Deze reflecties, onderdelen van een langere theory reflection, zijn van een iets vrijere aard en uit een ander jaar dan die van 2021. (Alle jaren hebben een vergelijkbaar karakter)
De reflecties van studenten die het vak Systems View on Life (SVL) zijn geanalyseerd en gecategoriseerd door een persoon die niet betrokken is bij de RUG en zelf het vak niet heeft gevolgd.
Uit de reflecties is op te maken dat deze cohort van 12 studenten overwegend positief zijn over het vak Systems View on Life (SVL), gedoceerd door Tjeerd Andringa. De feedback is gecategoriseerd naar grofweg 3 punten, die elk zal worden toegelicht.=
Niet alleen worden studenten uitgedaagd hun eigen ideeën te formuleren, ook worden zijn geconfronteerd met de ideeën van anderen, waarbij ze leren met een ‘open mind’ te luisteren. De geestverruimende en provocerende ideeën werden als verfrissend ervaren. Er werd vaak aangehaald dat de verschillende perspectieven een meer holistische blik kon werpen op bepaalde problemen of stellingen (Zie 1, 2, 3, 9, 12).
Deze categorie werd verreweg het meest aangehaald. In vrijwel elke reflectie worden de toegevoegde waarden van het vak genoemd, namelijk de vaardigheden die studenten opdoen die hen helpt om ideeën te vormen, onafhankelijk, kritisch en vrijer te denken. De verschillende perspectieven die worden geboden helpen studenten hun eigen ideeën te onderzoeken, te verbreden of te verwerpen (zie 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11). Vooral op individueel niveau draagt dit bij aan de ontwikkeling en zelfontplooiing van de studenten. Dit wordt ook vaak benoemd als een waardevolle bijdrage van het vak.
De reflecties geven mooie indicaties van het proces van het onder controle brengen van je eigen geest. Dit is precies het process dat dient te gebeuren tijdens adolescentie. In iedereen is het een uniek proces.
Waar studenten het duidelijk over eens zijn is dat het vak zeer goed aansluit bij wat studenten verwachten van de opleiding én de slogan van UCG: “Think bright and differently”.
In addition to that, I started to feel sorry for some of my friends back home, as I know that in their university they will usually not gain a mind changing class or experiences useful for their entire future life, but learn what they need for their job. Since I moved away, I already started to lose contact with some of my old friends, and I began to realise that this is also due to our different education. We cannot talk about the same things anymore, as I am not having the same interests and thoughts as I used to have before I left. This is one reason why I am convinced that this course is very useful, if not even necessary for every UCG student, as it helps students with managing and appreciating their education more. I think one course in the first year is very useful to introduce the holistic view on life, which is in my opinion closely connected to the general aim of University Colleges to provide students with a comprehensive education. However, I am not sure if more courses are useful or necessary. I enjoyed this course, but I probably would not attend another one about the same topic in the future.
In my opinion, UCG definitely needs more courses like Systems View on Life; I believe it is the embodiment of interdisciplinary learning. If it was an option I would probably attempt to do systems theory as my major, even if it would lead to a lot of frustration at some times. However**, I do acknowledge and maintain that not everyone is well suited to this sort of course or learning; some struggle with the independent work requires and the vague nature of the course which leads some people to feel irritation and experience unproductivity**. In conclusion, I believe that a Systems View on Life has taught me many relevant and applicable skills (and I also believe that systems theory should be offered as a major!). I think that the theory alongside the homework has taught me the skills to slowly improve my own project over the duration of the 8 weeks. I believe that the theory was crucial for the improvement of my project; slowly, but confidently, I gained the techniques required to make my ideas as unbreakable and supported as possible.
I do believe that the Systems View on Life course embodies some of the core values of UCG. First one would definitely be multidisciplinary learning. Although a lot of the content was quite science oriented, you could definitely see the links to other fields, and apply the theory to almost anything. Open-mindedness would also be another aspect. Like the Systems Track in the first block, this course made me question my previous knowledge and biases about the weekly topics. Sometimes they would change, other times they would become stronger. But in order to take in the information and entertain it, you definitely need to be open-minded enough. Critical thinking is also very much emphasized in the course, as well as UCG. All in all, this course is a very nice balance next to the other, more traditionally taught courses at UCG.
I also really like the fact that you trusted us to create something, to come with an idea. I am absolutely certain that we need more courses like that at the UCG, more courses that ‘force’ us to think beyond our borders and give us the possibility (force?) to develop something on our own. This is probably the most helpful part for me: letting us try. Peterson wants us to first be able to deal with our complexity, and this course is for me a first step.
At the same time we think we’re being successful because life is so much more convenient the way we structured it, but also boring enough to make people go crazy, suffer burn-outs or depression because deep inside they seem to know that they are trapped in a world which poses too much structure on them to be free. If we’d use our increased knowledge, improve education everywhere and also teach people how to use that knowledge in order to actually co-create the environment into a space where life can flourish, the world would be a better place. That’s why I go to this university and that is what I want to learn: how we can use this weirdly big brain to actually make things better and not to destroy ourselves. And yes, I do think you’re doing a great job there and that ucg should have more courses like yours. I think the first block should have this course or something similar as a mandatory class for everyone. It only makes sense to teach people, that come right out of a suppressing structure like high school, how to free their thoughts, become agents, question authority and information, understanding the interconnectedness (hello, liberal arts and science???), and become more competent in independent thinking.
Systems theory prioritizes generalism over specialisation, which is why this course is valuable to a faculty like UCG, as it already encourages a cross-domain education. Students must have the essential tools to connect their insights from different fields. UCG identifies strongly with promoting sustainable thinking and the Systems course offers a very fundamental and in-depth definition of sustainability. Much of today’s education system is based on reproducing knowledge which is aimed at monitoring student’s discipline. UCG differs in that sense as it has more resources and has implemented more applied teaching methods. The systems course puts an emphasis on values, autonomous thinking and creativity which are the fundamentals to developing wisdom. One of UCGs slogans is to “think bright and differently”. The high quality thinkers I have been exposed to during the course have been a lot of inspiration on how to think in such a way. In conclusion, the systems course was a journey that took me through all facets and eras of life in only a few weeks. I learned a lot about myself and for my future intellectual development I feel empowered to take my own pathways and use my creativity as a tool to create my own knowledge out of the connections I make. If I were to define Systems thinking, I would call it “observing things you cannot see with the naked eye.” If more people would start to think in Systems, then Elon Musk might not have to plan the colonization of Mars and we would not need technological escape phantasies such as dimming the rays of the sun to tackle climate change. Instead of creating virtual realities of things that do not even exist, we should start looking more closely at the reality that we are facing.
I believe that the course SVL is embodying the UCG mentality very well. It grants the students a huge freedom to explore topics in a way that suits them most without leaving them completely without guidance. Further, it complements very well with UCGs aim to educate young individuals in a way, which makes them able to shape the future. To do this an individual requires confidence in situations of uncertainty, thinking and reflecting on information critically and openly, an eye for how seemingly unrelated topics might affect each other and the ability to make autonomous decisions. I think all this is taught or promoted in this course. This is why I consider it a very valuable course, especially for students who are not 100% certain in what direction they want to continue their studies. As the number of students following the course was comparably high to other UCG courses and the course strongly builds on a strong exchange between students and teacher, I think UCG could use another course like this in order to ensure the quality of teacher-student feedback, which is so important to this course.
In Systems View on Life we haven’t necessarily learned much dry content in the way we do in normal courses like Calculus or Living Cell. We don’t learn how to differentiate. We don’t learn the intricacies of animal cells. We do, however learn skills like I talked about before. Skills that are useful in life in general and that are not taught in normal courses. The people studying here are intelligent. The fact that you are studying here is generally enough proof of that. This also means that we don’t have much trouble understanding and remembering things. What UCG can offer is more than that. True UCG courses teach you more than what is generally taught in a classroom. True UCG courses are taught in a similar way as this one. Not by following a textbook word by word, but by exploring the world and learning from that. Thereby learning skills that are useful even outside the classroom.
It is possible that this course also encouraged me to express my opinions and to challenge those of others, not necessarily to try and prove them wrong but more to experience more sides of the story. I do agree that such courses emphasize the teaching philosophy at UCG. The classes were very interactive and became an open zone to express your opinions and thoughts. And while all opinions were challenged, none were disregarded entirely. The course encourages you to see the world through a very different set of lenses, especially for someone who can have the tendency to become one track minded.
On Ocasys, there are several main goals that this course was supposed to answer. Questions like “what makes life possible?” and “What makes living matter different from non-living matter?”. It is absolutely true that this course addresses the questions, but in a totally different way than I expected beforehand. What I expected was that we would address each of these questions separately in different lectures. In reality, we actually addressed each of the questions throughout the whole course, only from different perspectives. A downside of this course was that we were with quite a large group. This made it sometimes hard for me to speak up. I am not really fond of speaking in groups and this did not help me to give a lot of individual comments in class. I believe that this course is a course where it is very important to see different perspectives on topics, but in classes with a lot of people this might be hard. Maybe in the future, this class could be offered twice. This could also help with giving more feedback. What I would really like for the future is if there were more courses like these. It might be very useful to have a more general course about how to use knowledge in a different way – similar to this course. It might help UCG students to connect subjects from different fields. This may help to enhance the interdisciplinary structure of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Especially the combination of content-oriented courses with courses like this one would be great. In conclusion, this course has offered me a lot. It has helped me to think in a totally different way than I used to and it helped me to develop my knowledge and skills. I would recommend this course to others if it is given again next year.
I definitely believe that courses like the Systems View on Life embody the teaching philosophy of the UCG for multiple reasons. I experience the UCG to be a study which offers a variety of courses, in order for student to choose their own program what gives them the possibility to study something unique by combining different fields of sciences. Every student develops an own package of knowledge and interests. However, what makes the UCG special is that it gives students the ability to bring their knowledge together by working on projects that need different perspectives and information. In this way such a project has the potential to be fully developed in all kinds of different aspects. The importance of this is that this is what eventually is needed in the real world when looking at problem solving which requires different perspectives, as one will merely solve a small part of it, and could possibly cause even more problems as other perspective were left out of picture. The projects we have during the whole academic year enables students to practise this. However, the Systems View on Life goes one step further, in my perspective, in the aspect of bringing knowledge together and look at a problem as a whole, as students are working on an idea individual instead of having the possibility to rely on the knowledge of others. In the Systems View on Life students are required to develop an idea by themselves, which requires creativity and the skill to bring different fields of knowledge together. As problem solving needs both, these capabilities are of a highly importance and the ability to do this as an individual is even more of a quality of importance. Such an educated mind will be able to make differences. It also makes the individual an independent thinker as he/she is capable of creating something on their own. For problem solving not only knowledge is required but also the ability and creativity to invent new ideas to complex problems.
I think these kind of courses are really essential in UCG as it is all about multidisciplinary learning here. Courses like this allow you to understand how useful this kind of study is and how lucky we are to be able to benefit from it. It is also really useful for students like me who are not as sure about what field they might want to take or just students who are a little bit lost in general but are still really passionate and want to learn. Overall I found this course to be extremely thought-provoking and a very refreshing outlook on education and the world in general. I always like to learn new things and gain new perspectives, if I were to do it again I would approach the idea with more precision and not try so hard to predetermine anything.