If, like me, you are less than a mathematical prodigy, any study of Chaos Theory other than the popular model for civilians is beyond our reach. But even at that non-rigorous level, we find that there are few concurrences more elegant, observable, repeatable, and downright beautiful than the fractal patterns of our world. We find them everywhere: in nature, the stock market, fluid flow, the beating of wings. Thus it was marvelous to read a blog by Craig Dwyer in which he finds the fractal nature of inquiry. Why did I never think of this? If fractals are everywhere, why not at the heart of learning? I realized that I had crudely and unknowingly expressed a similar finding with a simple graphic in my book, The Falconer, when I used a series of repeating circles and arrows to describe the expanding quality of the question “What if”, where other questions lead to linear, non-fractal results.
Craig tells us a memorable story of his own learning and then summarizes it:
- My inquiry was unbridled and without purpose.
- It was driven my curiosity and my desire to know.
- I initiated it, and I chose the direction.
- It started with a provocation from a book that touched something inside me (you can say my heart or my brain if you wish, but I won’t go there).
- I remember it, a year later.
…how often do we let our children just wonder. How often do we let them get lost and explore? I am all for structured inquiry. It is necessary for learning about learning. And, I am all for purpose, or intentionality. Being focused on what we are learning helps us to see how we are learning.
And then, like the wondrous images you will know or find by Googling “fractals”, he give us an image of the morphology of inquiry. It is not a pyramid or a spiral or a ladder.
Simple, elegant, memorable, easy to apply. Looks like a tree, but that is only because trees, like much of nature, are fractal in design. They grow according to the Constructal Law. Take this back to your PLC. Ask “How can we create circumstances at our school where inquiry and learning look/evolve like this?”