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 International Conference on Complex Systems (ICCS2007)

Education Reform at the "Edge of Chaos": Constructing ETCH (An Education Theory Complexity Hybrid) for an Optimal Learning Educaiton Environment

Dr. Irene Conrad
Texas A & M University - Kingsville

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     Last modified: September 7, 2007

Currently, the theoretical foundation that inspires educational theory, which in turn shapes the systemic structure of institutions of learning, is based on three key interconnected, interacting underpinnings -mechanism, reductionism, and linearity. My dissertation 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, the open, fluid processes of school systems as a dissipative structure, and nonlinearity or impossibility of completely predicting the results of any specific intervention within a school system.. In addition, I show how ETCH principles, when applied by educational system leaders, permit them to facilitate an optimal learning environment for a student-centered complex adaptive system.
ETCH is derived from Complexity Theory and is a coherent, valid, and verifiable systemsí framework that accurately aligns the education system with its goal 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 alternative high school in eastern Pennsylvania.

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