Complexity and the Culture of Curriculum

William E. Doll Jr

Abstract


This paper has two main foci: (1) the history of curriculum design, and (2) implications from the new sciences of chaos and complexity for the development of new forms of curriculum design and teaching implementation. Regarding the first focus, the paper posits that there exist—to use Wittgenstein’s phrase—‘family resemblances’ between Peter Ramus’ 16th century curriculum design and that of Ralph Tyler in the 20th century. While this 400-year linkage is by no means linear, there are overlapping strands from Ramus to Comenius to the Puritans to colonial New England to Horace Mann to Ralph Tyler. What unites these strands, all belonging to the Protestant Methodization movement that swept across northern Europe into colonial America and the USA, is the concept of Method. Taylor’s ‘time and motion’ studies set the stage for Tyler’s Basic Principles of curriculum design—those starting with set goals and concluding with measured assessment. The second focus draws on the new sciences of chaos and complexity to develop a different sense of curriculum and instruction—open, dynamic, relational, creative, and systems oriented. The paper concludes with an integration of the rational/scientific with the aesthetic/ spiritual into a view of education and curriculum informed by complexity.

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