The Complex Journey of William Doll, Teacher Educator
Chapter 2. Pedagogy of Perturbation
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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