Complexity theory offers some useful insights into the nature of continuity and change and is thus of considerable interest in both the philosophical and practical understanding of educational and institutional change. Complexity theory’s notion of emergence implies that, given a significant degree of complexity in a particular environment, or critical mass, new properties and behaviours emerge that are not contained in the essence of the constituent elements, or able to be predicted from a knowledge of initial conditions. These concepts of emergent phenomena from a critical mass, associated with notions of lock-in, path dependence, and inertial momentum, contribute to an understanding of continuity and change that has not hitherto been readily available in other theories of or perspectives on change.
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