The Fractal Morphology of Inquiry via Craig Dwyer

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The Fractal Morphology of Inquiry via Craig Dwyer

imagesIf, 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?”

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  1. Angél Kytle January 28, 2014 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    I love this connection to learning!!!!! Reminds me of when I read Margaret Wheatley’s work on leadership and the new science, connecting chaos theory to leadership. Though several years old, there are some interesting connections there as well. Thank you, Grant, for keeping our synapses firing!!!

    • glichtman January 28, 2014 at 11:20 pm - Reply

      Yes; I quote Wheatley in my upcoming book, and find so much resonance with the books that were formative in my thinking many years ago: The Dancing Wu Li Masters and The Tao of Physics. I actually just updated this post; when I was at the gym I realized I had constructed a simple fractal pattern in the one graphic in The Falconer when trying to demonstrate the power of “What if?”

  2. NigelReading|ASYNSIS (@ASYNSIS) January 29, 2014 at 4:22 am - Reply

    Nice analogies there from you both Craig & Grant.
    Education and learning is society’s collective consciousness,
    in the Giulio Tononni “Phi” maximum irreducible repertoire of states sense.
    Society itself is evolving and learning apace about the thermodynamics-led Constructal law and it’s Asynsis principle geometric signatures too.
    Here’s our latest news, publication this month in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong on the compelling relevance of beauty, optimisation and sustainability in architecture, design & wider society beyond:

  3. SEO March 26, 2014 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    I like to disseminate knowledge that I’ve accumulated through the season to help enhance
    group performance.

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