Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


Credits: 5

Schedule: 20.01.2021 - 02.05.2021

Teacher in charge (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022): Ahti Salo

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Antti Punkka, Ahti Salo, Sanna-Liisa Sihto-Nissilä

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

Responsible teacher: PhD Sanna-Liisa Sihto-Nissilä (SCI/PHYS) 

CEFR level (applies in this implementation):

Language of instruction and studies (valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022):

Teaching language: English

Languages of study attainment: English


  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Annually varying topics on decision making.

  • Applies in this implementation:

    Climate Change calls for urgent attention to the links between humans and our natural environment. Understanding these connections and their implications is crucial for responding to Climate Change as a global challenge. When we understand Climate Change as a systemic phenomenon, i.e. as the product of a certain system of connections between things, we unlock a powerful set of tools for making sense of it: systems thinking. 
    Course contents and learning objectives 
    This course consists of three main themes: 
    Theme 1: “Introduction to Systems Thinking” looks at what systems are and different ways in which they can be described. 
    Theme 2: “Earth Systems” delves into Earth System Science and the ways in which Climate Change is affecting the Earth seen as a system of interconnected spheres. 
    Theme 3: “Eco-Social Systems” focuses on humans as agents of change in systems that link individuals and groups of people with the environments they inhabit and depend upon.
    After the course 
    1.     Students will be able to justify why systems thinking is necessary to comprehend the implications of climate change and other global challenges, and relate them to changes in the Earth system and human eco-social systems. 
    2.     Students will be able to apply, criticize and defend models to ask and test questions about the structures and dynamics of systems. 
    3.     Students will be able to apply systems thinking in interdisciplinary collaboration and reflect on their personal role as a developing systems thinking expert. 
    4.     Students will be able to reflect on the opportunities for intentional systems change and their own agency. 
    For whom: the course is a master-level course and open to all students from Aalto University (all Schools). The course is intended for master level students, but motivated candidate students can also attend. The course is eligible for doctoral studies (if agreed with the professor). 
    PrerequisitesClimate University course or or corresponding basic knowledge on climate change and/or sustainability.
    Teaching: 12 contact sessions of 2 hours in Zoom, one whole-day (7 h) seminar 
    Methods of study: reading, contact sessions, online exercises, home assignments, multidisciplinary online group work, peer evaluation, learning portfolio 
    Course language: English

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • Applies in this implementation:

    Passing requirements: active participation in the contact sessions and group work, successful completion of online exercises, home assignments, peer evaluation and learning portfolio

  • Applies in this implementation:

    5 ECTS credits (~130 hours) 


Study Material
Substitutes for Courses
  • Valid 01.08.2020-31.07.2022:

    Mat-2.4136 Special Topics in Decision Making

SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    2 Zero Hunger

    3 Good Health and Well-being

    6 Clean Water and Sanitation

    7 Affordable and Clean Energy

    8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

    9 Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

    11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

    13 Climate Action

    14 Life Below Water

    15 Life on Land

    16 Peace and Justice Strong Institutions


Details on the schedule
  • Applies in this implementation:

    Contact sessions: Wednesdays at 14-16 (first session on 20.1.) 
    All day negotiations simulation Fri 9.4. or Fri 16.4. 9-16 with lunch and coffee pauses in between (student must attend one negotiation session) 
    The course ends 2.5.2021