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Towards a complex systems meta-theory of learning as an emergent phenomenon: Beyond the cognitive versus situative debate
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Paper presented at the 11th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2014, Colorado, USA, 23-27 June, 2014
This paper proposes a meta-theory of learning based on conceptual perspectives
and methodologies being employed in the study of complex physical and social systems to
inform research in the learning sciences and education. The contexts in which learning occurs
are in fact complex systems with elements or agents at different levels—from neuronal,
cognitive, intrapersonal, interpersonal, cultural—in which there are feedback interactions
within and across levels of the systems so that collective properties arise (i.e., emerge) from
the behaviors of the parts, often with properties that are not exhibited by those parts. We
analyze the long running cognitive versus situative learning debate and propose that a complex
systems meta-theory of learning (CSMTL) provides a principled way to achieve a theoretical
rapprochement. We close by considering other theoretical and methodological implications of
the CSMTL for research in the learning sciences.
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