publishing, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Inés Ecima
    • 1
  • Maurcio Pardo
    • 1
  • Gloria González-Mariño
    • 2
  1. 1.Ingeniería de Producción AgroindustrialLa Sabana UniversityBogotáColombia
  2. 2.Biosciences Doctoral ProgramLa Sabana UniversityBogotáColombia

Personalised recommendations