Abstract for: Rethinking intuition of accumulation principles

We present a concrete learning activity that helps people with no systems thinking training develop improved mental models of the principle of accumulation. This paper takes up Stermanís 2008 challenge to create new methods to develop intuitive systems thinking capabilities so that "people can discover, for themselves, the dynamics of accumulation and impact of policies." Our case study is the Earthís carbon cycle. Participants work as a group to manipulate a physical system, guided by a series of workbook prompts. The goal of the activity was to distinguish stocks and flows, and understanding was assessed through graphical, written and causal logic tasks. The most successful experimental treatment presented groups with future scenarios and also required groups to come to a consensus graphical response before completing the individual assessment. 75.9% of participants in this treatment demonstrated a sound understanding of accumulation principles. Further, 93.1% of participants drew a trajectory of future anthropogenic carbon emissions that would see a reversal of its current trajectory, and greatly exceed the current targets described in international agreements. We propose that this approach is useful for constructing intuition of accumulation principles, and has implications for educators wanting to improve their studentsí thinking about fundamental systems principles.