The Dynamics of Cognitive Performance: What Has Been Learnt from Empirical Research in Science Education


  • Dimitrios Stamovlasis



This paper discusses investigations in science education addressing the nonlinear dynamical hypothesis. Learning science is a suitable field for applying interdisciplinary research and predominately for testing psychological theories. It was demonstrated that in this area the paradigm of complexity and nonlinear dynamics have offered theoretical advances and better interpretations of empirical data. Research showed that besides linear modes of behavior, sudden transitions occur in cognitive performance and this has questioned basic theoretical and epistemological assumptions. The neo-Piagetian framework and motivational theories offering constructs for serving as predictors in various model are the local theories which are embraced by the CDS meta-theory. Sudden transitions are modeled by catastrophe theory (CT) the analyses of which reveal the crucial role of certain variables, namely the bifurcation factors. Beyond a critical value of the bifurcation factor, the state variable splits into two-attractor regions and becomes bimodal. The bifurcation effect induces uncertainty and unpredictability in the system, which oscillates between two states entering the regime of chaos. Then in state variables such as learning outcomes and achievement, sudden transitions from success to failure are expected. Catastrophe theory explains unexpected phenomena associated with school failure, dropouts, illicit behaviors, sudden attitude change, and creativity. Moreover CT could contribute in elucidating theoretical debates and conflicting empirical evidences.






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