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Unit of study_

ENGG5811: Critical and Systems Thinking

Critical and Systems Thinking engages with the analytical thinking abilities required in deciding and communicating management strategy for complex large-scale projects. The unit develops skills in making basic critical judgments on complex problem situations involving uncertainty, incomplete information and dynamically interacting technical and non- technical systems and contexts. There is a particular focus on the ability to articulate a critical, reflected and well- reasoned response at a level that contributes usefully to project strategy discussions. In addition the unit also equips students with knowledge and communication competencies of immediate relevance to the academic structure. Students engage with theoretical frameworks and concepts in order to practice robust methods of questioning and argument. A central element of content is linking theory to practice with students' experience as the focal point. The unit is pitched at the level of Associate to Practitioner (Levels 2 to 3) on the Project Management Learning Progression Table, addressing the critical thinking and systems thinking dimensions of Project Communication and Project Development. At this level, you are not necessarily expected to produce fully researched and optimised solutions to the problems posed, but you do need to be able to clearly define the main problem at hand, organise and filter relevant evidence and issues, identify and evaluate logical connections, recognise critical assumptions and uncertainties, reach well-reasoned conclusions, develop and reflect on your own personal views and present critical arguments in a constructive manner to colleagues and supervisors. These abilities are essential for an understanding of the relevance of epistemological and ontological considerations in relation to the broader, more thoroughgoing analysis of complex system dynamics to be developed in other advanced Project Management units.


Academic unit Project Management
Unit code ENGG5811
Unit name Critical and Systems Thinking
Session, year
Semester 2, 2020
Attendance mode Normal day
Location Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney
Credit points 6

Enrolment rules

Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff and contact details

Coordinator Julien Pollack,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Presentation group assignment Poster presentation and defense
Teams present and review research posters
25% Multiple weeks n/a
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Participation Participation
Submission of responses in class & to focus and discussion board questions
15% Multiple weeks continuing
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO5 LO4 LO2
Assignment Reflective learning journal
Identification of personal beliefs and values in learning situations
20% Multiple weeks over 4 weeks
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO6 LO4
Assignment Essay
Critical analysis and review of literature
40% Week 06
Due date: 04 Oct 2020
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO6 LO4 LO3 LO2
group assignment = group assignment ?

Presentation: Poster presentation and defense where teams present and review research posters.

Participation: Throughout the semester, students will submit responses in class & to focus and discussion board questions.

Assignment: A Reflective learning journal completed over 4 weeks.     Identification of personal beliefs and values in learning situations.

Assignment: Individual Essay of Critical analysis and review of literature.

Details of each assessment task can be found on the Canvas site.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Work demonstrates initiative and ingenuity in research and reading, pointed and critical analysis of material, innovative interpretation of evidence, makes an insightful contribution to relevant debates, engages in the values, assumptions and contested meanings contained within sources, develops abstract or theoretical arguments on the strength of detailed research and interpretation. Properly documented; writing characterised by creativity, style, and precision.


75 - 84

Work demonstrates initiative in research and reading, complex understanding and original analysis of subject matter and its context, both empirical and theoretical; makes good attempt to ‘get behind’ the issues and evidence and engage with its underlying assumptions, takes a critical, interrogative stance in relation to argument and interpretation, shows critical understanding of the concepts and practices covered in the unit of study. Properly documented; writing characterised by style, clarity, and some creativity.


65 - 74

Evidence of extensive reading and initiative in research, sound grasp of subject matter and appreciation of key issues and context. Engages critically and creatively with the topic or question, and attempts an analytical evaluation of material. Makes a good attempt to critique various interpretations, and offers a pointed and thoughtful contribution to relevant debates. Evidence of ability to think theoretically as well as empirically, to conceptualise and problematise issues.


50 - 64

Work demonstrates a reasonable understanding of subject matter, shows a genuine effort to avoid paraphrasing, has a logical structure and acceptable documentation, and attempts to mount a credible argument. May have weaknesses of clarity or structure.


0 - 49

Work may fail for any or all of the following reasons: irrelevance of content; inadequate level of research; poor presentation or grammar, structure so loose that it cannot be understood; unacceptable levels of paraphrasing; plagiarism or other acts of academic dishonesty; inadequate or misleading acknowledgement of information sources.

For more information see

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below:

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after due day and time: Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date and time. After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded. This unit has an exception to the standard University policy or supplementary information has been provided by the unit coordinator. This information is displayed below: 5% per 24 hrs starting immediately after due time and day

Special consideration

If you experience short-term circumstances beyond your control, such as illness, injury or misadventure or if you have essential commitments which impact your preparation or performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website provides information on academic honesty, academic dishonesty, and the resources available to all students.

The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic dishonesty or plagiarism seriously.

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic dishonesty. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of dishonesty, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Multiple weeks Independent Preparation Independent study (110 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 01 Course introduction and overview Seminar (3 hr) LO1
Week 02 Why do projects fail? Seminar (3 hr) LO1
Week 03 Becoming a reflective practitioner - journaling for professional success Seminar (3 hr) LO1 LO5 LO6
Week 04 Critical thinking in PM using (self) reflection, logic, reasoning and volition - part 1 Seminar (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 05 Critical thinking in PM using (self) reflection, logic, reasoning and volition - part 2 Seminar (3 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 07 PM - hard skills Seminar (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 08 Managing cross-cultural teams Seminar (3 hr) LO2 LO5 LO6
Week 09 Rethinking PM Seminar (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 10 Communicating effectively in PM Seminar (3 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 11 Presentation of posters Seminar (3 hr) LO4 LO5 LO6
Week 12 Course review Seminar (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3

Attendance and class requirements

Referencing: All submissions must be referenced consistently and correctly using Harvard Style.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

There are prescribed and recommended readings in this unit. The prescribed readings are compulsory and students are expected to prepare them BEFORE the online session each week. 

All readings are made available in the e-Reserve section in CANVAS or inside the weekly modules. 

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University’s graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. analyse complex problems by building an explanation about the case
  • LO2. critically evaluate the assumptions, conclusions and evidence used in given arguments
  • LO3. synthesise ideas from diverse sources clearly, succinctly and accurately
  • LO4. construct logical, pursuasive arguments in spoken and written form to a high professional standard
  • LO5. contribute constructively to team discussions and decision-making
  • LO6. exercise appropriate values, standards and judgment consistent with the requirements of professional practice and technical knowledge.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities
Minor changes in response to feedback

Work, health and safety


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