Complexity theory and the enhancement of learning in higher education: The case of the University of Cape Town

Mark MASON

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

In the post-Apartheid era South Africa’s universities have faced serious questions about the quality of their student learning in the face of near impossible challenges. The University of Cape Town, widely seen as the country’s leading higher education institution, has shown remarkable resilience, however, in the range of initiatives it has launched to support and enhance student learning. These initiatives, designed with a common purpose, are of course intended to work together so that their effects might be compounded and realized in enhanced student learning outcomes. Drawing substantially on the power of compounding (which is itself redolent of the claim made by complexity theory that relations and emergence are crucial concepts), complexity theory offers unique insights into how and why things change – and also into how and why things remain largely the same or inexorably grind towards failure. The networked initiatives undertaken by the University of Cape Town constitute a case of learning refurbishment that is also well explained and understood in terms of complexity theory. This paper draws on concepts from complexity theory both to understand how learning might be enhanced in higher education institutions in severely straitened circumstances and to offer insights for education leaders and policy-makers in this domain. Copyright © 2022 Philosophy of Education Society of Australasia.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEducational Philosophy and Theory
Early online date04 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 04 Nov 2022

Citation

Mason, M. (2022). Complexity theory and the enhancement of learning in higher education: The case of the University of Cape Town. Educational Philosophy and Theory. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1080/00131857.2022.2140042

Keywords

  • Complexity theory and learning
  • University of Cape Town learning support
  • Higher education learning enhancement

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