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A Systems View of TEFL Mapping Complexity Dr. Andrew Finch Recent advances in the physical sciences have added further to the complex view of learning which is currently emerging. According to contemporary theories, the class- room is “a complex adaptive system” (Van Lier, 1996, p. 38) in which “details are all that matters” (Gould, 1993) and in which “it is fruitless to search for causal relations” (Van Lier, 1996, p. 38). The complex and dynamic interactions which occur in the classroom have been seen as the most important events in the learning environ- ment (interaction = learning content), being instances of the “many striking similarities between the new science of chaos/complexityand second language acquisition” (Larsen- Freeman, 1997, p. 141). If we view the classroom as a complex, dynamic, open system, with input occurring all the time (not just linguistic input, but also the Student/Student, Student/Teacher and Teacher/Student interactions in Korean and English), then we can see Second Language Acquisition as a dynamic, complex, non-linear process, thatis open, self-organizing, adaptive, unpredict- able, and sensitive to initial conditions and feedback. We can neither claim that learning is caused by environmental stimuli (the behaviourist position) nor that it is genetically determined (the innatist position). Rather, learning is the result of complex (and contingent) interactionsbetween individual and environment. (Van Lier, 1996, p. 170) Learning is no longer seen as a product of a linear series of events, but as a cyclic process, in which every factor influences and is influenced by all the other factors, with new structures (e.g. awarenesses and achievements) emerging from the mix of interactions. The meaning of life A man asked his teacher to tell him the meaning of life. The teacher gave him a cup of tea. But he kept pouring, so that the cup overflowed. When the man asked what he was doing, the teacher replied that the cup was like the man. How could he receive new ideas when his mind was already full? What is teaching? There is a great deal happening in the language classroom apartfrom the passive reception of linguistic code. Affective filters Competition Standardized tests Low motivation Anxiety Stress Low self-esteem Negative attitudes A Storm in a Teacup Language learning is a social event (Vygot- sky, 1978). The systems in and around the learner all influence and interact with each other to produce learning. These systems include the family, friends, teacher, school, media, and society. Negative influences in the systems produce negative attitudes to learning. Positive in- fluences produce positive attitudes. Worldview of Worldview of classical sciences system sciences Nature is a giant Nature is an organism machine composed of with a non-deterministic intricate but replaceable ability for choice, flow machine-like parts. and spontaneity. Objects are to be Emphasizes connections observed separate from between people and their environment. nature, community and People are to be integrity in the natural observed as separate and human world. from each other and their surroundings. Materialistic: all things Matter is a configuration are measurable material of energies that flow and entities. interact, allowing for probabilistic processes, self-creativity and unpredictability. Worldview of Worldview of system classical sciences sciences Promotion of power Importance of inform- and competition. ation, education, communication and human services. Increasing use (and Sustainable development waste) of energies, through flexibility and raw materials and cooperation of other resources. interactiveparts. Eurocentric: Diversity of human promotion of cultures and societies, all Westernindustrialized equally valid. principles of progressand development. Anthropocentric: Humans as organic parts human beings master within a self-maintaining and control nature and self-evolving whole fortheir own ends. (life on this planet). Struggle for survival, Cooperation, tolerance of individual profit. diversity. A Tree in a Forest If we take a tree out of the forest to research it (by removing the variables),is it still a tree? A tree interacts with the systems in which it lives – the forest, the climate, the weather, and the ecology (insects, soil, birds, animals etc). Similarly, is it rational to try to research learners by removing variables, instead observing them as they interact with those variables in their systems? Characteristics of Systems Nonreducibility: Natural systems are wholes which cannot be reduced to their component properties. the classroom is a collection of natural systems (T, Ss), just as the forest is a collection of trees and animals; each mini-system influences, and is influenced by the larger sum-of-systems (the classroom); this overall system is a whole, which cannot be reduced to its component properties. Characteristics of Systems Natural systems maintain themselves in a changing environment. the classroom maintains itself, though its participants may change; Natural systems are self-organising and self- creating in response to other systems. the language-learning class is self- organising and self-creating in responseto other systems (e.g. university entrance exams, parental pressure) Natural systems exhibit equifinality the classroom exhibits equifinality; the same final goal may be realised in a number of different ways; Characteristics of Systems Natural systems are coordinating interfaces in nature’s holarchy. the classroom is a coordinating interface between other systems. The learners at one level, interact with the teacher on thenext level, who interacts with the school principal at a higher level. (Adapted from Laszlo, 2002, pp. 25-58) Emergent behaviour. Complex systems show surprising and unexpected behaviour that somehow seems to be a property of the system as a whole. Characteristics of Systems Unpredictability and regularity. There is unpredictability with patterns of regularity in the behavior of the whole system. Connectivity. In a world of complex systems everything is connected to everything else: A world of complex nonlinear systems is a world of butterfly effects. Events in one place can cause major repercussions throughout the world. The Gulf War affected stock markets and the lives of people throughout the world. Complex systems cannot exist in isolation. Bytheir very nature they are tied to and connect- ed to other systems, thus creating a dense web of connections between complex systems throughout the world. Affecting one system has repercussions in countless other systems . A Dynamic Learning Model The CMI Curriculum A Formative Learning Model Thank you!
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