Human Research and Complexity Theory

The disavowal of positivist science by many educational researchers has resulted in a deepening polarization of research agendas and an epistemological divide that appears increasingly difficult to span. Despite a turning away from science altogether by some, and thus toward various forms of poststructuralist inquiry, this has not held back the renewed entrenchment of more narrow definitions by policy elites of what constitutes scientific educational research. The new sciences of complexity signal the emergence of a new scientific paradigm that challenges some of the core assumptions of positivism, while offering the potential to develop a new kind of social science that demands both rigor and imagination in coming to understand the emergence and behaviors of social systems and the subsystems that comprise them. The language, concepts, and principles of complexity are central to the development of a new science of qualities to complement the science of quantities that have shaped our understanding of the physical and social worlds. Accomplishing this task promises to 1) open up new investigations that have thus far been beyond the purview of scientific study, 2) allow the study of social phenomena as fully embodied, or at least as more robust models than those represented in the abstracted empiricism upon which the sciences of quantities are predicated, and 3) allow for more coarse-grained explanations and predictions of social phenomena to be legitimated as scientific. Both educational research and educational practice stand to gain from this expansion of the scientific repertoire to include rigorous and imaginative investigations of phenomena characterized by change and transformation.


About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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