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Towards deconstructive nonalignment: a complexivist view of curriculum, teaching and learning

journal contribution
posted on 2021-01-05, 01:04 authored by Noel GoughNoel Gough
Complex systems are open, recursive, organic, nonlinear and emergent. Reconceptualising curriculum, teaching and learning in complexivist terms foregrounds the unpredictable and generative qualities of educational processes, and invites educators to value that which is unexpected and/or beyond their control. Nevertheless, concepts associated with simple systems persist in contemporary discourses of higher education, and continue to inform practices of complexity reduction through which educators and administrators seek predictability and control. I focus here on two specific examples of complexity reduction in higher education, namely, the widespread adoption of ‘constructive alignment’ as a curriculum design principle and the similarly widespread imperative for teaching to be an ‘evidence-based’ practice modelled on Western medical science. I argue that a totally ‘aligned’ curriculum risks being oppressive, but that tactics of deconstructive nonalignment can be deployed to mitigate this risk. I also argue that acknowledging the complexity of higher education should dispose researchers to value multiple and diverse concepts of evidence rather than reduce them to understandings privileged by Western medical science.


Publication Date



South African Journal of Higher Education






21p. (p. 1213-1233)


South African Journal of Higher Education [open access] - hosted by tellenbosch University Library and Information Service



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