#CritLit2010 Complexity Theory and education

I found this Complicity, Simplicity, and Epidemiology easy to comprehend.  It provides a succinct explanation on Complexity Theory and how it is applied in Epidemiology.

How would we be able to apply the concepts of Complexity Theory in education?

Here is Complexity Theory and Education by Morrison, Keith.  This paper is an interesting, though controversial on complexity theory and education, IMHO.

Keith raised 8 points:

1. How novel a theory complexity theory actually is?

2. Is complexity theory simply a statement of the obvious?

3. How useful complexity theory actually is? “It is essentially a descriptive or reflective theory”  Is self-organization such a good thing, or whether it will lead to diversity, inefficiency, time-wasting, mob rule, and a risk of people going off in so many different directions that the necessary connectivity between parts of an organization, its values and direction will be lost or suffocated.  How desirable are highly complicated systems of inter-relationships?

4. Complexity theory is a theory of unpredictable, non-linear change, why it is important and how it can be promoted?

5. Complexity theory has the putative disadvantages (Kelly 1994:23-4) of being (a) non-optimal; (b) non-controllable; (c) non-understandable; (non-immediate).  Indeed, if the future is uncertain and outcomes are non-linear, then where or why should money and effort be spent on education, if they are not guaranteed to improve outcomes?

6. Complexity theory embraces a deep-seated pragmatism, justified only be (perhaps selfish) survival and suggests that what is right at any moment is that which works at the time, to ensure survival.  Is this satisfactory or sufficient as a theory of education?

7. There are, perhaps, questions to be asked against the coherence of the “theory” in complexity theory.

8. What actual added value does complexity theory bring such that it moves to becoming a sine qua non of understanding the situations described in the papers?  What is the real and practical, rather than perhaps self-indulgent, added value that complexity theory brings?  Is complexity theory important for education?

Keith concluded that

This paper has deliberately endeavoured to introduce some of the central tenets of complexity theory, to lead into the accompanying papers that illustrate some elements of complexity theory at work. ……
Here the intention has been to illuminate some key elements of the theory, to introduce the accompanying papers that have deliberately cast the net of complexity widely into several very different fields of education, and, taking the role of a sympathetic skeptic, to throw down a small gauntlet to ‘complexologists’ in education in respect of adopting a cautious approach in considering the value, or applicability, of the theory to educational discourse. It is a fascinating and alluring theory, but is it a siren song?
I would like to respond with the following brief question and comments:
How would Complexity theory help us in better understanding education and learning?
From the above paper, the author has raised questions on whether complexity theory is important to education.  I would suggest that it is.  It would take another post for me to respond to this important question.
I would however, open these questions to your discussion.
Postscript: A valuable resource in Complexity Theory here – decomplexity

5 thoughts on “#CritLit2010 Complexity Theory and education

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