A systems View of TEFL Mapping Complexity

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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
    then we can see Second Language Acquisition
    as a dynamic, complex, non-linear process,
    thatis open, self-organizing, adaptive,
    able, and sensitive to initial conditions and
   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
    (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
linguistic code.
Affective filters

           Standardized tests
              Low motivation
           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
    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
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
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
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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