Complexity and chaos in remote schools

Complexity and chaos in remote schools Report

RES Lecture Series

  • Author(s): John Guenther
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Education
  • Volume: Lecture Number 3

Abstract: The dominant discourse surrounding education for remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students uses a language of deficit, disadvantage and failure. Analysis of the CRC-REP’s Remote Education Systems project data challenges the validity of these descriptors on the basis that stakeholders of remote schools do not describe education in this way. How then do they describe it? Analysis of the data suggests that many stakeholders describe education in terms of complexity framed by the challenges associated with an array of student, family, community, cultural, school and teacher/teaching factors. In this lecture the proposition of complexity and chaos in remote education is considered in the light of complexity theory. While education systems generally have been described as ‘complex’, the term may be more apt for remote education systems. Their tendency to operate balanced ‘on the edge of chaos and order’, the unpredictability of their behaviour, the array of elements in the systems, and the way the systems co-evolve with their environments all point to a neat fit with the idea of ‘complex adaptive systems’. Given this fit, what might the implications for strategic policy be? Attempts to shift the system through means that are best suited to simple or complicated systems where inputs, outputs and outcomes are relatively predictable, have been tried over and over in recent years, but to little effect. The RES data provides clues as to why this is so and indeed what could be done differently, if in strategic policy terms, the system was treated as a complex adaptive system. This lecture will be of interest to those with an interest in remote education, from strategic policy, teaching, leadership, teacher preparation, community development or administrative perspectives. There will be opportunities for attendees to ask questions and offer comments on the presentation.

Notes: Lecture Number 3 in a series presented by the Remote Education Systems project within the Cooperative Research Centre for Remote Education

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Suggested Citation
John Guenther, 2015, Complexity and chaos in remote schools, Volume:Lecture Number 3, Report, viewed 11 December 2023,

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