GSE Publications

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

December 2006


This paper reports on the efficacy of a professional development framework premised on four complex systems design principles: Feedback, Adaptation, Network Growth and Self-organization (FANS). The framework is applied to the design and delivery of the first two years of a three-year study aimed at improving teacher and student understanding of computational modeling tools. We demonstrate that structuring a professional development program around the FANS framework facilitates the development of important strategies and processes for program organizers such as the identification of salient system variables, effectively distributing expertise, adaptation and improvement of professional development resources and activities and building technological, human and social capital. For participants, there is evidence to show that the FANS framework encourages: professional goal setting, engagement in a strong professional community and personal autonomy by enabling individualized purpose—all fundamental components in promoting self-organization. We discuss three meta-level themes that may account for the success of the FANS framework: structure vs. agency, exploration vs. exploitation and short-term vs. long-term goals. Each illustrates the tension that exists between competing variables that need to be considered in order to work effectively in real world complex educational systems.


Postprint version. Published in Journal of Science Education and Technology, Volume 15, Issues 5-6, December 2006, pages 353-366.
Publisher URL:


complex systems, educational technology, professional development



Date Posted: 06 March 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.