Complex Dynamic Systems View on Conceptual Change: How a Picture of Students’ Intuitive Conceptions Accrue From Dynamically Robust Task Dependent Learning Outcomes


  • Ismo T. Koponen
  • Tommi Kokkonen
  • Maiji Nousiainen



We discuss here conceptual change and the formation of robust learning outcomes from the viewpoint of complex dynamic systems (CDS). The CDS view considers students’ conceptions as context dependent and multifaceted structures which depend on the context of their application. In the CDS view the conceptual patterns (i.e. intuitive conceptions here) may be robust in a certain situation but are not formed, at least not as robust ones, in another situation. The stability is then thought to arise dynamically in a variety of ways and not so much to mirror rigid ontological categories or static intuitive conceptions. We use computational modelling to understand the generic dynamic and emergent features of that phenomenon. The model is highly simplified and idealized, but it shows how context dependence, described here by an epistemic landscape structure, leads to the formation of context dependent robust states that can be viewed as attractors in learning, and how owing to the sharply defined nature of these states, learning appears as a progression of switches from one state to another, giving thus the appearance of conceptual change as switches from one robust state to another. Finally, we discuss the implications of the results in directing attention to the design of learning tasks and their structure, and how empirically accessible learning outcomes might be related to these underlying factors.






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