What happens when you want to know how to influence or design a system, but the very nature of that system does not allow for close examination of its individual pieces?
Poverty, marriage, hurricanes, flocks of birds, the human brain, and schools of fish are a few examples of systems like this. Education is also a prime example!
Emergence and Education
"So an emergent system is something you only can study as a whole . . . So what are the things that contribute to poverty? Well some of it is just sheer lack of money, but some of it is certain habits, some of it is racism, there’s a whole bunch of fake things that factor in. And so one of the problems that we have as a culture is we take clouds and we pretend they’re clocks. We take problems that are emergent and we pretend we can solve them through deductive reasoning, but just picking them apart. And we always want to find the one thing that will lead to that, so we always want to find “X” leads to “Z”. The problem with an emergent system, you don’t have those kinds of straight causal relationships."
- determine the content or performance structures that exist in the subject-matter, and
- construct an instructional strategy that follows the generally accepted pattern for objectives of that type. (p. 281)
My key takeaways from these readings and thoughts on emergence relate to the importance of articulating the kinds of knowledge and content we are designing for. If it is variable, then we need to describe how our system might address a variety of content structures, skills, and tasks. We should not pretend to provide the benefits of a liberal arts education (i.e. critical thinking skills, constructive argumentation in a group, writing) if what we are designing can’t go there due to the ephemeral nature of some of these kinds of knowledge. That being said, we can describe how our design or system empowers human teachers to facilitate group processes and environments that allow these less concrete (but equally essential) and emergent abilities to be experienced and internalized for engaged and motivated learners.