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Patterns that Connect: Rethinking our Approach to Learning, Teaching, and Curriculum

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This article presents an alternative approach to curriculum development and learning within a perspective associated with chaos and complexity theories. The specific guiding principles are adapted from the notions of ‘the pattern which connects’ and ‘metapatterns’ as originally described by Gregory Bateson (1979) and as explored further by Mary Catherine Bateson (1994) and Tyler Volk (1995). These particular notions are situated within a broader view of chaos and complexity theories, in terms of stimulating (i.e., providing attractors for) the emergence of multiple thematic patterns through self-sustaining inquiry and discourse. The specific approach of ‘patterns that connect’ described here provides a way of stimulating the natural development of emergent themes. Depending upon the specific curricular context, this approach can promote complex, interconnected, and meaningful understandings across curricular areas or diverse conceptual and theoretical contexts. Such an approach requires the suspension of the ‘need’ to have specific, predictable outcomes in order to provide students with opportunities to develop much more complex and relevant understandings.
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Keywords: complexity theories; curriculum; curriculum development; learning; metapatterns

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Northern Arizona University

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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  • Curriculum and Teaching is a bi-annual, refereed, international journal publishing original research. It uses a balanced and comparative perspective to consider curriculum design and development, evaluation, curriculum models, comparative studies in curriculum, innovation and policy, planning, and educational administration.
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