Using Complexity Theory to explore Communities of Philosophical Enquiry: A Rationale and some Implications for Facilitation and Research. Cape Town August 2013
Two Paradigms Similarities • Both consider that learning is promoted through enquiry. • Both uphold the laws of physics and chemistry as underlying the natural systems, and; • Both likely to oppose the idea that all explanation is reducible to the laws of physics and chemistry.
Two paradigms Differences Traditional (T-paradigm) – The world is objective, constructed, discoverable. Pragmatist (P-paradigm) – The world is intersubjective, reconstructive, transactional.
Enquiry is about T-paradigm: the search for truth. P-paradigm: working with warranted assertions.
Complex phenomena T-paradigm: explained using different language from lower-level phenomena but ultimately predictable if enough information is gathered. P-paradigm: exhibit the emergence of higher-level patterns of behaviour the precise details of which are unpredictable. Such patterns are surprisingly restricted in their scope.
Causal triggers and unpredictability – the sand pile (Antichaos, 1992)
The scope of Complexity Theory • Open systems – those in continuous interaction with their environment • Complex Learning Systems (CLS) • Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS)
The following are some of the key features of CLSsas described by Davis and Sumara (2006) • Self-organized • Bottom-up emergent • Short-range • Nested structure (or scale-free networks) • Ambiguously Bounded • Structure determined • Far from equilibrium
Figure showing comparison of centralized, diverse and distributed control, reproduced from Davis and Sumara 2006, p 52
What promotes emergence (learning) within complex systems? Important factors according to Davis and Sumara are: • the levels of redundancy and diversity appropriate to the situation the CLS finds itself in; • translevel interactions, decentralized control with a certain density of significant interactions between neighbouring participants; • a tight/loose structure, ‘enabling constrains’, promoting self-reference; • rich connectivity and healthy information flow including positive and negative feedback.
Implications for teaching and facilitation • Classrooms are knowledge-producing networks rather than either teacher-centred or pupil-centred. • Learning/progress as recursive elaboration, not linear development. • We are meaning-makers first and rational thinkers second. • Learning events involve co-emergence rather than individual development. Collective ZPD?
Facilitation • About developing a community of learners within a learning community. The importance of different levels • Facilitators attend to optimization of emergence: diversity, redundancy, decentralized control, density of big ideas, triggers to transformation of learning and positive and negative feedback – raising the stakes, pulling the threads together.
Implications for P4C • Maintain and defend key elements of P4C structure, stimulus, question forming and choosing, concept-stretching, 4C thinking. • Consider ways of optimizing the density of important interactions. • Utilize a wider range of modes of expression? • Explore ways of documenting what happens in a CoPI with a view to developing a theory of learning in CoPI in the P4C model.
Implications for research • Experimental approaches likely to be very limited. • Need to focus on nodes, linkages, multiple-level influences, emergence. • Study effects at level of emergence rather than using reductionist techniques. • The researcher is ‘complicit’ in the process and also a CLS. • Use multiple, pluralistic, participatory and partnership-based approaches based on case studies, interactionist and interpretative accounts.
A research agenda? • Identify key activities and components – histories, levels • Establish linkages and causal loops • Note positive and negative feedback leading to emergence. • Assess overall pattern of the system. Compare with same CLS and others over time. Hart 2009 Haggis 2009