Ademola Amida

Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching & Learning

First Advisor

Woei Hung


System modeling (SM) instructional strategy, an application of system thinking (ST), canbe used as an instructional approach to help students develop SM skills and deepen their understanding of subject matter (Hung, 2009). Mechanical engineering students have difficulty applying gained knowledge in real-world contexts and are reportedly underprepared for workplace challenges (Kirkpatrick et al., 2011; Warsame, 2017). This study explored the efficacy of system modeling (SM) instructional strategy in a mechanical engineering course. Specifically, the study sought to understand students’ perceptions and experiences with the use of system modeling in enhancing their conceptual knowledge and problem-solving skills. This study employed a qualitative inquiry approach to understand engineering students’ experience and perceptions of the use of system modeling. A purposeful sampling technique was utilized to recruit mechanical engineering students to participate in the study. Semi-structured interviews and students’ artifacts including problem solving survey and causal modeling diagrams, were used to explore and gain an in-depth understanding of students’ experiences with the use of system modeling (SM) instructional approach. The findings indicated promising effects of the SM approach on students’ learning outcomes. Seven major themes emerged from the in-depth interviews conducted to gain insights into students’ experiences. These themes included: problem diagnosis, interconnection and interdependency, linearity, external representation of causal relationship, wholeness and decision making, organize problem-solving approach, and systematic and forward-thinking process. Students’ artifacts and data presented in this study supported their positive experiences using the SM approach. The problem solving inventory PSI survey responses indicated that most of the participants believed the SM approach affected their perceived problem-solving skills, especially their approach-avoidance style. Furthermore, the model diagram analysis suggested that all participants showed moderate system thinking skills after the SM instructional strategy. This current study provides insight and understanding about SM instructional strategy effectiveness and how it can help enhance student learning outcomes. Exploring the impact of SM on student learning experiences is important not only because it could provide alternative instruction to the traditional methods, but also to inform instructors of its potential benefit of undergraduate education instruction. Furthermore, the current study could serve as a guide for instructors on how to implement the SM instructional strategy in a mechanical engineering curriculum.