Phelps, R 2005, 'The potential of reflective journals in studying complexity in action', Complicity: an International Journal of Complexity and Education, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 37-54.
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As educators embrace theories of complexity to inform their teaching and research practice, theoretically relevant methods will be required to appropriately conduct and study complexity-based approaches to education. Action research has been identified as offering significant potential for studying complexity, acting as a form of ‘real life modeling’ for learning and teaching. In this paper it is argued that reflection, a key aspect of action research, can be a productive method for both studying and working with complexity in educational contexts. Reflective journals, more specifically, provide scope not only for gathering research data but also for promoting learning and change. As a teaching approach, reflective journals can reduce the impact of external control while providing opportunities to promote and document instability and disequilibrium. Reflective journals allow for documentation of emergence and bifurcation and embrace participants’ involvement in interpretation of data in inherently non-linear ways. Reflective journals assist to build up an holistic picture of the interplay between individuals’ histories and their current and emergent ‘state’, thus providing insight into ‘sensitivity to initial conditions’. This paper illustrates these theoretical ideas through a case study derived from a course in information and communication technology (ICT) for practicing teachers.