Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, Vol. 18, Iss. 1, January, 2014, pp. 5-22
@2014 Society for Chaos Theory in Psychology & Life Sciences


Nonlinear Change and the Black Box Problem in Educational Research

Matthijs Koopmans, Mercy College, Dobbs Ferry, NY

Abstract: Although the nonlinear dynamical systems (NDS) paradigm has been highly influential in psychology, economics and the life sciences, its impact in the field of education has been disturbingly modest, particularly in the interface between research and policy, where linear cause and effect relationships are typically presumed when the impact of interventions and educational reform on the behavior of children and adults is measured. This reduction of the educational process to simple input - output relationships without examining the constituent changes in great detail produces significant gaps in our knowledge about the effectiveness of educational initiatives, an issue that has been acknowledged in the research literature as the ”black box problem.” This paper approaches the black box problem from an NDS perspective and proposes that investigating the self-organizing process in the educational system may help address these gaps.

Keywords: randomized control trial designs, self-organized criticality, black box problem, nonlinear change