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Giorgio Bertini
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Learning Change Project - https://www.facebook.com/learningchangeproject/
Learning Change Project - https://www.facebook.com/learningchangeproject/

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The diversity of knowledge and experience is an important source of intelligence in learning systems.
Rich learning engagements (and the making of seemingly abstract connections) occur when knowledge is seen as shared and distributed.
Local interactions within small groups of students (and the power of self-organization) create greater shared classroom coherence and understanding.
Complexity science principles allow teachers to think about and imagine ways in which their classrooms can become healthier and more democratic learning organizations.

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This paper uses complexity theory as a means towards clarifying some of Gilles Deleuze’s conceptualisations in communication and the philosophy of language. His neologisms and post-structuralist tropes are often complicated and appear to be merely metaphorical. However their meanings may be clarified and enriched provided they are grounded in the science of complexity and self-organising dynamics. Reconceptualizing communication in a manner consistent with Deleuze’s philosophy enriches our understanding of the complexity involved in the process of learning and the whole of educational experience. The paper explores education as “becoming,” that is, a process of growth and becoming-other enabled by creative communication. While the mathematics of complexity is beyond the scope of this paper, some of its conjunctions with Deleuze’s philosophy will be examined for the purpose of addressing such problematic areas in education as, for example, specialisation and the breadth of curriculum. Finally, the paper moves to a practical level so as to construct an image of a self-organised classroom. Self-organising dynamics are posited as consistent with what Noddings called an excellent system of education. Education proceeds without any reference to an external aim. Rather, the “aim” is implicit in the experiential process of self-organisation and, as such, is conducive to students’ learning, creation of meanings, and eliciting broad curricula.

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In this position paper we argue that the field of learning and education is in a crisis and that the current paradigms in educational science are unable to adequately resolve the problems that are encountered in pedagogical practice. We believe that a profound understanding of pedagogical reality is necessary in order to have the ability to make recommendations for a transformation – improvement – of this reality. Present paradigms in the field of education are based on physicalism or linearity thinking, they neglect the inherent complexity of educational reality and therefore are not able to develop an in-depth understanding of this reality. To overcome this crisis in education, a first necessary step is to acknowledge the crisis and to recognize that an adequate theory of learning and education should take the complexity of reality into account. We argue that a theory of complexity needs to be developed, a new paradigm for education that can grasp the complex processes of learning.

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Complex cognition addresses research on (a) high-level cognitive processes – mainly problem solving, reasoning, and decision making – and their interaction with more basic processes such as perception, learning, motivation and emotion and (b) cognitive processes which take place in a complex, typically dynamic, environment. Our focus is on AI systems and cognitive models dealing with complexity and on psychological findings which can inspire or challenge cognitive systems research. In this overview we first motivate why we have to go beyond models for rather simple cognitive processes and reductionist experiments. Afterwards, we give a characterization of complexity from our perspective. We introduce the triad of cognitive science methods – analytical, empirical, and engineering methods – which in our opinion has all to be utilized to tackle complex cognition. Afterwards we highlight three aspects of complex cognition – complex problem solving, dynamic decision making, and learning of concepts, skills and strategies. We conclude with some reflections about and challenges for future research.

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Because it grounds most of my academic work, the reflection developed in this paper follows the epistemological and anthropological critique characterizing the ʺparadigm of complexityʺ proposed by Edgar Morin. It invites us to question the way one conceives changes and transformations broughtby the use of the notion of complexity itself. In this perspective, instead of discussing Jörgʹs paper focusing on the content of his theoretical propositions, my intent is to question and comment on what I interpreted as being some of the implicit assumptions which frame his reflection. The aim of this paper is therefore to question the way one conceives the use of a specific theoretical approach (i.e., theories associated with the concept of complexity) in order to promote changes in educational practices and theories. The position I am adopting here translates indeed the conviction that any reform of thought has to be conceived in conjunction with a reflection about the idea of reform itself. It is therefore assumed that the use of the notion of complexity, to be critical and to bring significant changes, supposes not only to use a specific theoretical vocabulary, but also and above all to change the way scientific activity itself is conceived in order to bring about such a transformation.

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Complexity theory offers some useful insights into the nature of continuity and change, and is thus of considerable interest in both the philosophical and practical understanding of educational and institutional change. Complexity theory’s notion of emergence implies that, given a significant degree of complexity in a particular environment, or critical mass, new properties and behaviours emerge that are not contained in the essence of the constituent elements, or able to be predicted from a knowledge of initial conditions. These concepts of emergent phenomena from a critical mass, associated with notions of lock-in, path dependence, and inertial momentum, contribute to an understanding of continuity and change that has not hitherto been readily available in other theories of or perspectives on change.

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We look toward the transdisciplinary and participatory domain of complexity theory as a means to make sense of the emergent character of educational research—ultimately arguing that complexity theory might be construed as a properly educational theory. We do not regard it as a frame that can be simply adopted, but an emergent conversation that compels participation. In the process, we offer a series of critiques of the established practice of carving educational inquiry into subdisciplines that map tidily onto the grander academic world.
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