Academic journal article Education

Chaos Theory and Its Implications for Curriculum and Teaching

Academic journal article Education

Chaos Theory and Its Implications for Curriculum and Teaching

Article excerpt

Anyone who has done any teaching knows that no formula, no rule, no theory ever works perfectly with every group of students. Our present scientific deterministic paradigm is based on the assumption that if you have preset goals written out and so-called appropriate teaching methods and evaluation processes, everything should work out. But, for the most part, not everything is working out. The scientific deterministic paradigm seems to be creating passive, unresponsive, non-thinking, dependent students and robot-like domesticated, deprofessionalized teachers. Moreover, trivialization, moral callousness and preordained conversation is also part of this script. Gatto (1992) writes:

Schools were designed by Horace Mann

and by Sears and Harper of the

University of Chicago and by Thoendyke of

Columbia Teachers college and by some

other men to be instruments of the

scientific management of a mass

proportion. Schools are intended to

produce through the application of

formulas, formulaic, human beings

whose behavior can be predicted and

controlled. (p. 26)

The scientific deterministic paradigm works from a position that says teaching is a simplistic, cause-effect system which can be easily manipulated, quantized and controlled. But, this is not true. For instance, every day the teacher walks into the classroom with his or her self concept, inner voice, psychological and physiological needs, teaching skills and attitude, and several more variables which influence his or her behavior for that day. Likewise, the same can be said for the students who have similar variables influencing their behavior for that day. The mix of teacher and student variables influence what happens on any particular day. And the unpredictability of these variables is more generally the rule than the exception in the classroom. That is the challenge and joy of teaching, the endless possibilities of this mix of teacher and student variables.

As any teacher knows, on many days, he or she can have a super, well-prepared lesson and the teaching is exceptional, but the students learn nothing. Thomas Green (1971) shows philosophically that teaching does not necessarily cause learning:

... the task-achievement way of

viewing the relation between teaching and

learning shows that the link must be the

same form of contingent connection.

Still, it tends also to show that the

contingent relation cannot be understood

on the kind of activity that causes

learning, because it can occur when there is

no teaching. (p. 140)

In a similar fashion, the scientific deterministic paradigm influences how we view curriculum. Ronald Doll (1993) points out that the scientific deterministic curriculum paradigm was an outgrowth of the 1920's scientific management system which in turn influence curriculum developers:

Management's task is to plan out fully

at least one day in advance the work

each man is to do. Further, each

workman must receive these work orders in

writing and in detail everyday. These

orders specify not only what is to be

done but how it is to be done and the

exact time allowed for doing it. (p. 42)

This pre-ordering of tasks by organizers for workers says Doll is "the most permanent single element in modern scientific management, (p.42). Most importantly, as Doll also points out, Franklin Bobbitt, Elwood Cubberly, and W.W. Charters used this element when explaining how to design a curriculum. But now, the efficiency paradigm which existed for decades in industry is presently crumbling with the introduction of new forms of cooperative team and job motivation programs. However, the scientific determnistic paradigm is alive and well in education. …

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