Session: Education as a Complex System
Last modified: June 20, 2006
An Optimal Learning Environment for the Education System:
Framing a Complexity Thoery for the Education System
Education Reform at the "Edge of Chaos":
Currently, the theoretical foundation that inspires educational theory, that in turn forms the system's structure of institutions of learning, is based on three key interconnected, interacting underpinnings -- mechanism, reductionism and linearity. My dissertation first explores this current theoretical underpinning including its fallacies and inconsistencies, and then frames an alternative educational theoretical base -- a hybrid complex adaptive systems theory model for education that more effectively meets the demands to prepare students for the 21st century. My Education Theory Complexity Hybrid (ETCH) differs by focusing on the systemic, autopoietic nature of schools, its open, fluid processes of school systems as a dissipative structures, and a school system's nonlinearity or impossibility of completely predicting the results of any specific intervention within that school system. In addition, ETCH demonstrates how educational systems leadership, grounded in this new approach, facilitates an optimal learning environment for a student-centered complex adaptive system.
I apply constructive theorizing, and a retroductive and abductive research strategy, to establish ETCH, derived from Complexity Theory, as a coherent, valid, and verifiable systems' framework that accurately aligns the education system with its goals as a student-centered complex adaptive system. In contrast to most dissertations in the School Leadership Program, which are empirical studies, mine explores this new theoretical orientation and illustrates the power of that orientation through a series of examples taken from my experiences in founding and operating the Lancaster Institute for Learning, a private state-licensed high school in eastern Pennsylvania.