Engineering education as a complex system

David K. Gattie, Nadia N. Kellam, John R. Schramski, Joachim Walther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


This paper presents a theoretical basis for cultivating engineering education as a complex system that will prepare students to think critically and make decisions with regard to poorly understood, ill-structured issues. Integral to this theoretical basis is a solution space construct developed and presented as a benchmark for evaluating problem-solving orientations that emerge within students' thinking as they progress through an engineering curriculum. It is proposed that the traditional engineering education model, while analytically rigorous, is characterised by properties that, although necessary, are insufficient for preparing students to address complex issues of the twenty-first century. A Synthesis and Design Studio model for engineering education is proposed, which maintains the necessary rigor of analysis within a uniquely complex yet sufficiently structured learning environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-535
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • complex
  • dichotomies
  • education
  • engineering
  • problem-solving
  • system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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