Towards a complex systems meta-theory of learning as an emergent phenomenon

Education as a system of systems: rethinking learning theory to tackle complex threats to our societies

Reda SadkiTheory

In their 2014 article, Jacobson, Kapur, and Reimann propose shifting the paradigm of learning theory towards the conceptual framework of complexity science. They argue that the longstanding dichotomy between cognitive and situative theories of learning fails to capture the intricate dynamics at play. Learning arises across a “bio-psycho-social” system involving interactive feedback loops linking neuronal processes, individual cognition, social context, and cultural milieu. As such, what emerges cannot be reduced to any individual component. To better understand how macro-scale phenomena like learning manifest from micro-scale interactions, the authors invoke the notion of “emergence” prominent in the study of complex adaptive systems. Discrete agents interacting according to simple rules can self-organize into sophisticated structures through across-scale feedback. For instance, the formation of a traffic jam results from the cumulative behavior of individual drivers. The jam then constrains their ensuing decisions. Similarly, in learning contexts, the construction of shared knowledge, norms, values …

Learning for knowledge creation WHO Scholar programme

Learning for Knowledge Creation: The WHO Scholar Program

Reda SadkiGlobal health, Learning strategy, Scholar Approach

Excerpted from: Victoria J. Marsick, Rachel Fichter, Karen E. Watkins, 2022. From Work-based Learning to Learning-based Work: Exploring the Changing Relationship between Learning and Work, in: The SAGE Handbook of Learning and Work. SAGE Publications. Reda Sadki of The Geneva Learning Foundation (TGLF), working with Jhilmil Bahl from the World Health Organization (WHO) and funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, developed an extraordinary approach to blending work and learning. The program started as a series of digitally offered courses for immunization personnel working in various countries, connecting in-country central planners, frontline workers, and global actors. The program was designed to address five common problems in training (Sadki, 2018): the inability to scale up to reach large audiences; the difficulty in transferring what is learned; the inability to accommodate different learners’ starting places; the need to teach learners to solve complex problems; and the inability to develop sufficient expertise …