Using complexity thinking and MOOCs to disrupt current debates on educational futures.
Major changes in the world have led to the dawn of postnormal times, an age
characterised by uncertainty, unpredictability, rapid change, complexity, chaos and contradiction. In response, many have argued for a future focused reform in education. However, historic reform efforts have encountered unanticipated complexity that derailed or diluted their implementations. This thesis makes the case that past reform efforts have been characterised by a reductionist paradigm, and that this has served as a limitation. Instead, this study proposes testing whether a complexity theoretical framework might offer a more appropriate paradigm for understanding and implementing change in education. To test this, a sense-and- response positionality offered by complexity thinking was adopted. This involved designing a safe-to- fail experiment in the form of a MOOC to nudge the system towards the conditions for future focused change to emerge (responding). A complexity informed case study was used to make sense of this experiment (sensing). Findings from this research revealed that the system could be influenced in this way. However, secondary findings revealed a more nuanced reality that suggests negative feedback loops are acting to diminish the possibility of system wide future focussed change. This study concludes by recommending that a complexity thinking approach may serve to illuminate feedback loops in the system, and to identify sites for further intervention.