Systems Thinking for Understanding Sustainability? Nordic Student Teachers’ Views on the Relationship between Species Identification, Biodiversity and Sustainable Development

Irmeli Palmberg, Maria Hofman-Bergholm, Eila Jeronen, Eija Yli-Panula

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainabilityis a complex concept including ecological, economic and social dimensions, which inturn involve several aspects that are interrelated in a complex way, such ascultural, health andpolitical aspects. Systems thinking, which focuses on a system’s interrelatedparts, could thereforehelp people understand the complexity of sustainability. The aim of this studyis to analyse studentteachers’ level of systems thinking regarding sustainability, especially theecological dimension,and how they explain the relationship between species identification,biodiversity and sustainability.Nordic student teachers (N =424) participated in a questionnaire and their open answerswere content-analysed and categorised. The results indicate the studentteachers’ low level ofsystems thinking regarding ecological sustainability. About a quarter of them(25.4%) had a basic levelincluding interconnections (13.7%), additional feedback (8.9%) and alsobehavioural aspects (2.8%),but none of them reached an intermediate or advanced level. The low level ofsystems thinkingcould be explained by two main factors: (1) Systems thinking has not been usedas an educationalmethod of developing understanding of sustainability in teacher education programmes;and (2) systems thinking is also a result of life experiences; the older onesshowing moresystems thinking than the younger ones. Therefore, elementary forms of systemsthinking should bean educational method already in primary education.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)
JournalEducation Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • biodiversity
  • teacher education
  • sustainability
  • species identification

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