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From the Parade Child to the King of Chaos

The Complex Journey of William Doll, Teacher Educator

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Hongyu Wang

From the Parade Child to the King of Chaos depicts the pedagogical life history of an extraordinary teacher educator and internationally renowned curriculum scholar, William E. Doll, Jr. It explores how his life experiences have contributed to the formation and transformation of a celebrated teacher educator. From the child who spontaneously led a parade to the king of chaos who embraces complexity in education, complicated tales of Doll’s journey through his childhood, youth, and decades of teaching in schools and in teacher education are situated in the historical, intellectual, and cultural context of American education. Seven themes are interwoven in Doll’s life, thought, and teaching: pedagogy of play, pedagogy of perturbation, pedagogy of presence, pedagogy of patterns, pedagogy of passion, pedagogy of peace, and pedagogy of participation. Based upon rich data collected over six years, this book demonstrates methodological creativity in integrating multiple sources and lenses. Profoundly moving, humorous, and inspirational, it is a much-needed text for undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education, curriculum studies, theory and practice of teaching and learning, life history studies, chaos and complexity theory, and postmodernism.
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Chapter 2. Pedagogy of Perturbation

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Pedagogy of Perturbation

By their nature, open systems need challenges, perturbations, disruptions—these are the sine qua non of the transformative process. (Doll, 1993, p. 14)

There may not be play without perturbation; perturbation may reach the breaking point without a playful spirit. In the language of chaos and complexity theory, perturbation with the right amount of tension is beneficial for a system’s transformation. William Doll’s study of Prigogine started in the 1980s when educational scholars paid almost no attention to him. It was accidental, according to Doll; one of his colleagues made a casual comment: “If you like Piaget, why don’t you read Prigogine?” So he did, and a new world opened up.

Doll found the process of equilibrium, disequilibrium, and equilibration in Piaget’s theory intriguing. In particular the role of disequilibrium in driving developmental change fascinated him: Disturbances in an established equilibrium are “the stimulus or burr that excites organisms to reshape themselves” (Doll, 1993, p. 81). In the context of teaching, perturbations, errors, and confusions that are traditionally dismissed as negative elements become key elements for initiating students’ intellectual reorganization to reach a higher level. Reading Prigogine, who argues that transformative change or self-­←25 | 26→organization occurs “in far-­from-equilibrium situations” (Doll, 1993, p. 103), gave Doll another revelation that reinforced the idea that perturbation can be a positive factor in teaching and learning. The role of perturbation in both Piaget’s and Prigogine’s theories has been influential...

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