Complicity in games of chase and complexity thinking: Emergence in curriculum and practice-based research
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis explores how the discourse of complexity thinking can be used to foster emergence in curriculum and practice-based research. The curriculum-related exploration focused specifically on games of chase as one facet of early childhood curriculum. It investigated using complexity thinking firstly, to occasion emergence (that is, create a new phenomenon) in children’s games of chase at an early childhood centre and secondly, to describe this emergence. The research-related exploration focused on creating an emergent methodology which is underpinned by complexity thinking.
In this thesis report, I present a series of emergent curriculum-related phenomena that arose during the explorations, that is, an emergent game, a local curriculum theory for games of chase, the concepts of local curriculum theory, curriculum design and curriculum dynamics, and a curriculum vision. I also present an understanding of emergent methodology and two methodological innovations in the form of the Research Data Management System and the Visual Summary.
This research involved taking the role of a volunteer teacher-researcher-curriculum designer at an early childhood centre to play games of chase with children. This role was informed by and contributed to a curriculum design that focused on designing the teaching and learning environment to occasion emergence in learning and curriculum.
The games of chase curriculum contributed to children’s learning, my own learning and the general rhythm of life at the centre. The children learnt to distinguish between children who were playing and those who were not. They also learnt different ways to tag people in a game. In addition, the children and I developed a game playing routine before playing each game. This routine involved putting on tag belts, discussing what game we were playing and how we were going to play it. We played three different games of chase, starting with tag, followed by What is the time Mr(s) Wolf?, and finally the emergent game Big A, Little A.
The stories of emergence are described in visual, descriptive and narrative texts organised into curriculum stories, teaching stories and children’s learning stories. Curriculum stories describe the activities that unfolded. Teaching stories present stories of teaching while learning stories are stories of children’s learning. These stories represent views of the enacted curriculum as activity, teaching and learning respectively. Taken together, the stories present a description of the curriculum dynamics that unfolded at the centre in relation to games of chase. This thesis shows that a local curriculum theory for games of chase at the centre emerged from the complex interactions of curriculum design and curriculum dynamics that unfolded at the centre. It also articulates the emergent concepts of local curriculum theory, curriculum design and curriculum dynamics using the language of complexity.
This thesis also presents the local curriculum theory as a curriculum vision. This vision involves a shift in thinking about curriculum as either a set “course to be run” or the “path created in the running” (currere) to embracing curriculum as both “the space for running” and currere. It is a vision that values both children’s and teachers’ interests, focuses on teachers and children exploring depth and breadth of a curriculum domain together, enables teachers to follow, generate and sustain children’s interest in the explorations, and is generative, flexible and future-focused.
This thesis conceptualises an emergent methodology as a methodology for emergence which (1) involves the researcher actively striving to foster emergence in research, (2) is brought forth in the interactions between the designed and enacted facets of methodology, (3) is local to a particular research project, and (4) emerges from the interactions of several related strategies.
This thesis can be seen as an attempt to change the language game of curriculum by using the language of complexity throughout the thesis. In so doing, it not only enables the reader to talk about the discourse of complexity thinking, it also enables the reader to experience the discourse and the emergence of the curriculum-related phenomena and the methodological innovations that are the focus of this thesis.
Finally, this thesis argues that using the discourse of complexity thinking in teaching and research can be enabling. It can enable the teacher and/or researcher to be creative, flexible and ethical within the constraints of his/her professional and personal life.