Going with the flow: complexity, teaching and the tao

The topic of this week was for me extremely interesting . I especially refer to connections -that I did not imagine -between complexity theory and teaching / learning. What I read, in fact ,was extremely useful in order to create a theorical basis to my intuitions and experiences . Now I try to write about my reflections.

I read three papers , this week, starting with a topic that relates to my current interests. Now, in fact, I’m working on latin language teaching and european key competencies.The paper, suggested by The Daily, was “Chaos, Complexity and Language Learning” . I strongly agree that has to be avoided "simplicity of viewing language as just a set of grammar rules with vocabulary plugged into them, …of seeing language as finite sets of functions, notions, or lexical items and advocating that these be taught and learned in a traditional linear manner." And I also believe that “teachers are resources and models”; they have to provide a rich learning environment, to encourage a self-directed learning (not only in adult education field) , to enhance critical thinking, to be a model in learning, not in teaching!
This connection between language and complexity theory induced me to further readings:
"Developing Online From Simplicity toward Complexity: Going with the Flow of Non-Linear Learning”, and Complexity, Chaos, and Emergence”. A sentence was very important for me:
“Complexity's perspective is that teachers need to accept students' ability to organize, construct and structure learning, combining supportive and challenging behavior; equilibrium with disequilibrium. 'Curriculum becomes a process of development rather than a body of knowledge to be covered or learned, ends become beacons guiding this process, and the course the indeterminate transforms itself into the specific' (Doll, 1989th, p.250)” .

Learning is a dynamic , non-linear process, with such margins of uncertainty which the teacher has to take account of. Above all, complexity theory involves the rejection of the idea that learning is in a direct relationship with teaching. This destabilises teachers, of course, but creates the premises in order to understand that the frontal lesson with its trasmissive pretensions is a model that doesn’t work. But this (often implicit, unconscious) model is still the most used by teachers.

I think that an approach based on complexity enhances metacognitive and metareflective skills, and is very effective in order to gain not only Knowlwdge, but competency. I always thought that bringing up a child means making him independent and free; the same thing I think about teaching.
However, the most frequent reaction of the teachers towards the typical information overflow of the Internet era is an authentic obsession to dominate and to control the brains of the students. They told students what to learn, when to learn it, how to learn it, why to learn it; but the result of this control is that one of making them even more unable to manage this information overflow. We often have evidence of it in students.
Is going with the flow the best strategy to face overflow?
I 'm going to reflect about it...

Now my mind send to me a provocative connection among Complexity, teaching and … Tao Tê Ching:
“The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!"


pierfranco ravotto ha detto…
Hi Maria Letizia

thank you for the quotation of Tao Tê Ching.
I strongly agree with your notes.
In a post on the same question (http://teacker.blogspot.com/2008/10/cck08-week-6-complexity-chaos-and_20.html) I have posed the question of the contradiction between promotion of processes and fulfilment of limited goals/results. I would like to know your opinion.
marialetizia ha detto…
Thank you for comment on my notes. This is perhaps the most interesting topic for me of the CCK08, at least, and I am very pleased to discuss it.
In short: I agree with you that complexity is not only a matter of people, learning styles and so on, but a matter of contents.
I partially disagree, however, with the speech that a good teacher is that who teaches, and “doesn´t know really what it is going to be in the future with this process, because it is a chaotic process..
As teachers, we have to assess… But how can we do it in a complex learning? And what ? The products, the processes?

The problem that you have set has, in my opinion, a great size at a time when Italian school is discussing about competencies , both disciplinary and key. It is a change of paradigm: teaching by competencies, assessing competencies . What you say is so true: we very often consider only knowledge and skills, and expertise ... we hope studens will reach it, sooner or later.
I think : how much this complexity theory fits with competencies? And could it help in assessing competencies?
Compencies require, in my opinion, a long-range planning, a long-range evaluation, and different teaching strategies...