Footprints of emergence

Roy Williams, J. Mackness, Simone Gumtau

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It is ironic that the management of education has become more closed while learning has become more open, particularly over the past 10-20 years. The curriculum has become more instrumental, predictive, standardized and micro-managed, in the belief that this supports employability as well as the management of educational processes, resources and value. Meanwhile, people have embraced interactive, participatory, collaborative and innovative networks for living and learning. To respond to these challenges, we need to develop practical tools to help us describe these new forms of learning which are multivariate, self-organised, complex, adaptive, and unpredictable. We draw on complexity theory and our experience as researchers, designers and participants in open and interactive learning to go beyond conventional approaches. We develop a 3D model of landscapes of learning, for exploring the relationship between prescribed and emergent learning in any given curriculum. We do this by repeatedly testing our descriptive landscapes (or ‘footprints’) against theory, research and practice, across a range of case studies. By doing this, we have not only come up with a practical tool which can be used by curriculum designers, but also realised that the curriculum itself can usefully be treated as emergent, depending on the dynamics between prescribed and emergent learning and how the learning landscape is curated.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-90
Number of pages42
JournalInternational Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


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