What is complexity theory and what are its implications for educational change?

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Abstract

This paper considers questions of continuity and change in education from the perspective of complexity theory, introducing the field to educationists who might not be familiar with it. Given a significant degree of complexity in a particular environment (or ‘dynamical system’), new properties and behaviours, which are not necessarily contained in the essence of the constituent elements or able to be predicted from a knowledge of initial conditions, will emerge. These concepts of emergent phenomena from a critical mass, associated with notions of lock‐in, path dependence, and inertial momentum, suggest that it is in the dynamic interactions and adaptive orientation of a system that new phenomena, new properties and behaviours, emerge. Copyright © 2011 The Hong Kong Institute of Education.

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Citation

Mason, M. (2011). What is complexity theory and what are its implications for educational change? Hong Kong: The Joseph Lau Luen Hung Charitable Trust Asia Pacific Centre for Leadership and Change, Hong Kong Institute of Education.