The dynamics of emergent self-organisation: Reconceptualising child development in teacher education

Journal of Teacher Education 35 (4):79-98 (2010)

Derek Sankey
University of Sydney
For more than half a century, child development has endured as one of the main components of teacher education. But if children do develop, as developmentalists claim, what precisely is it that develops and how? Traditionally, within education, answers to these questions have drawn heavily on the theories of Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Piaget advocated the progressive development of reasoning through identifiable linear phases or stages. Vygotsky emphasised the role of cultural mediation, whereby the child internalises the habits of mind of his/her social group. More generally within cognitive psychology, development has been attributed to the interaction of two distinct causes - nature and nurture - and the developmental process has been viewed as being linear, progressive, and incremental, guided by some inner mechanism of design; by schemas or genetic blueprints acting as programs in the mind. According to the Dynamic Systems Approach (DSA), however, there are no programs or blueprints and no teleological design. Instead, human development is the results of non-linear emergent self-organisation; a holistic process that rejects the dualisms of nature/nurture, perception/cognition and mind/brain associated with traditional theory. This very different account of development calls for a reconceptualisation of child development theory in teacher education. Our paper attempts to move some way in that direction.
Keywords Dynamic Systems Theory  Child Development  Teacher Education
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