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Complexity Theory

Complexity theory offers a means to conceptualize the workings of nonlinear systems as their multiple interacting and diverse elements adapt to constantly changing environments. Such nonlinear systems could include students, classrooms, schools, school districts, or national educational systems. To enact the analytic potential of complexity theory, theorists draw extensively on the notion of the complex adaptive system. This heuristic—derived from crossdisciplinary research in fields as varied as economics, physics, ecology, and math—can illuminate how a system's diverse elements interact to generate novel, emergent behavior for the system as a whole.

This conceptual structure helps one understand what a system does as it negotiates and adapts to ever-shifting contexts. Nothing stands alone; everything is interconnected and interdependent. In education, countless studies acknowledge that schools are systems made ...

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