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Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom by John P. Sullivan Boston College Lynch School of Education.

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Presentation on theme: "Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom by John P. Sullivan Boston College Lynch School of Education."— Presentation transcript:

1 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom by John P. Sullivan Boston College Lynch School of Education

2 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Underlying World View The world is not as simple as we wish it was o Poking a dog (Davis & Sumara, 2006) o Nature abhors simplicity o Dissection kills

3 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Underlying World View School = students in groups o Few study the learning dynamics of groups o Why not consider the class as the unit of learning? o Is it possible that a class could sometimes generate new knowledge in addition to receiving it from experts?

4 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom A CAS Definition for Classroom Studies Well-networked collective of agents Nonlinear dynamics Bounded Synergistic (Emergent)

5 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom How was this definition derived? Davis & Sumara (2006) Self-organized Short-range relationships Nested structure Ambiguously bounded Organizationally closed Far from equilibrium Clarke & Collins (2007) Networked (not hierarchal) structures Self-organizing Fractal Feedback loops Disequilibrium Self-regulating Bottom-up emergent Carr-Chellman (2000) Perturbation Butterfly Effect Entropy Self-organization Dissipation of hierarchies Strange Attractors Bifurcations / change

6 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Well-networkedNonlinear Bounded Synergistic

7 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Purpose Investigate the extent to which each of three classes demonstrated the properties of complex adaptive systems, most especially emergent learning. Determine if these properties could be found in classes not designed with complexity theory in mind

8 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Research Questions 1.Were these classes complex adaptive systems? If so, what factors came into play? 2.To what degree did each class manifest the properties of complex adaptive systems? Did this create a continuum of complexity? 3.Could emergent learning be found in any of these classes? To what extent?

9 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Design of this study Collaborative case study (Stake, 2000) Cases chosen by self-declared pedagogical styles of teachers and, in one case, the presumption of theorists that the subject matter would encourage complexity. o Jazz-Rock Ensemble (a select group of musicians) o English I (taken by all freshmen) o Geometry (taken by all sophomores who didnt take it as freshmen)

10 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom About Metropolitan Catholic High School Catholic Jesuit school Privately owned by a board of trustees Grades 7-12, but 7&8 operated as a separate division All male student body Academically selective Located in a large Eastern US city, but draws students from the surrounding suburbs in large numbers Total student population about 1500

11 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Method Data SourceParticipantsFrequencyTotals ObservationsAll students in each of three classes. One group of nine students, one of 21 and one of 25. About once every other scheduling cycle of seven school days. Eight one hour observations per class plus additional as needed. Twenty-six total. InterviewsThree students and one teacher from each class. One audio-recorded interview per key informant, plus informal discussions with teachers and students. Twelve interviews plus more informal discussions. ArtifactsAll of Metropolitan Catholic High School and its surrounding community. As materials became available.

12 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Analysis Combination of deductive (a priori) and inductive (grounded) approaches Repeated examination of the data revealed that the a priori codes were sufficient to describe the phenomena in these classes A priori codes were derived from my definition of complex adaptive systems and its descriptors.

13 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Analysis A priori codes Well Networked Agency Short-Range Relationships Nested / Fractal Networking Nonlinear Systems Far From Equilibrium (Edge of Chaos) Feedback Loops The Butterfly Effect Bounded Synergistic Emergent Learning

14 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Findings BoundariesAgency (for students) Network TypeEdge of Chaos FeedbackButterfly EffectEmergent Learning GeometryTightly BoundMinimalCentralizedAvoidedLimited and short range Undetectable EnglishDefined by specific rule sets Provided by the ability to contribute valued knowledge DistributedExtendedComplex and intertwined among many students Facilitated by feedback and chaotic learning Frequent Jazz RockDefined by sheet music and jazz itself Provided by virtuosity and emphasis on improvisation Distributed / Simultaneous ConstantConstant and simultaneous Both musical and social. Constant Boundaries. Networking.. Nonlinearity. Synergy

15 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Fostering Emergence Bounded Well-networkedNonlinear Bounded Well-networkedNonlinear Bounded Well-networkedNonlinear LearningEmergent Learning

16 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Emergence and Educational Goals Amount and quality of time spent in the synergistic zone where cognitive dissonance is maintained.

17 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom Summary Groups of students need NOT be restricted to receiving knowledge Under the right circumstances, they can generate new knowledge This acknowledgement is only useful if the goal of the class is higher-level cognitive learning. There is no prescription available for emergent learning, only mindfulness of the balance among networking, nonlinearity, and appropriate boundaries

18 Emergent Learning: The Power of Complex Adaptive Systems in the Classroom References Anderson, L.W. (2005). Objectives, evaluation and the improvement of education. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 31(1), 102-113. Carr-Chellman, A. (2000). The new sciences and systemic change in education. Educational Technology, 40(1), 28-37. Clarke, A., & Collins, S. (2007). Complexity science and student teacher supervision. Teaching and Teacher Education, 23(2), 160-172. Conn, C. (2008). Nirvana di novo. Accessed December 10, 2008 at http://www.fractalfactory.com/thumbnails/056.jpg Davis, B. & Sumara, D. (2006). Complexity and education: Inquiries into learning, teaching, and research. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Stake, R. (2000). Case studies. In N.K. Denzin & Y.H. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2 nd. ed., pp. 435-454). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


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