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The complexity of a participatory democracy in a public primary classroom : the interplay of student… Collins, Steve 2002

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The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy in a Public Primary Classroom: The Interplay of Student Autonomy and Responsibility by Steve Collins Bachelor of Arts, University of British Columbia, 1979 Diploma in Special Education, University of British Columbia, 1984 Master of Arts, University of British Columbia, 1991 A Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in The Faculty of Graduate Studies Department of Curriculum Studies We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard The University of British Columbia May, 2002 ©Steve Collins, 2002 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date DE-6 (2/88) The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy ii Abstract This dissertation presents a case study of a grade one-two class in the suburbs of Vancouver. The twenty-two students are diverse in terms of academic ability, culture, language, age, and personality. Participatory Democracy is researched. Participatory Collaborative Action Research is the methodology. The researcher, classroom teacher, and the students themselves, are immersed in the research setting as partners. Participatory Democracy is an inclusive arrangement where classroom members contribute to decision-making affecting the classroom. Therefore, the research methodology and the research topic are the same activity in which reflection by the participants yields both data and learning outcomes. The research and the classroom community develop together. Within this social orientation, autonomy and responsibility are investigated. An analysis of each concept and their relationship is offered. Possibilities for shared authority are also examined. These and other elements are conceptually intertwined and not easily separated. Complexity Theory is presented as a way of framing classroom research. A Participatory Democratic classroom is conceived of as a dynamic adaptive system, similar to an organism or society. This community is understood ecologically. It is self-organizing and continually co-evolving. The importance of a sense of community as a context for learning about social elements becomes evident. An understanding of autonomy, responsibility, shared authority, and their relationship is demonstrated by children through their friendships and sometimes through verbal expression. The students and teacher establish negotiated, dynamic boundaries in which students express their autonomy within the limits of responsibility to the community. Since participation The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy iii depends on discourse, non-verbal active discourse is encouraged in this community as legitimate communication and a support for language development. Authority, understood as embedded in the community, with the teacher as its interpreter, is shared with students. Rule setting is complex and dynamic, not absolute. Rules are explained and negotiated. An effort to achieve consensus forms the basis of decision-making. Within a democratic community that promotes participation and appreciates the complexity of social structures, the teacher must promote a sense of community, negotiate curriculum, negotiate frames for behavior and learning, plan and assess collaboratively, and reflect on the constantly changing complexity of the classroom community. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy iv Table of Contents Abstract n Table of Contents i v List of Tables « List of Figures x Acknowledgments >o Chapter 1: Troubling Democracy , 1 Research Directions 5 Overview of the Dissertation 5 Chapter 2: Exploring Concepts 8 Participatory Classroom Democracy 11 Autonomy and Responsibility 14 Authority 21 The Teacher's Authority i 22 Rules in a Meaningful Learning Community 23 Summary of the Concept of Participatory Democracy 24 Chapter 3: A Community Emerges 26 Process and Products 27 Personal and Cultural Knowledge 28 I^ eaming by Doing 29 Class Meetings and Cooperative Rule Setting 30 Two Examples of Democratic School Structures 32 The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy Basic Schools 33 Democratic Schools 35 Summarizing Ideals and Acknowledging Complexity 39 Chapter 4: Community and Complexity Theory 43 Disequilibrium • 49 Order and Chaos 51 Self-Organization 52 Ecology 54 Co-Evolution 56 Emergent Properties 59 Shared Consciousness 59 Chapter 5: Participatory Collaborative Action Research 61 The Definition, History, and Development of Action Research 63 Practice and Theory 66 Collaborative Action Research 67 Collaboration 70 Authentic Participation 71 Power Differential 72 Language and Discourse 75 Ethics 76 Rationale for the Inclusion of Students 80 Ethical Obligation 81 Benefits to Research 82 Professional Interest and Gains in Learning 82 The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy Relating Inclusion of Students to the Tenets of the Ideal Methodology 83 Organic Collaboration 84 Authentic Participation 84 Power Differential 85 Language 86 Summary of Research Model 87 A Specific Research Plan 88 The Best Laid Plans 91 Method of Analysis of Data 94 Chapter 6: Emergent Understandings 96 Four Emergent Properties 96 Class Meetings 98 Seven Problem Solving Strategies 101 Projects 102 Role Play 103 Complexity 105 Process and Reflection 106 Progress and Prediction Ill Turbulence 113 The Edge of Chaos 114 Self-Organization 116 Activity Frames 118 Diversity and Creativity 120 Inclusion and Participation 121 The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy vii Asymmetry 124 Shared Consciousness 125 Chapter 7: Democracy 127 Self-interest 128 Community as a Context for Autonomy and Responsibility 129 Participation, Discourse, and Action 137 Inclusion for Participation 137 Active Discourse 145 Authority 149 Community as Authority 150 Authority by Assent 155 Negotiating Authority 156 Asymmetry 158 Rules in a Democratic Classroom 160 Collaborative Decision-Making 166 Chapter 8: The Teacher's Jobs 175 Promoting a Sense of Community 178 Negotiating a Curriculum 184 Framing 190 Planning and Assessment 194 Reflection 196 Chapter 9: Small Beginnings 200 Research Directions Revisited 207 Extending the Literature 209 The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy viii Ethics Revisited 212 Imagine 213 References 221 The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy List of Tables Table 3.1: The Structure of Basic Schools 34 Table 4.1: Old and New Economics and a Parallel to Old and New Educational Practice... 47 Table 5.1: Ethical Frameworks 77 Table 5.2: Weekly Time Commitments of Participants 91 The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy x List of Figures Figure 6.1: Four Significant Developments Emerge 97 Figure 7.1: Roy's Journal 142 The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy xi Acknowledgments The collaboration that resulted in this dissertation extended beyond the Collaborative Action Research described later. There were many collaborators. Dot Clouston and her young assistants made the research possible. I have the best committee possible: Gaalen Erickson, Linda Farr Darling and, arguably the most helpful thesis advisor on this planet, Tony Clarke. My wife Debby is always supportive and patient but she has also co-evolved with this dissertation into an excellent editor - not just terms of spelling and grammar, but in terms of input into the content based on her experiences as a primary teacher. Many people have read and discussed this work with me: My father, my kids' piano teacher Donna, my Aunt Sylvia in Toronto via daily e-mails, and my sister-in-law, Karen, who teaches grade 2. There were many interesting discussions with neighbors, friends, relatives, and other teachers. My student teachers have been unwitting victims of my dogma. On campus at the University of British Columbia, many graduate students and faculty have been very generous with their time and thoughts. My "Ph.D. community" is broad, diverse, and has porous boundaries. This work is a complex, almost living entity. It is not yet finished. In fact, I believe we are still very near the beginning. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 1 Chapter 1: Troubling Democracy One day when the teacher was absent, a teacher on call (TOC) took her place. As I entered the room, I could tell that it had been a somewhat stressful day for her, likely due to the usual testing of limits by the students. Jerry had the most difficulty with disruptions to the classroom routine. As he was poking and otherwise distracting his neighbors during the class meeting, he became the object of the TOC's attention. "Two more and I'll have to send you to the office because what's happening is you're disrupting people who are sharing. It's a class meeting, not a fooling around time." The TOC attempted to assert her authority by speaking in this manner to Jerry for quite some time. "I've got in your goal book that you're not supposed to be calling out. That's your goal. You really want to stop that, right?" This monologue continued. Jerry received a second strike. The third strike was pending and apparently it was coming closer and closer but never seemed to arrive. I suppose if it had, that would have been the end of the threats and the TOC would either have had to follow through or lose credibility and leverage. Then a visitor arrived with bubble gum for the class and some children started talking out of turn. The TOC seized the gum explaining to the class "This is for after the class meeting but if you keeping talking and playing with other people's hair, you won't get your bubble gum." She then recited a list of rules for expected behavior. It was interesting to note the shifting of relationship among students and teacher as abstract principles, such as authority, became tangible in the minds of seven and eight years olds when associated with concrete items like bubble gum. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 2 Many of the concepts discussed in this dissertation severely challenge this author's ability to adequately describe them directly with words. They are complex, associated with emotions, and involve abstract principles. I have used descriptive vignettes in an effort to immerse the reader in the situations encountered during the research. In this way, it is hoped that the reader will more readily associate the accompanying text-based explanations with actual experiences to more clearly understand them, helping to fill the void left by the limitations of text. In the process, it is expected that the reader may make associations of their own, further contributing to the life of the ideas under discussion. For example, the vignette at the beginning of this chapter is intended to bring back common memories involving authority during school experiences. This is in contrast to a discussion of schools' ideal of preparing students for democratic living. The term democracy has many and varied meanings. There is some appeal in using the term in a sloganized fashion because there is a broad acceptance of it as a good thing in spite of multiple interpretations. Therefore the idea of a democratic classroom may have instant, if uncritical, appeal but its actual application may be difficult due to a lack of specific meaning or common understanding. Universally, democracy refers to at least some degree of governance by those being governed. In other words, a democratic community is constructed by its members. This implies that individual members have some autonomous choice regarding the values and activities of the community. But there must be some limits on this personal freedom if the community is to avoid collapsing into chaos, with each individual pursuing his or her own self-centered wishes. So a democracy exists somewhere between the extremes of individual pursuits and a regard for the good of the community as a whole. It is this interplay of the autonomy of the individual and his or her responsibility to the collective in the formation of a democratic classroom that is at the center of this dissertation. This is not a simple dichotomy, but rather, a The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 3 complex unity. It will become clear that the popular conception of democracy which stereotypically is associated with professional politics, voting, representation, etc., all of which seem to breed apathy, cynicism, and contempt, is not the conception that is advocated here. Rather, I define democracy as inclusive participation in one's community through discourse, resulting in continuous changes within that community. Perhaps by using a less standard definition of the term, I risk confusing my readers. In fact, it is my intention to reclaim the concept of democracy from stereotypical interpretations for educators and students who seek more involvement in governance at the local, provincial, national, and global level. In other words, I hope to replace, improve, or at least clarify the conception of democracy. This dissertation is a study of the types of autonomous decisions that primary students can reasonably make and the responsibility that is required of them for these decisions to be productive. I explore the nature and significance of responsibility related to various levels of autonomy. As well, authority structures are examined as an integral part of the relationship between responsibility and autonomy. The interaction of these three concepts and others are examined in the context of teaching philosophies, classroom activities, social structures, and power arrangements in a learning community. Supported by both current and classical educational writers, I theorize that elevated levels of autonomy, and therefore, elevated levels of responsibility and shared authority, enable students to better learn about social structures, such as community, democracy, and social dynamics, such as collaboration. Further, I argue that curriculum becomes more meaningful when there are opportunities for it to be negotiated within the classroom community. I also predict that increasing autonomy and responsibility in students is a reciprocal process. That is, to increase autonomy, some increase in responsibility is required. Similarly, responsibility is increased by providing more opportunity for autonomy. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 4 Many educational documents call for the development of responsibility and autonomy in students. British Columbia's recent Integrated Resource Packages state as one of three principles of learning that "Learning is both an individual and a group process" (Ministry of Education, Skills and Training, 1996, p.l). The Mandate of the Ministry of Education designates a goal for human and social development: "...to develop a sense of social responsibility, and a tolerance and respect for the ideas and beliefs of others" (p.l). At the local level, the Richmond School District (1997) wishes to enable its students "...to enjoy a productive and satisfying life and to be positive, responsible participants in our democratic society and the global community" (p. 1). L'Ecole Bilingue Elementary School (1996) is representative of Vancouver Elementary schools in including among its values "...tolerance and respect for others; individuality, worth and the needs of the individual; collaboration, co-operation and common goals..." (p. 1). Socially oriented values such as social responsibility, tolerance, respect, democracy and individuality arc promoted in most curriculum plans of government, school boards, and schools. There is widespread agreement as to the value of these concepts among education stakeholders but there is little consensus as to what they mean in school practice. While there is agreement that the purpose of school is to cultivate responsible citizens who contribute effectively to society, the most prevalent social structure in schools is one that is imposed on students by teachers, administrators, and the physical setting. The purpose of this structure is efficient management of large numbers of students for academic learning. The social context of learning becomes incidental, and even secondary to more easily measured indicators of achievement, such as test scores, grades, or class standing. On one hand, socially oriented values are promoted, while on the other, concerns regarding the perpetuation of the system itself dominate the practice. This tension between the social and the systemic provides a challenge for teachers concerned with providing the best opportunities for the cultivation of responsible democratic citizens. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 5 The value of this research lies in its effort to bridge the gap between the ideals of a social learning community and the authoritative effects of the hierarchical public education system. This dissertation explores possibilities for autonomous student learning within the constraints of social responsibility as an alternative to an overly extrinsically driven learning environment. It also explores the nature of authority and how it might be shared in a participatory democratic classroom. Anticipated implications of this study are that teachers will be able to maximize student participation in decisions about learning; they will provide direct experience in learning how to live democratically; and they will allow students more ownership of their learning due to greater relevance, both socially and intellectually, to their community as the context of learning. Research Directions There are two overarching topics which this research addresses. Firstly, the nature of democracy as a participatory process in a public primary classroom is explored. Of particular interest are the elements of student autonomy and responsibility, their relationship, and the factors that influence them. Related to this interplay is the nature of authority in a Participatory Democratic classroom. Secondly, Complexity Theory is used as a lens to interpret the events and activities in the classroom under study. As such, the classroom community is regarded as ecological and in a state of continuous evolution. Overview of the Dissertation This first chapter introduces the topic of the dissertation. It defines the main terms. Democracy is said to be regarded as inclusive and participatory. The significance of the concepts of autonomy, responsibility, and authority is discussed. Research directions are summarized and The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 6 this overview is presented. In the second chapter, a review of the literature seeks a philosophical grounding on which to base the empirical research. The discovery of the interconnectedness of the identified concepts and therefore their complexity is a salient result of this review. The ways in which these theoretical ideas relate to, change, and are changed by events in the primary classroom are of interest in this research. The third chapter identifies some of the desirable tenets of an ideal democratic school community. The discussion includes the topics of Process and Products, Personal and Cultural Knowledge, Learning by Doing, Class Meetings, and Cooperative Rule Setting, Two established approaches to socially oriented schooling, Basic Schools and Democratic Schools, are analyzed. Their successes and short comings are reported. Diversity, turmoil, unpredictability, and constant change are claimed to be factors to be anticipated in a democratic school environment. The fourth chapter introduces Complexity Theory as a lens with which to view the participatory democratic classroom community. The community is regarded as a living adaptive system. The principles of disequilibrium, order and chaos, self-organization, ecology, co-evolution, emergent properties, and shared consciousness are applied to classroom experience. Chapter five develops a research methodology known as Participatory Collaborative Action Research. It advocates the authentic participation of all members of the research setting, including the children in the classroom, in pursuing the goals of the research project. All engage in a cyclical process of planning, acting, observing, reflecting, replanning, etc. Collaboration, authentic participation, power differential, language, and ethics are identified as major elements for consideration in taking on this type of research. The specific plan for this research project is presented and the method for analyzing the data is discussed. In chapter 6, Complexity Theory helps to frame the events and ideas that emerged from The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 7 the research experience. Four major classroom developments are first described as emergent properties of our community. They are Class meetings, Seven Strategies for Problem Solving, a Project-Based Approach, and Role Play. Other topics presented include Process and Reflection, Progress and Prediction, Turbulence, the Edge of Chaos, Self-Organization, Activity Frames, Diversity and Creativity, Inclusion and Participation, Asymmetry, and Shared Consciousness. Democracy is the topic of chapter seven. A sense of community is found to be the pre-requisite for enacting and understanding autonomy and responsibility. Various approaches used to promote inclusion are summarized. The idea of active discourse is defined as an extension to standard verbal interaction. It facilitates participation and provides opportunities to acquire verbal language abilities. The process of negotiating the sharing of authority is discussed, including issues concerning collaborative decision-making. The eighth chapter examines the roles of a teacher that are of particular importance in a participatory democratic classroom. These are the promotion of a sense of community, the negotiation of a curriculum, negotiating activity frames, innovative planning and assessment, and reflection. The ecological view of the classroom demands teacher-student negotiated learning. The final chapter summarizes the main outcomes of the research including the complex interplay among autonomy, responsibility, authority, and other social elements. A sense of community is paramount to understanding these concepts from an ecological rather than reductionist point of view. Complexity Theory aided this understanding by enabling us to recognize the inseparability of these social elements from each other, the community, the participants, and the school environment. Also presented is an ethical dilemma regarding student participation in research. Finally, based on the knowledge gained from the research experience, a fictional scenario is offered as a possible continuance of the developing ideas that first emerged from small beginnings during the course of the research project. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 8 Chapter 2: Exploring Concepts The classroom teacher, the children, and I had begun using role play as an alternative means of practicing problem solving strategies. This started very successfully. We presented the actors with fictitious but familiar problems such as how to include people in a soccer game. The children were very enthusiastic about this way of exploring social problem solving. In fact, they were so excited that Donna and I had to intervene occasionally to remind them of their manners and the necessary self-control needed for this kind of activity. But for most students it was an enjoyable alternative to the sit-and-listen format of earlier class meetings. We decided to try this activity again on the following Friday. On Friday, Donna was called away to an important meeting. The kids were affected by the change in routine and, typically, were testing behavioral limits because their teacher was not present. I was left to conduct the activity (with the vice-principal anxiously poking his head into the classroom every few minutes). The plays proceeded with relative calm but with increasing excitement. We had time for one more. In retrospect, I might have been more careful in choosing the combination of actors. I might have been more cautious, realizing that the tone of the class was pushing the boundaries of hyperactivity. I might have wisely ended the activity on a successful note. But no. Instead, three very animated actors began to solve their staged problem by running frantically after each other in the classroom, cheered on wildly by the audience. I ended the play at the point where Jerry pretended to cut Jason's head off with his ruler. Clearly, what was an enthusiastic but controlled activity had become chaos. On this day, the opportunity to define and enforce limitations was missed. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 9 If the opening of chapter one described a rigid authoritarian approach, the vignette that begins this chapter reveals the other extreme where students' behavior seems unconstrained by any extrinsic rules or expectations. Yet the result is equally disturbing. The presence of extrinsic motivators, or their absence, in and of themselves do not provide a successful learning environment. The interplay of student autonomy and responsibility to their learning community requires attention to intrinsic motivators and social structures. Jacques Ellul (1964) describes the spectre of "technique", or the technical, that seeks efficient structures and technologies at the expense of human interests. Technique becomes a self-perpetuating force whose means becomes its ends. In schools, the systems, bureaucracies, and politics begin to serve themselves rather than the social ends of schooling. Gary Fenstermacher (1992) highlights the distance of policy making systems from those pursuing educative agendas and argues that when the two are distant, the agenda of the technical system prevails in schools. Distant mandates from above guide local practice. In a similar fashion, Jean Lave (1996) describes the "decontextualized" learning that occurs in formal education and argues that schools commonly fail to embrace the social context mat situates learning. To further highlight how technical or structural influences tend to overwhelm the social context of learning, Jerome Bruner (1996) discusses two divergent conceptions of how the mind works. The computational view is concerned with the management of information in much the same way that a computer calculates, sorts, and compiles information. Context is a mere backdrop for these activities. The cultural view suggests that the human mind is connected to culture and could not exist without it. In this latter view, reality is represented by symbols that are shared among the culture. In this way, culture makes meaning for encounters with the world. Culture, then, though itself a human construction, bom forms and makes possible the workings of a distinctively human mind. In this view, learning and thinking are always situated in The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 10 a cultural setting and always dependent upon the utilization of cultural resources (p. 4). Similarly, Thomas Sergiovanni (1994) describes social structures as either "gesellschaft" or "gemeinschaft". He contends that schools are currently organized primarily around a gesellschaft model, a formal bureaucratic structure. There is a predominant focus on the technical mechanisms that facilitate the effective operation of the system. Gemeinschaft refers to a unity of being in a shared place where a sense of belonging emerges around shared goals or a set of values. Although gesellschaft may be necessary for progress and efficiency, Sergiovanni believes that the emphasis in educational structures needs to be shifted more toward gemeinschaft. He envisions schools and classrooms where a sense of belonging prevails. He refers to this as a "community of mind". Relationships within a community of mind are based not on contracts but on understandings about what is shared and on the emerging web of obligations to embody that which is shared....similar to those found within a family (p. 7). Of course gemeinschaft and gesellschaft are merely descriptions of polar opposites that do not exist as pure entities in real life. The purpose of using them is to clarify thinking about societal values and structure. All schools contain elements of gemeinschaft and gesellschaft and are in need of both. Gesellschaft is important for progress. Sergiovanni advocates creating a core of gemeinschaft within the gesellschaft structure of public schools. In this paradigm, then, school should be a place of belonging and learning within the context of a socially oriented community. This context provides meaning for the technical skills and goals important to the advancement of society. Social responsibility, tolerance, respect, democracy, and individuality are the tenets of government imperatives of schooling at every level. We can assume that they are values that we all desire of our citizenry and that schools are charged with the work of preparing our young for citizenship. Each of the authors cited above The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 11 provide arguments regarding how a focus on the technical over the social raises obstacles against this goal of citizenship. If it is our collective desire to foster a socially responsible citizenry, we must be cautious of an over reliance on computational thinking, isolated knowledge, dehumanized structures, less relevant policies, and an emphasis on a system of schooling that protects and perpetuates itself over the social structures that it is meant to serve. For these authors, a learning community relies on a social context in which learning is shared. A particular kind of democratic approach, in which all community members are encouraged to participate in the development of community values and activities yields a community that embraces the social context in support of relevant learning. Of course, when we begin to focus on the social context within the hectic, changeable, complex environment of the typical primary classroom, the neat, theoretical distinctions between contrived extremes like the social and the technical or autonomous and responsible behavior, seem very difficult to study or even identify. One cannot separate these elements from the classroom context since they are so intertwined. Even if one could isolate individual instances of, for example, a social orientation or an autonomous act, without the context in which they occur, then-existence is meaningless. We must be resigned to studying all of the parts as they are immersed in the context of a quite untidy whole. Participatory Classroom Democracy According to Bruner (1996), education is crucial to the formation of the Self (p. 34). He describes culture as shaping the minds of individuals. Meanings have their origin and significance in the culture. Symbol systems are the tools for organizing, understanding, and communicating meaning. In this way, culture can transmit and maintain its identity and way of life. Schools, for Bruner, are not a preparation for culture, but rather, are an embodiment of culture (p. 13). The The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 12 classroom, therefore, is not so much a place to prepare for citizenship as it is a society in itself. This society, if responsive to its members, provides relevance for the use of tools, understanding, and communication. The kind of democracy envisioned for the classroom is unlike the popular political democracy in which government is administered according to majority rule or through representation. A classroom democracy depends on the active participation of every member of that community. Michael Apple and Jeremy Beane (1995) who advocate "fully informed and critical participation" in classrooms describe democratic schools as: places where teachers and students plan collaboratively, make joint decisions, develop "communities for learning",... have a commitment to diversity,... and deal with conflict (cited in Rainer and Guyton, 1999, p. 122). For Bruner (1971), relevance is an essential element for learning. Learning is facilitated when the subject becomes one's own. It becomes part of one's thinking (p. 113). Bruner describes both social relevance and personal relevance. The former refers to learning that has some bearing on the problems facing society. The latter is learning that is self-rewarding, or intrinsic. For learning to become socially and personally relevant, it is necessary, at minimum, for the objectives of the learning activities to be clear to the student. If this is to be achieved, men plainly there will have to be much more participatory democracy in the formulation of lessons, curricula, courses of study, and the rest. For surely the participation of the learner in setting goals is one of the few ways of making clear where the learner is trying to get (Bruner, 1971, p. 114). Cunat (1996) defines democratic education as "the vital and democratic process of a learning community that recognizes and validates the individuality and responsibility of each participant" (cited in Rainer and Guyton, 1999, p. 122). This definition considers the process, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 13 not just the outcomes and structures. It emphasizes participation rather than only pursuing the will of the majority. Interactions are the key in developing communities. Bruner (1996) discusses the unique ability of human beings for intersubjectivity, or the ability to understand the minds of others. Through words, gestures, actions, etc., people are able to negotiate meanings based on common understanding of the context (p. 20). Institutionalized education tends to weaken our ability for intersubjectivity through the overuse of transmission or one way communication which minimizes the need for negotiation. The teacher, typically, is the person who directs the transmission and minimizes extraneous interactions. "Indeed, the very institutionalization of schooling may get in the way of creating a subcommunity of learners who bootstrap each other" (Bruner, 1996, p. 21). Bruner promotes the idea of a community of mutual learners. The teacher "orchestrates" the classroom activity. Being a learner among other learners does not reduce the teacher's authority but it does add the element of encouraging students to share that authority (p. 22). In this classroom, ways of thinking, learning, and speaking are negotiated and shared. If students share authority in a classroom, that has some implications regarding how individual choices are made and how the sum of all those individual choices affect the whole group. How sharing authority enhances freedom while maintaining collective organization is a vital aspect of this perspective that needs to be examined. With an emphasis on negotiation, processes, and interactions, this kind of participatory democracy escapes the simplicity and the quantification involved with the popular conception of democracy. This must be kept in mind as we attempt the perilous task of examining the elements of autonomy, responsibility, and authority, among many other mtertwining social elements within the context of a dynamic school community. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 14 Autonomy and Responsibility I wish to present autonomy and responsibility as intrinsically related concepts that permit freedom while maintaining organization within a community. Internalized responsibility that bounds student autonomy is a possible alternative to the extrinsic, systemic controls that often play the role of maintaining order in public schools. I examine the roots of this relationship, between autonomy and responsibility, and underscore the importance of the social context. This leads to an examination of the nature of authority and how it changes corresponding to the nature of the relationship between autonomy and responsibility. A discussion of autonomy and responsibility cannot take place without also discussing social interest This refers to the relation of self to others. Bruner (1996), suggests that to have an awareness of self, one also must have an awareness of the "Other" as a self. One's selfhood is defined through interactions with others and with society at large. Bruner describes "agency" and self-evaluation as universal components of selfhood. Agency is the belief that individuals can initiate and carry out activities. The success or failure of these activities is evaluated by the self. Bruner calls the quality of this evaluation self-esteem and emphasizes the importance of the culture of school in constructing one's self-esteem. Thomas Sergiovanni (1994, p.64) cites the work of Emile Durkheim (1961) in claiming that belonging is a basic human need. Sergiovanni (p.63) also cites Eric Erikson (1966) who believed that belonging provides us with the identity we need to function successfully as individuals and that our personal development presupposes identity with a community (p. 66). However, gesellschaft, or bureaucratic, schooling environments interpret belonging to be something to be earned, rather than a basic need and a basic right. Students often need to comply with the rules and to learn what the teacher asks in order to gain acceptance as a member of the group of learners. Those who do not comply and do not achieve are isolated (Sergiovanni, 1994, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 15 p. 67). School defined as a system for learning regards belonging as a reward for the attainment of designated skills. In this context, the academic content is often taught in isolation from any meaningful social significance to the students. But school defined as a community of learning assumes belonging is a foundation for learning. It is a prerequisite for participation in the social context where meaningful learning takes place. Given the general predisposition toward social interest and a need for belonging, a conceptual analysis of autonomy, responsibility, and the relationship between the two now follows. Examining the etymology of the word autonomy, shows that it means self rule. But no person ever makes decisions, creates understanding, or initiates behaviors that are not in some way based on the influence of others. Even events from the distant past, such as the actions of our parents during our upbringing, may have profound bearing on current decisions. Autonomy cannot be absolute (Dearden, 1977, p. 64). An autonomous person does not make decisions in a vacuum but rather makes rational choices within a framework of social interactions. Autonomy, like social interest, is a universal quality in people. It is not something that is taught, but rather something that is expressed relative to others. Dearden (1977) observes the presence of autonomous behavior at a very young age: Empirical substantiation of this is abundantly available in human action from the earliest years. Even the youngest children enjoy 'doing it for themselves' and resent being 'bossed'. They want to be fully present in their actions as agents, rather than to be simply the executors of the will of others (p. 70). Kohl (1991) accentuates the importance of individual autonomy in regard to a student's learning in / Won't Learn From You. He describes the mtrinsic power that children have to "not learn." Assent is a prerequisite for learning. The idea that a child must be a willing participant in The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 16 learning is not considered by those who structure schools for extrinsic control. If students are to make a choice about learning, this decision can be influenced by coercion, persuasion, or by addressing what students care about In the latter case, students will have some measure of control or creativity within the learning activity. But the assumption that autonomy is necessarily a good thing must be questioned. Children can make autonomous decisions to lie or do harm to others. It is also an ill-founded assumption that children always want to be autonomous. Some, in spite of their capacity for autonomy, have learned very well to be dependent and experience insecurity when unsure of adult imposed limitations to their behavior and decisions. Indeed there are many ways of conceiving of autonomy. It can relate to thinking for one's self (intellectual autonomy), having the courage of one's convictions (moral autonomy), or self-actualization of the individual (psychological autonomy). Even these separate ways of conceiving of autonomy are interrelated, overlapping, and complex. It is not intended that all these perspectives be analyzed in detail here. These differing orientations are mentioned to highlight the point that autonomy, as we have seen, is relative, not absolute, dependent on circumstances, situations, and prior experience. We may understand autonomy within each specific context but, in general terms, it involves choice in relation to some social structure. Even then, the exact nature of autonomy is unclear. "Consciousness appears to play very minor roles in choosing foci and making sense of things. Rather, consciousness seems to be limited to the role of monitoring the surface of cognition, of registering the sense that has already been made" (Davis, et al., 2000, p. 19). In terms of all the predetermining factors and the narrowness of our consciousness in relation to all that is beyond perception at any given time, it would appear that our sense of autonomy may be exaggerated. Clearly, it cannot be separate from a social structure or it would lose its meaning. A simple understanding does not seem fully possible. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 17 Let us now turn to the idea of responsibility. Responsibility seems to provide a framework that unites autonomy and social interest. The systemic side of schooling uses extrinsic structures to maintain order. The social side relies on intrinsically motivated social responsibility, but not merely to maintain order. A socially oriented approach also develops and adapts individual action relative to a changing community and meets individual needs and interests. As such, a learning community is in a constant state of evolution. Responsibility can be conceived of in many ways. Examined here are conceptions of responsibility as intrinsic, autonomous, caring, and respectful. The intrinsic aspect of responsibility is examined first with the help of Jerome Bruner: If...school is an entry into the culture and not just a preparation for it, then we must constantly reassess what school does to the young student's conception of his own powers (his sense of agency) and his sensed chances of being able to cope with the world both in school and after (his self-esteem). In many democratic cultures, I think, we have become so preoccupied with the formal criteria of "performance" and with the bureaucratic demands of education as an institution that we have neglected this personal side of education (Bruner, 1996, p. 39). Bruner (1966) compares intrinsic and extrinsic motives for learning. The will to learn, states Bruner, is intrinsic. Both the motivation and the reward for learning are in the activity of learning itself. Extrinsic motives can result in desired actions and their repetition but does not nourish learning for its own sake. Bruner discusses several kinds of intrinsic motivation but one of interest to this topic is the "deep human need to respond to others and to operate jointly with them toward an objective" (p. 125). So in a collaborative community, a sense of responsibility to the group is strong but, according to Bruner, it does not need to be demanded or imposed by an external force. Rather, responsibility to the group to which one feels a sense of belonging is self-The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 18 motivating. This leads to a view of responsibility as being an autonomous choice. "Learning is individual" (p. 116), asserts Bruner (1971), perhaps surprisingly, given the focus on the collective orientation of the foregoing discussion. However, he is not advocating individualized learning, but rather, he is commenting on the unique styles, preferences, and abilities of each learner. As such, he emphasizes the importance of sharing the process of education with the learner. I have long argued that explaining what children do is not enough; the new agenda is to determine what they think they are doing and what their reasons are for doing it...children can take on more responsibility for their own learning and thinking. They can begin to "think about their thinking" as well as about "the world" (Bruner, 1996, p.49). Learners must understand the purpose of activities and must have some say in choosing the goal of learning. If such autonomy exists, students are then responsible for their own learning. This is authentic responsibility. It is authentic since it emerges from personal choice as opposed to being imposed externally. In this case, individuals' actions are true to their own beliefs rather than falsely giving that appearance in order to conform to an expected belief system. In this sense, autonomy is responsibility. Bruner (1996) discusses the concept of agency by which we are presumed to be in control of our own actions. It is only because we are autonomous agents that we can be considered to be responsible. This concept of agency, combined with evaluation, results in self-esteem which is central to his construction of the concept of Self (p. 38). The school has a large role to play in nurturing a child's self-esteem. Responses to a child's agency, or autonomous decisions and actions, are crucial to an emerging sense of Self. Bruner recommends a "community of learners" approach in which students have a meaningful, participatory membership. He advocates granting more responsibility to students in the setting and achievement of goals in all aspects of the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 19 school's activities. In this sense, it appears that the terms autonomy and responsibility become synonymous to Bruner. Such a conception, earlier so dear to the progressive tradition in education, is also in the image of a constitutional principle that (in a democracy) rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin (p. 39). I argue that autonomy, taken to the extremes of self-interest, results in a focus on rights rather than responsibility and upsets the balance described by Bruner. In many political contexts, this focus on rights has indeed been the case. Our society's preoccupation with personal rights has perpetuated the divide between those with power and those without. In the participatory democracy advocated here for the classroom, autonomy is inseparable from responsibility. Personal decisions must be made in the light of a concern for the other members of the community. Responsibility must be rooted in a sense of care for self and others. If the responsibility argued for here rises from a concern for the other members of the community, this approaches the concept of caring that is promoted by Nel Noddings (1995b): "When we care, we want to do our very best for the objects of our care" (p. 676). But it is also the type of caring analogous to mat found in a close family where there is not only polite conversation and loving support, but also, a level of tolerance that permits passionate debate and disagreement among its members. Bruner, and Apple and Beane celebrate this relationship between diversity and inclusion. It is central to a concept of participatory democracy. The objective of skilled agency and collaboration in the study of the human condition is to achieve not unanimity, but more consciousness. And more consciousness always implies more diversity (Bruner, 1996, p. 97). A participatory democracy, therefore, can expect diversity as an inevitability. By their very nature, these communities are diverse, and that diversity is prized, not The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 20 viewed as a problem (Apple and Beane, 1995, p. 10). Diversity is not a destructive influence but rather an important element that promotes creative discourse and growth within a community. It must be accepted and, indeed, celebrated. The idea of responsibility as caring must also include respect. It is possible to have an intention of caring that does not always result in the best outcomes for those for whom we care. A selfish form of caring may result in actions that do not consider the autonomy or the dignity of the person being cared about. We may make caring but unilateral decisions for children 'for men-own good'. We may discourage a cared for person's ambition for self-advancement if we worry about the strain and detrimental effects that would result. In the extreme, we have heard tragic news stories of murder-suicide where a parent takes the lives of his or her children to spare them the hardships of life after the parent is gone. Thomas Lickona (1991) frames responsibility as an extension of respect: If we respect other people, we value them. If we value them, we feel a measure of responsibility for their welfare. Responsibility means ... orienting toward others, paying attention to them, actively responding to their needs. Responsibility emphasizes our positive obligations to care for each other (p. 44). This view of responsibility emerges from the idea of caring for people. Respect for others, according to Lickona, requires us to treat everyone, including those we dislike, as having dignity and rights equal to our own. As such, one will grant others the dignity of respecting their own autonomy. So a definition of responsibility as respectful caring means that this kind of caring yields a tolerance of diversity, inclusiveness, and respect of one's self, others, and environment. With the current focus on individual rights in our society, there often appears to be a tension between concern for self and concern for the community. In the theoretic ideal of caring framed here, the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 21 dualism between autonomy and responsibility diminishes as the wishes of the individual are mtrinsically connected to the wishes of all. Responsibility, as defined and situated here, is intrinsic, autonomous, caring, and respectful. It is not intended that this conception of responsibility is the only one or even, necessarily, the best. Other uses of the word are still valid and serve a purpose. I merely wish to underscore an ideal conception of responsibility as is useful in a participatory democracy. Many of the other meanings of responsibility can emerge from the ideal presented here. For example, the sense of responsibility as obligation can certainly evolve from a caring for the community. But the origin of responsibility, in this case, is in personal choice rather than in imposition. Again, rather than simplifying the concept, I have managed to multiply its possible meanings. Rather than isolate an idea of responsibility I have highlighted its interconnectedness to other social phenomena, autonomy in particular. These concepts do not stand on their own but are interdependent, making sense only in the context of a complex whole. The terms are so intertwined that it is best to examine the relationship between autonomy and responsibility within the context of the community in which they make sense of one another, in this instance, a participatory democracy. Authority It is clear now that the nature of the distribution of power or the role of authority in a learning community that embraces autonomy within social responsibility needs examination. I have suggested that the teacher no longer needs to be the sole enforcer of rules and the lone monitor of student behavior. I have also suggested that students are intrinsically socially responsive in agreement with Durkheim (cited in Sergiovanni,1994) who claimed that belonging is a basic human need. However, I do not expect this eliminates the need for a teacher's authority. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 22 The Teacher's Authority A teacher's authority is complex and ingrained in the school setting, a setting that still requires particular systems for efficiency and progress. A teacher has authority by virtue of being an adult. A teacher has authority by virtue of greater knowledge. A teacher's authority is institutionalized. But the teacher's role can be perceived as a participant in this community of learners. Authority need not be authoritarian. Bruner (1996) presents the glimmer of opportunity for those of us exploring the possible existence of a participatory democratic community within the firmly entrenched school structure. One of the most radical proposals to have emerged from the cultural-psychological approach to education is that the classroom be reconceived as just such a subcommunity of mutual learners, with the teacher orchestrating the proceedings. Note that, contrary to traditional critics, subcommunities do not reduce the teacher's role nor his or her "authority". Rather, the teacher takes on the additional function of encouraging others to share it. Just as the omniscient narrator has disappeared from modern fiction, so will the omniscient teacher disappear from the classroom in the future (p. 21). The omniscient or authoritarian teacher clearly does have some of their authority reduced or removed, but Bruner asserts that the basic role of the teacher as the one responsible for the classroom and the learning of students is not reduced. That responsibility is indeed increased through the risk and consideration involved in sharing. The teacher as an adult can use this unique role to guide other community members where he or she has already traveled. The teacher's knowledge can serve as a model for new learning for all, rather man pretending that knowledge is absolute. The teacher can be the liaison with the educational system to speak on behalf of the learning community. Lave (1996) conceives of the teacher as one participant among the community of learners, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 23 all of whom are negotiating their identities within that group. "School teaching is a special kind of learning practice that must become part of the identity-changing communities of children's practices if it is to have a relationship with their learning" (p. 161). Kohl (1969) also recognizes the changing meaning of authority for the participating teacher. The teacher in an "open" classroom makes a choice to give up some of his or her authority. This openness exists between authoritarianism and permissiveness. In an authoritarian classroom, behavior is legislated. In a permissive one, the teachers deny their own rights of membership and do not express their feelings or opinions. Yet a classroom can become more democratic. People can come to listen to each other and care about each other's thoughts and feelings. It takes patience, and a belief in the potential of the children....That is the price of developing a democratic classroom where pupils and teacher find ways of functioning together without invoking arbitrary or absolute authority. (Kohl, 1969, p.24) Rules in a Meaningful Learning Community In every classroom community, there needs to be rules for meaningful interaction and learning to take place. It is necessary to examine the nature of the authority of rules. Dearden (1977) speaks of the autonomous person as one who internalizes rules. Even though a rule may have originated externally, as in the case of adult-originated rules for children's behavior, the rule may eventually no longer appear as "an external law, sacred in so far as it has been laid down by adults; but as the free decision and worthy respect in the measure that it has enlisted mutual consent...at this point...writers are content to say that a rule must have been 'internalized'" (p. 59). In the classroom, the autonomous student can give assent to rules and authorities that govern their behavior. If teachers expect students to give assent and allow themselves to willingly accept their authority and their rules, a minimum requirement is that students are given reasons to do so. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 24 As Strike (1982) states, "...responsible choice depends on information and evidence. One cannot consistently demand that a person make a responsible choice and at the same time withhold information relevant to that choice" (p. 44). Explanations for the value of rules is necessary at the very least. Persuasion and honesty are needed for students to give their assent. "Education is a prerequisite of autonomy" (p. 44). We can give reasons, so indirectly drawing attention to the basis on which people can determine for themselves what to think and do. We can seek to generate motivational independence ... as necessary for autonomy (Dearden, 1977, p. 74). However, also according to Dearden, people are autonomous to the degree, "and it is very much a matter of degree" (p. 71), that what they think or do in important areas of their lives are determined by themselves. Autonomous actions cannot be explained without referring to a person's own activity of mind. Dearden lists such activities of mind as choosing, deciding, deliberating, reflecting, planning, and judging. I suggest that the degree to which students maximize the internalization of rules and authority is directly related to the extent to which students participate in the construction of rules governing their classroom behavior. "Reason-giving is thus not simply a process of transmission of ideas from teacher to student. It requires the participation of the student if it is going to succeed" (Strike, 1982, p.46). Summary of the Concept of Participatory Democracy In an effort to define a kind of democracy that might be effective in a primary classroom, I have focussed on the relationship between autonomy and responsibility and the resulting effects on the nature of authority. Bruner's (1996) writings, supported by others (e.g., Apple and Beane, 1995), have provided a basis for the participatory classroom democracy. A conceptual analysis of both autonomy and responsibility was offered which ultimately results in a complex, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 25 interactive union of the two terms which can be understood within the context of community. E.B. White once said "Make the work interesting and the discipline will take care of itself" (Cited in Wolk, 1998, p. 72). In a theoretical sense, individual autonomy is a relative concept which responds to interactions with other people and, in turn, is exercised for the betterment of the community. One's responsibility within a community is then mtrinsic, autonomous, caring, and respectful. In such a learning community, where students are motivated from within and concerned about others in the community, external mandates and management are less relevant Authority may be shared. In a practical sense, it is still very difficult to predict the exact nature of a school community in which autonomous responsibility and shared authority are promoted. In fact, it would appear that the features of such a community would include unpredictability and on-going change. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 26 Chapter 3: A Community Emerges I watched the dress rehearsal of the play near the end of the school year. The lines were memorized perfectly with several children able to recite the whole play. They spoke clearly with good expression. The singing was loud and joyful. Jerry felt the need to give the class a few instructions but they were very much in synch with each other. Right after the performance, we had a class meeting to debrief. There were very kind compliments for all. Hanna said she was thinking about the song from the play and everyone spontaneously began to sing. Based on the preceding conceptual analyses of autonomy, responsibility, and authority, I now explore the principles that shape a perspective on the interplay of these concepts. A socially oriented learning community where the unity of autonomy and responsibility, allowing the sharing of authority, forms the basis for a participatory democracy in the public classroom. But perhaps a feeling was experienced in reading the opening vignette of this chapter that illustrates a sense of community that is holistic and to be experienced rather than something that can adequately be described by analyzing its components. Any discussion of aspects of an adaptive system, such as a community, can be understood only through relating back to the context and the complex interconnections from which these aspects arose. Words are an attempt to represent personal experience and an effort to share our consciousness. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 27 Process and Products ...democratic educators understand that democracy does not present an "ideal state" crisply defined and waiting to be attained. Rather, a more democratic experience is built through continual efforts at making a difference. The undertaking is not an easy one; it is filled with contradictions, conflict, and controversy. (Apple and Beane, 1995^  p. 13) A participatory democratic classroom is as much about process as it is about products. Bruner (1996) states that "cultures have always been in the process of change..." (p. 97). This, according to Bruner, leads to a dilemma. Democratic classroom communities embrace change in the belief that improvement will result. At the same time, they realize that "a final and settled end can never be attained" (p. 97). Continuous renewal as an end in itself may seem unfulfilling to those who focus only on final products or tangible results. Yet an emphasis on the relevance of the actual activities results in less abstraction than traditional lessons presented out of context. It is not intended that a dualism between process and product be created in order to highlight the importance of process in constructing a democracy. Products are an inseparable part of process. In a democratic classroom, there are many opportunities to celebrate products, resolutions, and closure. Products in school are milestones along the continuing pathway of learning. They are usually arbitrarily defined points in which learning is reviewed to mark success, or perhaps failure, of the efforts of students and teachers. Examples of these are finished themes, test scores, graduations, reports, drawings, finished projects, and displays. There is some implication of ending or achievement. These results and events provide meaning for the process. They also point to the next stages in the process and preview what new products may look like. However, in traditional schools, products tend to overwhelm the process, giving a false sense of closure and an exaggerated regard for isolated achievements. Maintaining democracy is an ongoing struggle that includes both the process and products. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 28 Bruner suggests that inquiry is essential to the maintenance of a democratic community. Rather than relying solely on an externally mandated curriculum, a democratic classroom investigates and establishes social and practical issues within their community. Real life problems of the community become the object of inquiry. Again, the community itself becomes the curriculum, a union of process and products. As an example, he cites the work of an elementary class in trying to find their own solutions to oil spills. Presumably, even more local problems of concern to the community could be subjected to inquiry and the emerging narrative grounded in the reality of the students. Not only do the children acquire the basic skills of interpersonal communication, they also practice social problem solving, and gain a sense of authentic responsibility for their community and its environment. Personal and Cultural Knowledge Bruner (1996) is concerned about the interaction of personal and cultural knowledge. On one hand it can be argued that individual learning pursuits motivate a passion for learning, develop individual intelligences, and promote critical thinking. On the other hand, education serves to replicate and enhance the culture. Overindulgence on the personal side of knowledge risks losing cultural knowledge and causing social unpredictability. Fixation on the cultural side of knowledge could produce stagnation, hegemony, or conventionalism (p. 67). This dilemma parallels a autonomy/responsibility dualism characterized by self-interest or social conformity. As discussed, the dualism is resolved, theoretically, in caring relationships built on respect. Likewise, Bruner suggests that schools be communities of mutual learners based on social interest. In this case, the culture is the community and learning is based on practices in the community. The balance between individuality and group effectiveness gets worked out within the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 29 culture of the group.... My counsel is that we do not throw children in over their heads. It is only that we should give them the opportunity... to enter the culture with the awareness of what it is about and what one does to cope with it as a participant (p. 82). Clearly, each case is determined individually as no two democratic classrooms look alike. Each is constructed through the practice of individual students and the needs of the community. However, there is an awareness of the larger culture and an overarching regard for democratic values. Autonomous practice within a caring for the community implies a responsibility for learning at both the personal and cultural levels. Learning bv Doing The social nature of the negotiation and sharing offered above contrasts with more traditional notions of school that are designed with efficiency in mind (Bruner, 1971, p. 12). The intent is to assemble large quantities of information, more than would be possible for a single person in an apprenticeship arrangement. Large amounts of time are spent telling students things as opposed to showing or having them participate in the context in which it has meaning. Learning in school is abstract by virtue of being in school, separate from the context which brings meaning. But in Bruner's (1996) conception of school, the curriculum is not merely an array of individual academic subjects but rather the curriculum is the culture of the school itself. Beyond preparing for belonging to society through gaining competence in isolated disciplines, students are learning about the responsibility involved in belonging to society by being empowered through authentic practice. Bruner states that learning "is best when it is participatory, proactive, communal, collaborative, and given over to constructing meanings rather than receiving them" (p. 84). The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 30 It is apparent that participatory democratic classrooms are active places. In one of his earlier books, Bruner wrote "At its beginnings, [the learning process] is shot through with action. It is not surprising that children often hold the belief that minking something and doing something are somehow equivalent" (1966, p. 132). Later he wrote that "praxis" precedes "nomos", or practice motivates theory. "Knowledge helps only when it descends into habits" (1996, p. 152). Thomas Lickona (1991) echoes Bruner's thoughts: Children learn morality [respect and responsibility] by living it. They need to be a community - to interact, form relationships, work out problems, grow as a group, and learn directly, from first-hand social experience, lessons about fair play, cooperation, forgiveness, and respect for the worth and dignity of every individual (p. 90). Class Meetings and Cooperative Rule Setting Lickona (1991) identifies three basic conditions for creating communities based on respect and responsibility: (1) Students know each other. (2) Students respect, affirm, and care about each other. (3) Students feel membership in, and responsibility to, the group (p. 91). Lickona then offers extensive descriptions of numerous activities designed to address these three basic conditions. It is validating to know that such a resource is readily available for teachers interested in creating a community based on respect and responsibility in their classrooms. I will, however, draw attention specifically to the idea of class meetings that Lickona discusses because I believe they can serve as a starting point in creating a participatory classroom democracy. The class meeting provides an experience in democracy, making students full partners in The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 31 creating the best possible classroom. It changes the dynamics and deepens the bond between teacher and class, enhancing the teacher's influence as model and mentor at the same time that it enlarges the role and responsibilities of students. In the process, it fosters the moral growth of the group and its individual members (Lickona, 1991, p. 138). The class meeting is an authentic decision-making forum. A class meeting is held regularly or in response to special issues. It is an occasion for all students to participate in practicing their autonomy with responsibility to their classmates. Its basic tool is discourse and is instrumental in the creation of a sense of community. It fosters the development of communication skills, the ability to see another's perspective, self-esteem, habits of moral judgment through respect and responsibility, a support structure, decision-making skills, and the habit of participating (p. 139). One function of class meetings is cooperative rule setting. The teacher and students share the responsibility for establishing expectations for behavior and for consequences if rules are broken. If people participate in making their own rules, they are more likely to be followed (Lickona, 1991, p. 117). But cooperative rule setting is also practicing mutual respect and developing a caring moral community. Consequences are not punishments, but rather, another opportunity for moral education. Lickona regards consequences as teachable moments to help students understand the rules and to develop the motivation to follow it out of responsibility to self and the community (p. 117). This requires discussion, negotiation, and the full participation of students. I believe the use of class meetings and cooperative rule setting are one tangible instance of Bruner's (1996) call for shared authority. I also appreciate the view of R.S. Peters (1974) who recognizes the inevitability of the authority of the teacher. There must be rules and authoritative acts to enforce them. But Peters appeals to rationality in performing these "acts of social control." The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 32 And it is difficult to discern why the pupils, together with their teacher, should not have a say in determining what these rules should be. To delight in giving orders and in making rules for their own sake, or to provide backing for rules by appealing only to status is to be authoritarian; this is only one way of exercising authority and not a way which is rationally defensible (Peters, 1974, p. 54). Lickona also affirms the teacher's role as the "central moral authority" in the classroom. The teacher's unique responsibility is to create a good moral and learning environment. "Exercising authority, however, doesn't mean being authoritarian. Authority works best when it's infused with respect and love" (p. 111). This leads to sharing the responsibility for classroom discipline, as embodied in class meetings and cooperative rule setting. Two Examples of Democratic School Structures I argue that a participatory democracy can be pursued in a public school classroom where a commitment has been made for the community to continually reconstruct itself. If students, staff, parents, and members of the greater community have autonomous responsibility in a caring, respectful environment, both the individual and cultural curricula can be negotiated and harmonized. The basic tenets of such a community, that emerge from the writings of Bruner (1966,1971,1996), Lickona (1991), Noddings (1992,1995), and others, include: valuing the process along with the products of learning, integrating personal and cultural knowledge, students and teachers actively participating in the construction of meaning, and teachers sharing authority but not abandoning it. Included in the activities that support these ends are the use of class meetings, cooperative rule setting, and the teaching of moral values. To illustrate the preceding concepts, I now describe two initiatives in which a socially oriented, moral approach to schools is taken. Ernest Boyer's (1995) book Basic Schools and The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 33 Michael Apple and Jeremy Beane's (1995) book Democratic Schools provide descriptions of schools that avoid the hierarchical, systemic influences of traditional schools. These two perspectives are contrasted to further refine the vision developed in this paper and to underscore the unity of student autonomy and responsibility in an ideal learning community. Boyer has developed a clear and detailed school program based on social values such as responsibility and respect. However, student autonomy or student assent are not discussed as an authenticating factor in promoting responsibility and commitment to the overarching social values of the school community. Apple and Beane focus on individual choice and autonomy within a commitment to the democratic ideals of various unique school communities. However, the inherent diversity results in an approach that perpetuates conflict and a school program that may lack clarity and predictability. Basic Schools Boyer's Basic Schools are built around a very clear framework. There are four main values, each with "sub-values" which have sub-values of their own. The hierarchical structure provides a clear organization of the Basic School's values. The framework is applicable to any school that wishes to adopt a community focus and is flexible in accommodating unique situations. Indeed, the framework is suggested rather than prescribed. Each Basic School articulates the values that distinguish its community. The four main tenets of Basic Schools are: (1) The School as Community, (2) A Curriculum with Coherence, (3) A Climate for Learning, and (4) A Commitment to Character (Table 3.1). Each tenet has sub-tenets which each focus on particular community values. For example, with regard to a Commitment to Character, the Basic Schools concern themselves with the ethical and moral development of the children. They emphasize seven Core Virtues in developing personal and civic responsibility. These include honesty, respect, responsibility, compassion, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 34 self-discipline, perseverance, and giving. Living with Purpose means that students apply the lessons of the core virtues in all parts of their lives. The following table visually outlines the hierarchy of the tenets of Basic Schools. The Basic School The School as Community A Curriculum with Coherence A Climate for Learning A Commitment to Character • A Shared Vision • Centrality of Language • Patterns to Fit Purpose • Teachers as Leaders • Core Commonalities • Resources to Enrich Parents and Partners The Life Cycle The Use of Symbols Membership in Groups A Sense of Time and Space Response to the Aesthetic Connections to Nature Producing and Consuming Living with Purpose • Measuring Results Standardized Tests Portfolios Performance Tasks Surveys of Parents and Teachers Self-Assessments Services for Children Core Virtues Honesty Respect Responsibility Compassion Self-discipline Perseverance Giving Living with Purpose Table 3.1: The Structure of Basic Schools The Basic School is concerned with the ethical and moral dimensions of a child's life. The goal is to assure that all students, on leaving school, will have developed a keen sense of personal and civic responsibility. ...[the Basic School] promotes excellence in living, as well as learning (Boyer, 1994, p. 173). Basic Schools advocate a return to focusing education on "body, mind, and spirit" (p. 173). But virtue must be taught before knowledge since knowledge that is unguided by ethics can be more dangerous than ignorance. Boyer believes that schools are a significant part of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 35 children's lives and must assume some duty for moral instruction. Further, in Basic Schools, community values are the context in which all instruction takes place. Of course schools always teach values. Which values are deemed central is dependent on the community and therefore are different from school to school. While recognizing this variability, Basic Schools suggests a starting point of seven core values, called Core Virtues. The core values in Basic Schools are taught not only through discussion but also through practice. Skills and knowledge are among the tools that can be used to build meaningful connections to their community of shared values. Boyer sees the need for an overall meaningful curriculum with coherence. In the Basic School, traditional content is taught through integrative themes called the eight core commonalities. They are The Life Cycle, The Use of Symbols, Membership in Groups, A Sense of Time and Space, Response to the Aesthetic, Connections to Nature, Producing and Consuming, and Living with Purpose. These core commonalities are claimed to be ...universal experiences that are shared by all people, the essential conditions of human existence that give meaning to our lives....Within these eight themes, every traditional subject or academic discipline can, we believe, find a home (Boyer, 1995, p. 85). Through this integrated presentation of knowledge children discover relationships across subjects and begin to see how classroom content relates to them. Their lives can develop personally, socially, and ethically with meaning and understanding. Democratic Schools Apple and Beane approach the principles and frameworks of their Democratic Schools from a different orientation. Rather than constructing a theoretical framework for schools to follow, they gathered conditions for democratic schools from the already established practices of several schools, selected for case studies based on the basic criteria of having some measure of student self-governance. Beane (1990; cited in Apple and Beane, 1995) calls these conditions The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 36 upon which democracy depends, the foundations of "the democratic way of life". It is these conditions and their extension through education that are the central concerns of democratic schools. Among such conditions are the following: 1. The open flow of ideas, regardless of their popularity, that enables people to be as fully informed as possible. 2. Faith in the individual and collective capacity of people to create possibilities for resolving problems. 3. The use of critical reflection and analysis to evaluate ideas, problems, and policies. 4. Concern for the welfare of others and "the common good." 5. Concern for the dignity and rights of individuals and minorities. 6. An understanding that democracy is not so much an "ideal" to be pursued as an "idealized" set of values that we must live and that must guide our life as a people. 7. The organization of social institutions to promote and extend the democratic way of life. (Beane, 1990; cited in Apple and Beane, 1995, p. 7) As one can see, these principles are more global and open-ended than those offered by the Basic Schools framework. They are essentially a definition of democracy as it would apply to a classroom and have been collected from the case studies of very different school communities. Apple and Beane criticize the current status of moral education in schools, describing it as "reduced to a litany of behavior traits" (p. 3). The popular conception of democracy as a bureaucratic institution, rather than a process that depends on the participation of the governed in governing with equal opportunity, has resulted in clear divisions of wealth and power. "[The] freedoms and ambiguity associated with democracy have clearly benefitted some people more than others" (p. 7). Rather than being taught about democracy while being isolated from it, students are better The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 37 taught about democracy by being full participants. "Surely it is an obligation of education in democracy to empower the young to become members of the public, to participate, to play articulate roles in the public space" (Maxine Greene, 1985, p. 4; cited in Apple and Beane, 1995, p. 7). Apple and Beane have not assembled a comprehensive structure for curriculum such as an analysis of commonalities in democratic schools. Instead, they promote a critical inspection of the "hidden" curriculum in the traditions and structures of schools by which students learn about justice, power, dignity, and self-worth. Since democracy involves the informed consent of people, a democratic curriculum emphasizes access to a wide range of information and the right of those of varied opinion to have their viewpoints heard. Educators in a democratic society have an obligation to help young people seek out a range of ideas and to voice their own (Apple and Beane, 1995, p. 13). Many schools, they claim, narrow the range of knowledge for school involvement to a curriculum endorsed by the dominant culture. The voices outside of that culture are absent or silenced. Particularly, these voices tend to be "people of color, women, and, of course, the young" (p. 13). This official knowledge has taken on the status of being the "truth", immutable and infallible. For Apple and Beane, knowledge is socially constructed. It is produced and disseminated by people with particular values, interests, and biases. In a democratic curriculum young people learn to think critically about their own culture, questioning the validity and the underlying purposes of presented information as opposed to acceptance as authoritative knowledge. Understanding that all curricula are biased, a democratic curriculum seeks to move beyond the standard knowledge and meanings endorsed by the dominant adult culture to incorporate a wider range of persons and perspectives. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 38 ...a democratic curriculum includes not only what adults think is important, but also the questions and concerns that young people have about themselves and their world. A democratic curriculum invites young people to shed the passive role of knowledge consumers and assume the active role of "meaning makers." It recognizes that people acquire knowledge by both studying external sources and engaging in complex activities that require them to construct their own knowledge (Apple and Beane, 1995, p. 16). So the democratic classroom is not a predictable place. The class may begin with standard knowledge topics but embraces a creative process. There are opportunities for meaningful exploration of problems, events, and issues that arise from topics of study. Rather than regarding traditional knowledge disciplines as categories in which to accumulate isolated understandings, they are regarded as sources of insight and information that can be applied to students' personal lives. Curriculum integration is more than making connections among disciplines. It is understanding the meaning in the connections themselves. However, standard curriculum contains elements that are often necessary to gain future employment and, therefore, economic status. The democratic curriculum cannot ignore dominant themes within the culture. Therefore, "a democratic curriculum seeks to help students become knowledgeable and skilled in many ways, including those required by the gatekeepers of socioeconomic access" (Apple and Beane, 1995, p. 17). But this does not have to mean abandoning methods and activities that enhance student ownership and student creation of knowledge. The task is to "reconstruct dominant knowledge" to use it to help all students, rather than hinder some. So rather than ignoring the standard curriculum, it is considered from a critical perspective. Students learn not just the content but also the reasons for its development, who its authors are, which groups stand to gain from it, and how it contrasts with non-dominant themes. For instance, in a primary class studying space, a student might wonder why it is necessary, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 39 especially since it seems so hard to get there. Legitimizing discussions of this nature adds an element of increased learning, clarifies connections to cultural values, and promotes ownership. Summarising Ideals and Acknowledging Complexity The widely respected writings of John Dewey assist me with the following arguments developed from the discussion of Basic and Democratic Schools. Bom Basic Schools and the Democratic Schools describe educators whose approach to education is based on a social orientation to community. Community is a group of people who are connected by shared values. If all members of the community are to contribute to the betterment of that community, then a form of participatory and inclusive democracy is required. I contend that this kind of democracy in a school learning community is based on authentic autonomy, where students, staff, administrators, parents, and other stake holders are involved in making decisions regarding the whole community and its activities. At the same time, these community members are constrained in their freedom of choice by a responsibility to fellow community members, to the community as a whole, and to the values which are shared. However, my focus is on the interplay of these concepts within the unity of the larger framework of a dynamic, developing community, rather than on the promotion of a dualism. ...the dualistic philosophy of mind and world implies an erroneous conception of the relationship... between individuality and freedom, and social control and authority (Dewey, 1916, p. 292). As Dewey warns, there is a danger in conceiving of autonomy and responsibility as two separate concepts which compete against each other in an effort to offset the negative effects of each. Such a conception regards autonomy as a self-centered force predominantly concerned with furthering one's own interest at the expense of others. This results in a competitive, self-The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 40 promoting environment which divides the community and marginalizes some members. Such a conception regards responsibility as duty and drudgery, shackled to uninteresting activities imposed by external authority. The context of a democratic learning community is necessary for autonomy and responsibility to productively interact with each other in promoting a united organization. This unity can be described as caring. In a caring community, members willfully construct their community out of genuine mtrinsic desire to promote the whole group. The tension between autonomy and responsibility, as personal will versus the good of the community, is transformed into the tension inherent in negotiation, as all members actively contribute to the development of the community. Individuals are immersed in the ecology of the community as each contributes, but are also influenced by collective values and negotiated directions for development. In this theoretical ideal, individuals choose to involve themselves with the collective in a continuing process to re-create their identities through social interaction. [People] were not actually engaged in the absurdity of striving to be free from connection with nature and one another. They were striving for greater freedom in nature and society (Dewey, 1916, p. 294). This does not result in a static product called community, nor is democracy a precise methodology that is identical across communities. Rather than only considering the products of community, I prefer that we also focus on the continuing dynamic process of defining a personal ideal of democracy, creating a community, and renewing shared values. All this is based on caring among individuals in the group and on caring for the pursuit of meaningful learning. A socially oriented learning community that promotes a collective commitment of all individuals to its shared values requires the inclusion and active participation of all of its members. Although Boyer emphasizes the importance of shared values, it is not clear if children are included in the fundamental decision-making regarding those values. Although the framework The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 41 is flexible enough for individual Basic Schools to embrace democracy, only the involvement of staff, parents, and the community at large is specifically encouraged in Boyer's description. Instead, there is a framework that, although it is community oriented, cohesive, focused on learning, and is morally oriented, it does not emphasize the participation of children. Responsibility is advocated, but in this context, it is without an emphasis on students' autonomy. This could be interpreted as an authority-driven, externally directed concept that students may not have the opportunity to fully understand since they may not have the opportunity for autonomous practice. Doubtless, the standard curriculum has been replaced by a more connected, meaningful curriculum, but it is not clear how students can become committed to the inherent values or become self-directed in learning. Curriculum is potentially still administered in a top-down manner from the students' perspective. The authentic membership of children in the community is therefore in question. Imposing an alleged uniform general method upon everybody breeds mediocrity in all but the very exceptional. And measuring originality by deviation from the mass breeds eccentricity in them (Dewey, 1916, p. 172). It is not clear how children in Basic Schools escape the uniformity that a top-down, hierarchical structure imposes nor how a love for diversity is fostered. On the other hand, Apple and Beane's concept of democratic schools lacks the overall cohesion of Basic Schools. Their reporting is limited to the gathering of diverse experiences. There seems to be cohesion within each of the democratic schools or classrooms described by Apple and Beane due to the commitment and sense of ownership of the participants. However, it is doubtful that Apple and Beane will develop an overarching framework. This would contradict the basic democratic idea that, although these schools share the overarching ideals of a democratic approach, the individual community itself creates a unique framework reflecting their shared The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 42 values. Democratic schools will continue to engage in the necessary conflict for inclusion and against domination by the privileged. So rather than having a well organized, clear curriculum, which would at first glance appeal to parents, teachers, and administrators alike, there is the prospect of continual debate and uncertainty. The ideal approach is to include all community members, including children, as fully informed participants, sharing in conflict, not out of competitive self-promotion, but in the context of caring for the community, large or small, that truly reflects their common values. A focus on continuous community development and education of all stake holders over the long term is necessary. Patience and tolerance for diversity and turmoil are part of the democratic process. As such, both of these examples of school structures, though committed to social values and democratic participation, fail to achieve the ideal. Clearly the question now is not in how to achieve a certain predefined outcome, but rather in how to sustain a continuously developing, unpredictable community, or even whether such an ill-defined structure is possible within the public school system. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 43 Chapter 4: Community and Complexity Theory !- - —-*.>^ " — . . I ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ t t ^ ^ ^ At one class meeting, we were surprised to find Jason, Jerry, and Ronald organizing themselves to chair the class meeting together. This seemed like a dangerous combination since they were all competitive and very interested in their own personal power and influence in the classroom. Paradoxically, they were also friends and an issue of justice had united them. "Before we go to the agenda for your issue, how do we start the meetings?" prompted their teacher, Donna. "Successes", they responded in unison. Without adult guidance, they proceeded to organize themselves into taking turns in speaking to the class. Jason chose Hanna to speak first. Her success was getting the teacher to let them listen to the Spice Girls. After a brief negotiation about whose turn it was, Jerry chose Amrik to speak. His success was ignoring someone who was trying to hit him. Jerry advised him that he should have punched him in the nose. Donna asked if that was how we solved problems and Jerry said no in a reluctant tone. It was Ronald's turn to choose the next speaker, Roy. Roy clearly stated, "Last time someone tried to kick me." Jerry asked if he kicked him back. Since he was becoming a little excited, Donna told him that if he wanted to chair the meeting, he needed to act like a chairperson. Then Jason accidentally sat on the phone which produced a loud buzzing. This, of course, was found to be amusing by many of the class members. The only adult intervention was a request from Donna for Jason to move his chair and the meeting continued. Ronald introduced his group's issue from the agenda for the class to discuss. It had to do with the coffee stir sticks that the students would receive as a token representing running a lap of the track. It was a sponsored school wide project to support a charity. The problem was that The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 44 someone was snatching the sticks from the boys. Actually, Jason disagreed with this definition of the problem. He felt the problem was that someone was poking them with the sticks. They argued about which version of the problem was right. In consideration of their audience, Jerry turned from their argument and explained, "We'll be right back," sounding much like a commercial interlude. The boys had a conference to organize themselves. Jerry was very rigid about class meeting procedure. "No that's not right." He was very distressed. "You have to talk about the problem first." Jerry introduced the problem to the class saying that Amy stole one of their sticks. Jason agreed. Donna asked Ronald what he thought. Ronald said that some other boy dropped a stick and someone took it. He wanted to have a vote. He was playing the unlikely role of mediator, calmly trying to organize the others while Jerry became increasingly shrill and excited. They took a vote. In this case, it was a private vote in order to see how much support there was for resolving the issue that you shouldn't steal sticks. Everyone agreed that you shouldn't steal sticks. They moved on to the next issue about poking with sticks. Ronald told a long story about how someone got poked with a stick and had to go to the hospital. A lively but unorganized discussion ensued to which Jerry, in his misguided effort for order, responded by yelling "Be quiet!" Eventually, after yet another discussion around class meeting procedure, Donna broke the class into small discussion groups. The preceding describes a teacher working very hard but it is difficult to identify a specific methodology and it is doubtful that a plan was in place beforehand to address all the issues and events that arose. The meeting was not out of control but neither was it rigidly managed by the teacher. Yet it was the very unpredictability of the situation that resulted in a rich learning activity for the class, particularly those gaining leadership experience. As much as The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 45 teachers may wish for order and predictability, typically, school life is filled with complexity. A participatory democracy can be created where students simultaneously have individual autonomy and responsibility to the community. There does not need to be a tension between autonomy and responsibility, nor a precarious balance. These elements can be conceived of as part of a unity when negotiated in a caring, respectful environment where the main goal of learning is moral development Learning becomes relevant when enacted in this social context. Both personal and cultural knowledge are integrated in practical, active learning. The community is not stagnant nor is it socially unpredictable. Rather, it is continually renewed to meet the needs of the community. Teachers embrace the responsibility of their authority and enhance their roles by sharing that authority with students through class meetings, the cooperative setting of rules, and mutual planning. Students also embrace their responsibility as learners because it is they who have participated in setting the goals and methods for their education. However, this characterization of a participatory democratic classroom is somewhat vague. It features continual change, lacks clear solutions, requires more than simple products for evaluation, and, comparatively, devalues closure. It may suffer in the actual practice of teaching in the hectic, demanding, complex environment of a primary classroom. Indeed, it is contradictory to the prevalent reductionist approach to public education where school life has been simplified into isolated subjects, a prescriptive curriculum, and measurable standards of behavior and achievement. Participatory democracy admittedly seems more difficult to implement. It requires constant adjustment to new events, tolerance for a multiplicity of ideas and opinions, and patience with the uncertainty of developing procedures for all eventualities. It is much easier and efficient for a teacher to exercise absolute authority. But for those teachers who suspect that the long term benefits for students living and directly experiencing democracy outweigh the short term benefits of rigid order, a philosophy The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 46 that allows some stability without authoritarian rigidity, and some freedom without the fear of chaos, would indeed be helpful. Thankfully, most classrooms, however teacher directed, are not strictly authoritarian. Most teachers understand the value of student ownership and intrinsic motivation in learning. Likewise, they acknowledge uncertainty and unpredictability in the learning process. It seems that successful teaching necessitates an appreciation of complexity. I argue that a participatory democratic classroom, that embraces both autonomy and responsibility, is an optimum arrangement and that the dynamics of such a classroom can be understood in terms of Complexity Theory. Such an arrangement lies on the edge between order and chaos. Indeed, we live in a complex world. Specialists from many disciplines are discovering that segregating their subject areas has had limited success in promoting thorough understanding. They are beginning to recognize the need to integrate disciplines and look upon understanding of the world and life from a holistic point of view. In their efforts to integrate their disciplines, these specialists are discovering many common conceptions in understanding complex phenomena. The Sante Fe Institute in New Mexico is one meeting place for thinkers from such diverse fields as physics, biology, economics, and the social sciences. One associate, Brian Arthur, an economist attempting to understand the complexity of economic trends, listed the distinctions between "new" and "old" economics (Waldrop, 1992). A parallel list could no doubt be created to compare new and old biology or new and old physics or mathematics, and so on. The principles of complexity are transdisciplinary and holistic. The following table contains part of Arthur's list in the first two columns. In the last two columns, I have created a parallel to describe new and old educational structures: The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 47 Old Economics New Economics -> Traditional Educational Education as Structures Participatory Democracy Based on 19th-century Based on biology Based on 19th-century Analogy to biological physics (equilibrium, (structure, pattern, -> industrial model systems (organic, stability, deterministic self-organization, life (efficiency, stability, patterns, dynamics) cycle) manageability) self-organizing, evolving) People identical Focus on individual life; -> Teach to the norm Encourage individual people separate and contributions different If only there were no Externalities and The concept of an ideal Embracing diversity, externalities and all differences become -> student constant change had equal abilities, driving force. No we'd reach Nirvana Nirvana. System constantly unfolding. Elements are quantities Elements are patterns Elements are grades, Elements are and prices and possibilities -> products qualitative, emphasis on process No real dynamics in the Economy is constantly Mandated curriculum, Open, flexible sense that everything on the edge of time. It -> predictable structures curriculum, is at equilibrium rushes forward, unpredictable structures constantly structures coalescing, decaying, changing. Sees subject as Sees subject as -> Subject is simple, Subject is infinitely structurally simple inherently complex finite complex Economics as soft Economics as -> Education as soft Complexity Theory as physics high-complexity industry educational philosophy science Table 4.1: Old and New Economics and a Parallel to Old and New Educational Practices Because of the seeming appropriateness in thinking of educational structures as complex, Complexity Theory is useful for understanding and creating democratic classrooms. Fritjof Capra (1982,1996) wrote two ground breaking books on the subject of complexity and the nature of life: The Turning Point: Science. Society and the Rising Culture and The Web of Life. Although the subject matter emerges from the fields of physics and biology, Capra's goal is an interdisciplinary understanding of all aspects of life. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 48 Before proceeding with an overview of the implications of complexity theory, it is necessary to be clear about the different and potentially confusing way in which complexity theorists use the term system. It is confusing because many of the authors previously cited use the word system or systemic to describe technical or bureaucratic structures. It is also confusing because the word system is commonly applied to linear, causal, and reductionist ways of explaining how nonliving objects and structures work. Perhaps it is because complexity theorists are well versed in their traditional disciplines that they continue to use this term but extend its meaning to nonlinear, organic entities, as in "complex adaptive systems". It is perhaps an unfortunate coincidence that the same word is used in an almost contradictory way to describe very different concepts but that is the language of these authors. Davis, Sumara, and Luce-Kapler (2000, p. 54) provide a helpful distinction between complicated systems and complex systems. Complicated systems are those structures that are generally human produced, mechanical structures that rely on cause and effect processes. They are the sum of their parts, planned and predictable. Complex systems are greater than the sum of their parts. They are "self-organizing, self-maintaining, dynamic, and adaptive" (p. 55). They can be described as being alive and unpredictable. In brief, whereas complicated systems tend to be framed in the language of classical physics, complex systems draw more on biology. As such, terms like organic, ecological, and evolutionary have come to figure much more prominently in discussions of such social phenomena as learning, teaching, and schooling (p. 55). I have assembled seven of the major concepts and terms from Capra's general overview of complexity theory. These concepts are concisely and clearly presented in chapter nine of The Turning Point (1982) but are repeated in detail in his more recent The Web of Life (1996) and the works of many other authors (e.g., Waldrop, 1992). To frame a discussion of complexity as The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 49 applied to the participatory democratic classroom, I now introduce the terms disequilibrium, order and chaos, self-organization, ecology, co-evolution, emergent properties, and consciousness. Disequilibrium Modern Western society values symmetry and balance as qualities of stable and productive structures. These are qualities that promote understanding of mechanical or technical structures such as bureaucracies, Newtonian physics, or machinery. Objects or ideas that can be reduced to smaller parts and understood by analysis of those parts benefit from symmetry and balance. But in most of our existence we encounter much more complex structures that cannot be understood by reducing them to their parts. The whole is significantly greater than the sum of parts. Organic life is better understood by examining the relationships among parts rather than just the parts themselves. Patterns are important in understanding structures beyond an analysis of parts. For example, the human body is composed of parts (arms, legs, head, heart, etc.) and these parts are composed of cells which contain genes, and so on. But the usefulness of examining parts at every level is limited since they are in a continual state of change and in interaction with other parts. Skin cells constantly die and fall from our bodies and are replaced by others, our hair grows and is cut and grows some more, the cells in our pancreas and stomach lining completely replace themselves dairy (Davis, et al., 2000, p. 172), there are gradual changes to our bodies as we age. Our bodies are more fluid and dynamic than we tend to think, yet the pattern remains relatively stable and so we can recognize each other even when years have past, even though physically, we are completely different people. Our bodies, rather than being in static balance, are a perpetual flow of cells, molecules, and atoms. When that flow stops, we cease to exist physically. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 50 Upon examination, we discover that most of our lives are not in balance but rather in a state of disequilibrium. For example, merchants do not really want balance in their business. If they were to sell all of the inventory that they have bought, they would have balance but would be out of business. Rather, they seek disequilibrium, continuing to buy stock and continuing to sell it. The simple act of walking requires us to be off balance to move forward. In our classrooms, we do not ever want our students to complete their learning. It is a continuing 'walk', marked by celebrations and milestones, but always in disequilibrium so that learning and development progress. Students are constantly adapting to changes in their setting which, in turn, promotes new changes. As such, learning is enacted in a fluid, often turbulent, social setting. Multiple and constant interactions continually reshape that body of learning. It is this activity, this enaction of shared experiences and knowledge that constitute creative learning. There are products, markers, successes, and various measures and accountings of knowledge and achievements, but these are parts of the continuous evolution of learning rather than endings. For example, grade twelve graduation marks a significant achievement but it is not the end of learning. It is the beginning of new learning in other contexts for which school was a preparation. It is a transformation, an evolution to the next challenge in the process of a lifetime of learning. Complex theories of learning suggest that learning is not about acquiring or accumulating information. Rather, learning is principally a matter of keeping pace with one's evolving circumstances. The learning agent - whether immune system, person, collective, or species - is constantly revising its memories, its capacity for action, its range of possibilities. Knowledge is contingent, contextual, and evolving; never absolute, universal, or fixed. Learning, in this sense, is more of a reaching out than a taking in. It is a participation. (Davis, Sumaru, and Luce-Kapler, 2000, p. 78) The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 51 In a democratic setting, we are interested in the interplay of autonomy and responsibility that is not in balance, not static, but evolving. In simple terms, students discover that responsibility allows more autonomy, which when exercised in a community-oriented setting requires more responsibility. This self-organizing process continues in much the same way as a complex organic life form does, evolving in unpredictable ways, adapting, and continuing to make creative interactions with its environment. The cycle repeats and reorganizes, hence the turbulence. Order and Chaos One can see in disequilibrium the tensions among extremes that, unconstrained by each other, would break these adaptive systems apart, resulting in chaos. On the other hand, rigid constraint would destroy the dynamic aspects that allow for growth and evolution. This would result in stagnant order. Adaptive systems are said to exist at the edge of chaos, neither dissolving into disorder nor found in static balance. If a participatory democratic classroom is seen as being at the edge of chaos, then neither autonomy nor responsibility dominate. Rather there is constant interplay between the two. Students are developing their independence and skills at making reasonable decisions but autonomy cannot dominate. Clearly, if every student made self-centered choices without consideration for others, the community descends into chaos. Students are also developing their sense of community and care for the common interests of the group but a sense of extrinsic responsibility can not dominate either. If the will of the community, as is manifested in stifling majority or authoritarian rule, is imposed in standardized ways, ownership, creativity, and the life of the community is lost. That inflexible order denies the unique and varied contributions of individuals. This concept of a "space" for the interplay between order and chaos is recognized by The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 52 certain physicists (Farmer, et al., 1986; Langton, C , 1992; cited in Waldrop, 1992) as the edge of chaos. The edge of chaos is in disequilibrium but it is stable. For example, phase transition is a temperature at which a liquid begins to freeze where it is neither completely liquid nor solid. Instead "order and chaps intertwine in a complex, everchanging dance of submicroscopic arms and fractal filaments....Nothing ever really settles down" (Waldrop, 1992, p. 230 ). The edge of chaos is described by biologists as the place where life arises or where there emerge great evolutionary changes (Packard, 1988, cited in Lewin, 1992, p.52). In mathematics, complex systems and the edge of chaos are described by strange attractors, recurring patterns that emerge from seemingly random initial conditions (Capra, 1996, p. 137). The edge of chaos is also applied in theories of economics and social science. The edge of chaos is where life has enough stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of life. The edge of chaos is where new ideas and innovative genotypes are forever nibbling away at the edges of the status quo, and where, even the most entrenched old guard will eventually be overthrown. The edge of chaos is where centuries of slavery and segregation suddenly give way to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s; where seventy years of Soviet communism suddenly give way to political turmoil and ferment; where eons of evolutionary stability suddenly give way to wholesale species transformation. The edge of chaos is the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive, and alive (Waldrop, 1992, p. 12). Self-Organization Self-organization is also a concept that is common in describing complex phenomena across various disciplines. In mathematics, fractals describe the self-similar patterns that occur in The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 53 nature from fem leaves, to lightning strikes, to branching rivers, to tree branches (Mandelbrot, 1988, cited in Capra, 1996, p. 137). The patterns are self-similar in the sense that a part of the pattern looks very similar to the whole. For example a branch of a tree looks like the whole tree. Such organization is ubiquitous in nature. In the biology of the human body, the genetic code for an entire body is contained within each cell. Yet each cell is unique and develops individually according to its own purpose in the body. Some cells become part of the heart, some part of the eye, and so on. Differentiated growth occurs in harmony with the rest of the cells in the body and collectively they become a complete body (Capra, 1996, p. 25). Similar ongoing negotiations of individual parts in the formation of a continually developing whole can be observed in weather patterns, the stock market, governments, and classrooms. This metaphor of complex self-organization is particularly significant in a participatory democratic classroom. Given the opportunity to express individual preferences within the desire for the betterment of the whole class, the community will organize itself. The complex web of dialogue and interaction forms the stable but dynamic adapting system of a classroom community. But as noted earlier, these self-organizing complex structures are in disequilibrium. Their stability comes not from the juxtaposition of their parts as in machinery, but rather, in the quality of links among the parts. Relationships are the important factors as opposed to individuals. Patterns and rhythms define the structures. Once again, the biology of the human body can serve as a metaphor. As mentioned, the parts of the body are constantly changing. "We can never shake hands with the same person twice with the same hand." But we can still recognize our cousin that we haven't seen in five years. It is not a permanence of physical matter that provides that Constance. It is the pattern. In the classroom, it is the patterns of interaction The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 54 that define it and make it unique. In a democratic classroom, interactions are enhanced. Individuals have the potential to influence the structure of the class, just as the good of the class guides individual choice. A democratic classroom is, at least to some degree, a self-organizing classroom. Ecology Relationships and interconnections describe the ecology of the classroom community. What affects a single member affects the entire class. There is also a symbiotic exchange between the classroom and its environment That environment includes the physical structure of the school, the administration, the atmosphere of the school community, parental involvement, and the influence of the community at large. Individual students are interdependent with their classmates while all are interdependent with their environment. There are levels of interdependent communities. These can be listed from the microscopic to the global: from the individual as a coherent organization of body parts and cells, to the family at home, to the classroom at school, to the school as a coherent organization of classrooms, to the community around the school, to the city community and its politics, to provincial, national, and global communities. Capra (1992) avoids the use of the word hierarchy to describe this leveled kind of organization. He prefers the term stratified. To avoid confusion we may reserve the term "hierarchy" for those rigid systems of domination and control in which orders are transmitted from the top down. The traditional symbol for these structures has been the pyramid.... That is why I have turned the pyramid around and transformed it into a tree, a more appropriate symbol for the ecological nature of stratification in living systems. As a real tree takes its nourishment through both its roots and its leaves, so the power in a systems tree flows in both The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 55 directions, with neither end dominating the other and all levels interacting in the interdependent harmony to support the functioning of the whole (Capra, 1992, p. 282). As forewarned, Capra uses the word systems in an organic sense here which is quite different than it was used earlier in this discussion by authors such as Jacques Ellul and Thomas Sergiovanni to describe mechanistic systems. In fact, this differentiation between hierarchical systems and stratified living systems parallels the tensions that were outlined between a technical-bureaucratic and a social orientation in the organization of public schools. In organic, adaptive systems, connections, links, or relationships among parts are the focus rather than the parts alone. So in a classroom that promotes authentic participation, interactions among students and relationships throughout a stratified school structure are important. Individual qualities lose their meaning when considered in isolation. Talents or skills are valued when they enhance the community. Individual problems and needs are a concern for everyone. Knowledge is shared, interactions are encouraged, and the teacher, who is in a traditional position of authority, learns from students and actively seeks to share decision-making about various aspects of the classroom community. Davis, Sumara, and Kieren (1996) describe how learning is enacted. It is not separate from the environment or from others. It is not always expressed in formal ways, "...an understanding of the self is not abstracted from the world which contains it but, rather, is the world. Knowing, being, and doing are not three things. They are one" (p. 154). Students in a participatory democracy do not just learn about democracy, or talk about democracy, but, rather, they enact democracy. Like Davis's eight year old math students engaged in an open-ended search for understanding of fractions, "These students [are] participating in the creating or unfolding of the world, while at the same time effecting their own structures. In a phrase, they and their world [are] co-emerging" (p. 155). The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 56 Co-Evolution The students, teacher, classroom environment, and the school, all co-evolve. This does not deny individual autonomy. Rather, autonomy is essential in producing the diversity that stimulates growth (of learning in this case) of the whole in creative ways. Capra (1992) again offers a metaphor from biology "Although all riving organisms exhibit conspicuous individuality and are relatively autonomous in their functioning, the boundaries between organism and environment are often difficult to ascertain" (p. 275). Davis, Sumara, and Luce-Kapler (2000) apply the concept of co-evolution to the classroom as an aspect of ecological postmodernism. An ecological postmodern view of existence relies on the uniqueness of individuals. In order for complex systems to remain viable, there must be diversity among the agents that comprise the system. Tremendous creativity and novelty have been shown to arise from such individuality, as expressed in the context of a larger system (p. 176). They go on to describe the emptiness of the debate about whose interests, society's or the child's, are served by school. Typically this debate dichotomizes the individual and the collective, the child and the teacher. Davis, et al., suggest that instead we should work with the human predisposition to identify with groups. Shared projects or goals are suggested as a basis for establishing a sense of collectivity and redefine the relationship between teachers and learners as "jointly engaged rather than in opposition" (p. 176). This is consistent with the autonomous responsibility (or the responsible autonomy) and the shared authority that has been central to this discussion. This ecological postmodern philosophy leads to the concept of enactivism when applied to the classroom and learning. Enactivism departs from most current educational philosophies, such as constructivism, because is does not focus exclusively on individual activity in learning but on the context of learning. The learner is not separate from the learning environment. The context The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 57 is not a place separate from the learner. Rather, the context "contains the student; the student literally is part of the context" (Davis, Sumara, and Kieren, 1996, p. 157). The learner and the environment are inextricable from one another. "Far from merely existing relatively autonomously in the same location, individual and environment continually specify one another. Just as I am shaped by my location, so is my location shaped by my presence" (Davis, Sumara, and Kieren, 1996, p. 157). Davis, et al., go on to suggest that the teacher and students are working on a common project of simultaneously co-evolving, "bringing forth of themselves and the world" (p. 157), regardless of their varying experiences and interpretations of actions. The authentic curriculum is that which is enacted in a particular classroom rather than a collection of learning objectives supposedly in preparation for the world outside in the future. Since the complexity of human development and cultural changes make it impossible to predict the future world, specific preparation for that future is at best mysterious. Direct experience with culture shaping as students participate in the development of their classroom community is one way of enacting democracy rather than merely trying to prepare for it. Capra's (1992) view of biological evolution goes beyond just the Darwinian idea of adaptation. He also speaks of the importance of creativity. It is creativity that explains the increasing complexity of adaptive systems. Living organisms have an inherent potential for reaching out beyond themselves to create new structures and new patterns of behavior. This creative reaching out into novelty, which in time leads to an ordered unfolding of complexity, seems to be a fundamental property of life, a basic characteristic of the universe which is not - at least for the time being - amenable to further explanation. We can, however, explore the dynamics and mechanisms of self-transcendence in the evolution of individuals, species, ecosystems, societies, and cultures (p. 285). The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 58 Capra claims that systems theory (complexity theory) can make it possible to understand "biological, social, cultural, and cosmic evolution in terms of the same pattern of systems dynamics, even though the different kinds of evolution involve very different mechanisms" (p. 286). If this claim is true then complexity theory is a suitable metaphor for the classroom as a cultural entity. Evolution in the classroom can therefore be described as self-transforming and self-transcending. It expresses itself in learning and development. It is creative as well as adaptive but it exists in a stable state that is far from equilibrium. It fluctuates, flows, and is always ready to transform itself, that is to evolve. But the environment in which the classroom exists is also a living dynamic system. We can not merely regard the evolution of the classroom or the individual in isolation as would a Darwinian metaphor of evolution. Rather, the classroom plus its environment co-evolve in a connected, continually changing process. Humberto Maturana provides a biological metaphor: "...the reproductive conservation of a manner of living involves the conservation of both the genetic constitution [the organism] and the features of the medium [environment] that make it possible" (2001, p. 5). Relating this metaphor to the classroom, we can see how both the social and technical aspects of schooling are necessary and how both co-evolve. We need both family-like community structures and the technical, environmental supports (bureaucracies, accountability, assessment, classifications, resources) to be responsive to each other and to freely interact with each other. They are not separate parts. They are in constant interplay as features of the living, adapting whole. The kind of classroom that is well suited to recognize this kind of complexity is one that embraces creativity and adaptation, the edge of chaos and order, and values autonomy within a responsible regard for the whole. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 59 Emergent Properties A fascinating aspect of these self-organizing, adaptive systems is the concept of emergent properties. The whole has characteristics or abilities that are not present in any of its individual parts. For example, a salt molecule is made up of sodium and chlorine, neither of which have the property of saltiness. Individual notes contain no music but when combined with others in a timed sequence, then harmony, melody, and emotional expression are possible. There are infinite possibilities for emergent properties in a classroom community which would reflect shared values. It could be a classroom that works to help local endangered animals. It could be a classroom that recycles. It could be that they sing or perform plays. Based on the earlier discussions of how democratic classrooms might function, one would expect that among the values which would emerge would be respect, inclusion, tolerance, and critical thinking. Shared Consciousness According to Capra (1982), a significant step in the evolution of life is the emergence of consciousness. Consciousness makes it possible "to replace the genetic mechanisms of evolution with more efficient social mechanisms, based on conceptual thought and symbolic language" (p. 290). Consciousness, or the mind, according to Bateson (1972, cited in Capra, 1982, p. 290), is an inevitable and necessary consequence for self-organizing systems that reach a certain level of complexity. The mind is not contained in the brain but, rather, includes the entire body. It is the pattern of organization or the set of dynamic relationships that results in awareness. But Capra extends the concept of mind beyond the human individual by noting that collectives of human minds are embedded in social and ecological systems. While this line of reasoning ultimately leads to mysticism and a conception of God, of particular philosophical interest for this topic are the patterns of interaction within this collective mind. Just as the whole of the human brain is The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 60 continually active, regardless of seemingly specialized regions, there is also continual interactions among ourselves, our community, and our environment. Communication is not merely verbal nor is it merely the transfer of information. Maturana (1970,1987,1988, cited in Capra, 1996, p. 287) describes communication as a coordination of behavior. This "mutual structural coupling" becomes more subtle and elaborate as the complexity of the organism increases. The uniquely human use of language is one instance of this coordination of behavior. So in a social entity such as a classroom, shared consciousness is fostered by those common values that define a community. Shared consciousness is the community culture which continually evolves through coordinated behavior, the most obvious being language. To participate in the discourse of a classroom is to share in the construction of its consciousness or culture. If diversity and autonomy are valued within the desire to construct a community with responsible regard for all its members, then inclusion of all community members in the classroom discourse must be facilitated. In a typical classroom of young learners, diversity is revealed in the various abilities, styles, and preferences when it comes to participation in discourse. The dominant language can serve not to include, but to marginalize those who are less experienced or less able to communicate in that way (Davis, et al., 2000, p. 222). Therefore, a responsible approach to inclusion respects a variety of coordinated behaviors, including language, gestures, songs, role play, drawing, writing, dance, and so on. Verbal discourse is valued but so are all forms of communication, verbal and non-verbal. This expression of mutual respect and inclusion results in a richly diverse community with increased creative potential, along with the increase in complexity that occurs at the edge of chaos. Participants in this kind of a classroom not only expect, but also, embrace complexity. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 61 Chapter 5: Participatory Collaborative Action Research One day, Adam was looking for a change in routine. He decided he would take the tape recorder and collect some data by interviewing his teacher, rather than his classmates, in regard to improving the class meeting format: Adam: How would you like to change the class meetings? Donna: Adam, I would like to change the class meetings by having more kids involved. Maybe if we could somehow figure out a way that people would talk to each other in partners more often to get more ideas. I'm thinking what is it we need to do to get everybody thinking? Adam: To make it less boring, let's do some kind of activity with the agenda items instead of just talking? Many research approaches attempt to reduce the complexity of a classroom by focusing on a small number of measurable behaviors (e.g. wait time, patterns of teacher and student talk, etc.). These approaches do not recognize the effect or significance of the complexity itself, nor does it allow the researcher to look at the defining features of a democratic classroom (e.g. unpredictability, multiple interactions, qualitative experience, etc.). The tendency to observe from afar, apart from the troubling ethical considerations, also separates the observer from the sense of belonging to a community and the feeling of participation. In the case of this research project, it is very important for the researcher to become immersed in the community in order to understand, beyond labels or numbers, the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 62 experience of participation, collaboration, and creation of a community. The act of participation, of course, changes and influences the research setting and the other participants. However, it is this disequilibrium and co-evolution, characteristic of a democratic community, which is the topic of study. For this research project, the topic of the research is also the method of the research. AH of the agents in the setting collaborate in creating a participatory democracy. Further, they are all reflective of the process and active in effecting changes. Our reflective records become data and our voices contribute to the narrative that describes the experience of participation in the community. The opening of this chapter is an example of how children can participate in research while also actively influencing the learning environment. The purpose of this chapter is to define the term Collaborative Action Research and describe its nature. Action Research takes many forms. I summarize the common structures and begin to focus on a specific type of Collaborative Action Research, namely, the participatory partnership in common inquiry among a university researcher, a teacher, and the students in the classroom. To begin, I provide definitions from the literature and a brief history of the development of action research. I then refine the concept of action research and, based on the work of several authors, suggest a model of action research that is collaborative, participatory, targets ethical issues, and includes students, regardless of age. Collaboration is organic in that all members share the goal of the research and are interdependent in pursuing that goal. Participation in this kind of community requires a continuing negotiation of issues such as: planning, roles, power differences, and language. An ecological approach to ethics is examined in which the research community is regarded as an interconnected, interdependent, holistic system of language, relationships, and ideas. A rationale for the authentic participation of students in their own research is offered based The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 63 on ethical requirements, improved research benefits, and professional enhancement due to the increased learning of all those involved in the project. The benefits and limitations of this model of research are explored and, finally, I present the specific research plan used to explore the possibilities and limitations of participatory democracy, based on autonomy and responsibility, in a public primary classroom. The Definition. History, and Development of Action Research A fairly clear and comprehensive definition of action research is offered by Altrichter, Kemmis, McTaggart, and Zuber-Skerritt (1991). Action research is when people reflect on and improve their own work and their own situations by tightly linking their reflection and action and making their experience public, not only to the other participants, but also to other persons interested in the work and the situation. Data is collected by the participants themselves, they participate in the decision-making, power is shared democratically, and members collaborate. Reflection is a key characteristic of action research. The practitioner-researchers self-reflect, self-evaluate, and self-manage autonomously and responsibly. A more concise definition is offered by McCutcheon and Jung (1990): the inquiry teachers undertake to understand and improve then-own practice. But an important aspect of action research that differentiates it from reflective teaching, or the informal self-adjustments that teachers normally make, is that it is systematic. Teacher-researchers learn progressively by doing and by responding to mistakes in a self-reflective spiral of planning, acting, observing, reflecting, replanning, etc. ...Critical methods are based upon conscious, systematic, and rigorous human discourse wherein (1) values, beliefs, interests, and ideologies in the educational setting are made explicit; (2) the need for information is generated; and (3) actions are taken, critically The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 64 reviewed, retaken, and so forth (Sirotnik, 1988, p. 169-170; cited in Catelli, 1995, p. 28). David Tripp (1990) describes the action in action research as being conscious and deliberate. He terms this "strategic action". It is based on the understanding that results from the rational analysis of research-quality information. Conversely, action that comes from habit, instinct, opinion, or from irrelevant or incomplete knowledge is not considered to be strategic action (p. 159). In action research, the qualitative methods of phenomenology, ethnography, and case study are used (McTaggart, 1991). Data is collected through participant observation, interviews, field notes, logs, and documentation. Triangulation of multiple data sources, interpretations, and participant confirmation are methods used for validation. Though the methods are systematic and deliberate, this does not mean that the outcomes are predictable nor are the actions preplanned. "It involves a systematic learning process in which people act deliberately, though remaining open to surprises and responsive to opportunities" (McTaggart, 1991, p. 176). Advocates of action research, in its broadest conception, claim many benefits. Among them are: (1) the professionalization of teachers through initiation of their own inquiries (Tripp, 1990, Whitford, et al., (1987); (2) teachers' ownership of new understandings of their practice (Calhoun, 1993); (3) specific educational reform rather than theoretical recommendations (Carson, 1990); (4) improved collegiality through working and talking together (Oja and Pine, 1987); and (5) an expanded audience to report to that includes academics, teachers, and government workers (Somekh, 1994; Bresler, 1993). The preceding description of action research still allows for many kinds, many terms, and definitions with subtle variances. I will attempt to frame one perspective that seems to hold promise for effective classroom research. It is one of participatory collaborative action research that includes all the significant actors in the research setting and makes an effort to address differences in power and ethical challenges. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 65 Arthur Foshay (1994) claims that action research had its beginnings in 1926 with the book Research for Teachers by B.R. Buckingham. Apparently the book had little influence and quickly went out of publication. In the 1930s, Hollis L. Caswell realized teachers would not willingly adopt innovations constructed outside of their classrooms. Teachers had to own the innovation before they would make the commitment necessary for genuine implementation in their classrooms. In the 1940s, he founded the Horace Mann-Lincoln Institute of School Experimentation in which he established a school network across the United States whose staff undertook their classroom experimentation with teachers. Action research, although it has been used more and studied more in Canada, Australia, and England, received its name in 1946 from a German, Kurt Lewin, who had fled to the United States to escape Naziism (cited in May, 1993; Foshay, 1994). Influenced by John Dewey, Lewin offered a model which consisted of a repeated cycle of four "basic moments": planning, acting, fact finding, and analysis. John Collier, the director of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, developed what was called "operations research". This was a way to improve action by applying systematic data gathering to decisions in the field. At the end of World War 11, Stephen M. Corey, influenced by Caswell, built on the work of John Collier. Corey suggested that teachers participate in the design, data gathering, and interpretation of data. This he named "cooperative action research". However, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) of the late 1950's criticized action research in many publications (Foshay, 1940) because, as in other qualitative research genres, results can not be generalized to other populations beyond the ones studied and because untrained personnel, namely the classroom teachers, collected seemingly "flawed" data. That is, observations were subjective and biased. The action research movement again disappeared. In the 1970s Lawrence Stenhouse revived the approach in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Through the Humanities Curriculum Project, he promoted the idea of teacher as researcher in which inquiry was centered on the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 66 teacher in the classroom rather than on institutions themselves. In the 1980s, Kemmis and McTaggart grounded research in classroom methods. However, practitioners still did not manage their own research (McNiff, 1993). A collaborative element entered the methodology of action research in the late 1980s and 1990s. Several conceptions of collaborative action research (Catelli, 1995; Calhoun, 1993; Sumara and Luce-Kapler, 1993; Whitford, Schlechty, and Shelor, 1987; Somekh, 1994) and participatory action research (McTaggart, 1991; Reason, 1994) emerged. The work of these authors forms the basis of the conceptual model presented in this paper. I believe that this history of the cyclic rising and falling of action research is indicative of the tension between field based action research and more traditional research which focused on the measurement and control of discrete variables. On one hand, some recognized the difficulty of imposing external, top-down research results on the practitioner, while on the other hand some questioned the validity of subjective, descriptive reporting of those immersed in complex social situations. Some doubted the usefulness of dividing human research into discrete, measurable variables, while others had difficulty with the accuracy of field based, context specific, ungeneralizable accounts. To many, it is a tension between theory and practice, often embodied by the university-based researcher contrasted with the classroom-based teacher. It is a struggle between those who would externally impose theory on practice and those who would impose the knowledge of their practice upon theory. As May (1993) observes, "Throughout history, action research seems to return in an ever-more invigorated form on the heels of and in reaction to top-down mandates,...and a subsequent flurry of reform proposals in education" (p. 121). Practice and Theory In many fields of social science, including education, there is the sense that we have fragmented and abstracted the human experience in such a way that we no longer The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 67 understand it as it is embedded in life itself. In other words, we have been witnessing a deep and fundamental split between theory and practice (Carson, 1990, p. 172). Action research is driven by practice and informed by theory. This is fundamentally different than traditional forms of research which are driven by theory generated outside of the classroom. In action research, teachers investigate their own practice in a systematic way in order to better understand that practice or to improve it (May, 1993). Therefore, the goal is to develop specific theories about a particular situation rather than to apply and validate general theories (Corey, 1949). This kind of informal, specific theorizing is achieved through reflection. These theories test frames of thinking and build new ones. The kind of theory that comes from action research is specific, practical, personal, and often passionate. Rather than being objective and detached from the situation under study, Pine (1992) claims that the passion and personal knowledge of the teacher-researcher is critical to good research. But that does not mean that theoretical knowledge, generated by university researchers, is without value. Such theories can be invoked during reflection and can assist in setting goals for research. Action research does not dichotomize theory and practice, rather it marries mem. They are two sides of the same thing, and are always in reflexive interplay, revision, and formation (van Manen, 1990a, 1990b; cited in May, 1993, p. 116). This marriage of theory and practice is a basis for collaboration in classroom-based research between universities and schools, academics and teachers. Collaboration is an important dimension of the research undertaken in the current study. Collaborative Action Research There are many different kinds of collaboration and a variety of definitions. This discussion focuses on the collaboration among a university based researcher, a classroom teacher, and, as we shall see, the students in the classroom. An ideal collaborative research environment is The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 68 described later, but first, I discuss why such a collaboration may be desirable. The previously discussed chasm between theory and practice is highlighted when examining the typical circumstances of researchers and practitioners. Classroom teachers are increasingly deprofessionalized by the bureaucratic demands of the school system, such as complying with externally mandated standards and testable measures of accountability. Their roles involve the management of large numbers of students and the administration of curriculum. Their job is characterized by activity with little time for indepth reflection. Often their focus is on accountability rather than experimentation or invention. There are many reasons why teachers reject research as a valuable process for guiding practice, with the gap between theory and practice perhaps leading most everyone's list. A less often explored explanation concerns the effects of the work place which encourages immediate action and certainty and discourages reflection and invention (Whitford, Schlechty, and Shelor, 1987, p. 152). University personnel, on the other hand, typically spend a great deal of time reflecting and discussing general educational issues but are often ineffective in implementing ideas in the classroom or are unable to even acquire access to classrooms. This is partially due to mistrust of the perceived top-down approach to reform and partially due to a lack of ownership by those who must do the work of implementation and live with the consequences. [University personnel] rarely get to implement a decision but they certainly do evaluate it from numerous points of view. It's sort of like thinking about what color to paint a room but never getting to paint it. School system personnel get to paint rooms all the time but often don't get to pick the color (Whitford, Schlechty, and Shelor, 1987, p. 165). Catelli (1995) summarized the inadequacies of traditional experimental research as being (1) the long lag time between research and implementation, (2) the lack of relevance to the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 69 classroom, and (3) the artificial features of experimental procedures imposed on practitioners. Clearly, a kind of collaboration that allows ownership of reform and renewed professionalism to teachers, and the opportunity for university workers to effect real change, presents a win-win situation. It also blurs the boundary between research and practice. "Praxis is the notion that through action, theory is developed; that theory is in turn modified through further action" (Houser, 1990, p. 59). Collaborative action research demands that research becomes practitioner-based and that theorizing and practice takes place in the context of the classroom setting. The teacher and the university worker are each at once researchers, instructors, and analysts (Houser, 1990). The understanding that results from this research is not necessarily concerned with global issues of education, but rather, with particular learners and specific cases. In such circumstances, Porter (1987) argues, teachers act autonomously and collaboratively, initiating vital functions of the research project. When they collaborate with classroom teachers, members of the university faculty ask better research questions, use methodology that has greater external validity, and interpret findings more fully. Through collaboration, teachers come to understand and appreciate more fully the strengths and limitations of their own practice; they also become more receptive to new ideas and more analytic about the applications of those ideas (Porter, 1987; cited in Houser, 1990, p. 60). The above description of action research still allows for many kinds, many terms, and definitions with subtle variances. I will now frame one perspective that seems suitable for the classroom research undertaken in the current study. It is one of participatory, collaborative action research that includes all the significant actors in the research setting and makes an effort to address differences in power and ethical challenges. Four prominent issues arise in the literature that suggest a framework for effective action The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 70 research. They are (1) collaboration, (2) authentic participation, (3) power differential, and (4) language and discourse. An ideal methodology of action research is constructed in the following discussion. It is organically collaborative and therefore requires authentic participation. These terms are defined and explored in the following description of participatory collaborative action research. Collaboration Betty Lou Whitford (Whitford, Schlechty, and Shelor, 1987) compares three kinds of collaboration: (1) cooperative, (2) symbiotic, and (3) organic, in order to frame the kind of arrangements that best lend themselves to the linking of reflection and action. The cooperative arrangement is usually project oriented with defined starting and ending dates. One parry is the provider of service and the other is the receiver. An example is a university sponsored summer institute for school staff. The symbiotic arrangement is characterized by reciprocity. One party helps the other in return for their help. For example, the researcher is allowed to use the school for research in return for designing a staff inservice. The organic arrangement identifies issues that are jointly owned. Each party can independently provide parts of the solution to a goal. One party by itself is unable to achieve the goal. It is this kind of collaboration which is necessary for effective action research. It is termed "boundary-spanning" since both parties have a vested interest in the outcome and require each other's assistance to achieve their goals. The ultimate shared goal of both university education programs and schools is improved education for students. ...universities and schools are interdependent agencies that could better serve the public by concentrating on a common agenda. Serving the common good rather than mutual self-interest should be the unifying theme around which collaborative efforts between The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 71 universities and schools are organized (Whitford, Schlechty, and Shelor, 1987, p. 155). But as Sumara and Luce-Kapler (1993) point out, collaboration is work. Indeed the etymological roots of the word show it means to labor together. The idea of being in a friendly community of people working on a mutually interesting project may not readily bring to mind the work of establishing and maintaining equal participation, responsibility, and representation. The Oxford English Dictionary defines community as a place where individuals are "bound under obligation, ready to be of service". An attitude of service is quite different from being free to implement one's own ideas. Working with other people, each with their unique perspectives and preferences can be challenging. Given these perspectives on collaboration and community, this kind of research is not likely to be comfortable. But it is the sense of discomfort that drives the work of collaborative research. Sumara and Luce-Kapler (1993) state that it is in these times of disagreement and negotiation mat we gain insights into ourselves, each other, and the topic of investigation that draws us together (p. 394). Authentic Participation Robin McTaggart (1991) differentiates between action research that is institutionally initiated with varying levels of involvement of school staff, and participatory action research which is necessary for effective collaboration. Participation is problematic in research situations where people have different power, status, influence, or language facility. Even Kurt Lewin, one of the early proponents of action research, who worked on race relations, did not encourage those involved in the studies to articulate their own theories for improved race relations. There is a difference between the meaning of the words involvement and participation. Involvement means merely to be included where participation means to share or take part. Authentic participation in research requires: "(1) people's role in setting the agenda of the inquiry, (2) people's participation in the data collection and the analysis, and (3) people's control over the use of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 72 outcomes and the whole process" (Tandon, 1988, p. 13; cited in McTaggart, 1991, p. 171). This framing of participatory action research does not allow the concept of people as subjects in research. That is, the traditional practice of the university researcher doing research on people in the field does not constitute participation. "The knowledge produced from such research can be used in coercive kinds of ways, but at the same time can create the illusion of participation" (McTaggart, 1991, p. 171). Although universiry workers and teachers in the classroom may have distinct roles, expertise, and perspectives, they must have equal status in initiating, conducting, analyzing, and reporting the research for there to be a claim of authentic participation. Power Differential Any coming together of people involves politics. This leads to the necessity of addressing issues of power since participatory collaboration recognizes the individual autonomy of all the actors involved in research. Whatever the source, power needs to be carefully examined. Even if it is not intended, there may be pre-existing expectations of academic imperialism. This is the result of traditional research in which university personnel often direct the interactions in a top-down approach. It may be the authority of their specialized knowledge or it may simply be the hegemony of teachers working in a culture of subservience to administrative and hierarchical controls (McTaggart, 1991). There are also power advantages attributed to those who control the funding of a project (Johnston and Proudfoot, 1994). As Gore (1991) emphasizes, the authority of persons who simply initiate a project cannot be underestimated (p. 49, cited in Johnston and Proudfoot, 1994, p. 11). The university based worker, may find it difficult to overcome the perception of elevated status. School staff may seek out their advice, tutoring, and expertise. School staff may wish for the university staff to take control of the project and direct rather than engaging in the hard work themselves in the decision-making required in participatory action The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 73 research. It is challenging to exercise leadership without creating dependency (Somekh, 1994). Clearly, in participatory collaborative action research, joint ownership of the project is necessary with equal status despite differing roles among the participants. But power differences are subtle and pervasive. Authors on the subject fall short of offering solutions. They do emphasize the continuing processes towards suspending power differentials. McTaggart (1991) points to the substantive knowledge that exists in the academy, which can help people to understand that their own subjectivity is likely to be gendered, colonialized, nationalized, westernized, and capitalistic (p. 174). To change the cultures of the groups working together, group members must change themselves through changing their language, activities, and social relationships. They do this collaboratively by deliberately setting aside time to reflect on these matters in an effort to make individual and group decisions. As part of the participatory aspect of their research, researchers must work toward improving their own practices. Regular checks are made to ensure that the least powerful have;authentic input. In Somekh's (1994) case, although the overall theme of the project was chosen by herself, a university professor, she attempted to reduce the power differential as much as possible. Teachers decided on their own specific research questions, they collected their own data, they analyzed their own data, they wrote up their own research, their research was published, and, unless preferred, they did not remain anonymous. Both partners (1) addressed each other's research questions seriously, without asking questions to which they knew the answers in an effort to lead the other partner; (2) acknowledged honestly the gaps in their knowledge; (3) shared their knowledge and beliefs without claiming truth or reality; and (4) expected to learn from each other (Somekh, 1994, p. 357). Additionally, the researchers developed a written code of confidentiality to ensure equality between the partners. As with McTaggart (1991), Somekh's analysis and decisions regarding power issues became part of the action research itself. Still she admits that not all problems were The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 74 solved. "Collaboration is always fraught with difficulties and complete equality is probably impossible to achieve in any partnership" (Somekh, 1994, p. 356). Rita Irwin (1997) struggled with the contradiction of leading a group of researchers while also trying to share power through the democratic principles of shared understanding and shared decision-making. Irwin rejected the idea that one should abandon their expertise, allowing others to stumble, in the name of sharing power. Rather, a delicate balance must be maintained so that empowerment of the collective is nurtured while the power of the individual is recognized. ...The only way to truly accept this dynamic is to develop a level of trust within the group that allows for reflection and action that constantly examines the effects of teaching and leadership (Irwin, 1997, p. 10). Part of her role as a leader was to teach leadership to the others. Consistent with the sense of reciprocity embedded in collaborative action research, she found that the others were capable of mentoring her in significant ways. For instance, her group encouraged her to create artistically, rather than focus only on research and publishing. With these authors, the important aspect of addressing power issues was not in finding solutions, but in becoming involved in the process of continually reflecting and acting on the equality of power in specific, contextualized ways. Reflection and action on power issues are an inseparable part of the process of participatory collaborative action research regardless of the overall research topic. In light of these discussions of authentic participation and power issues, the idea of roles may now seem problematic. There has occurred a necessary blurring of traditional research roles to maximize participation and to minimize unequal status and ownership. The emphasis has been more on sharing of duties and decisions than on division of labor. Still, one would expect that The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 75 individuals would assume unique roles to avoid redundancy and inefficiency in effective collaboration. I suggest that this distribution of roles within a collaboration is dependent, not necessarily on personal histories or institutional roles, but rather, on the specific needs of the situation and the individual talents or preferences of the participants. Recognizing the uniqueness of individual roles, selected for their importance to the particular project at hand, is one way to address issues of power and participation. ...collaboration is about celebrating difference and strengthening one's own sense of identity; and at the same time it is about developing knowledge and understanding of the other... (Somehk, 1994, p.364) Language and Discourse As McTaggart (1991) states, language and discourse are a central aspect of the culture of a group (p. 173). In the case of university and school based researchers, each group brings with it unique patterns of language that are formed within the group to enhance communication, thereby constructing the culture of the group as well as individual identities. But when two unique cultures come together, language can be an obstacle between the two groups. Somekh (1994) describes the continual tension over discourse in their collaboration. Even the word research itself seemed to alienate the teachers. Similarly, substituting non-specialist terms for academic terms changed their meanings, lowered the status of the project in the eyes of the academy, and simply became patronizing. Instead, both partners learned the language of the other and moved from one discourse to the other as the circumstances demanded. But, as with the issue of power, the continuous confrontation on discourse provided a challenge that strengthened their collaboration. Once again, reflection on the ongoing process of negotiation is as relevant as finding solutions. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 76 Ethics Ethics in research, particularly in the social sciences, and especially in education where young children may be involved, is problematic. It is impossible to create standards to address all potential research situations and the standards that we do create tend to be nonspecific, sloganized ideals. Ethical responses usually cannot be rehearsed prior to an uncomfortable event They are situation specific. A code of ethics, therefore, has limited value. Punch (1986) says "A code can be useful as a moral pathfinder sensitizing students, researchers, and supervisors to ethical elements in research prior to, during, and after a project" (p. 80). But the range of unpredictable, complex, and unique surprises in the field make the nonspecific nature of codes of limited use in many cases. Further, it is difficult to reach a consensus regarding ethical standards that resists varying interpretations. In action research, referring to a generalized code of ethics seems insufficient or perhaps dangerous. "We have relegated moral discourse to the periphery of our discussions...while making scientific discourse...our primary concern" (Schwandt, 1989, p. 11; cited in Flinders, 1992, p. 101). In collaborative action research, I suggest that moral discourse and moral reflection must be a central theme, included in our constant negotiations of authentic participation, power issues, and language. David J. Flinders (1992) traces varying orientations of ethical thought. For the sake of contrast, I compare utilitarian ethics with ecological ethics. Utilitarian ethics is the most familiar kind of ethics and is commonly the type used in university ethical review committees. This type of ethical thought is based on utility. "An action or decision is considered moral if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number" (p. 102). Ecological ethics is a conception of the world, environments, or communities (including classrooms) as unified systems. "A chief characteristic of all ecological systems is that no part is capable of exercising unilateral control over the entire system" (p. 109). Members of such a The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 77 system are concerned with language, relationships, and ideas in a holistic regard for their culture. Each member, whether a teacher, student, or researcher, is an integral part of the whole group. An ecological approach to ethics fits well with the participatory collaborative action research methodology described here. It is compatible with the organic nature of collaboration, the participatory aspect of the research and setting, and the focus on interaction within the community. Flinders analyzes research ethics in three areas: (1) recruitment, (2) fieldwork, and (3) reporting. I summarize Flinder's (1992), p. 113) terminology in the following table: Utilitarian Ecological Recruitment Informed Consent Cultural Sensitivity Fieldwork Avoidance of Harm Attachment Reporting Confidentiality Responsive Communication Table 5.1: Ethical Frameworks In utilitarian ethics, informed consent is the basic right of self-determination. Participants should know what the research is about and agree to their involvement. Action research, of course, does not allow for a very high level of predictability. Therefore it is difficult to be able to fully inform a prospective participant to gain their consent. Similarly, avoidance of harm is difficult to guarantee. Such subtle events as causing stress or risking a professional reputation may inadvertently occur even though this was not the intent of the researchers. There is no way to predict or avoid such accidental situations even if the participants have given consent. Though we may promise to avoid deliberate acts that are harmful, there is a range of potential harmful events beyond our control. Promising avoidance of harm can be misleading, especially if we have The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 78 an ethical concern regarding all consequences of research activities. Confidentiality is a very difficult thing to protect in qualitative research which depends so much on rich descriptions, "...the better the research, the more readily others can recognize the participants..." (Flinders, 1992, p. 104). Flinders also examines recruitment, fieldwork, and reporting in an ecological framework. Ecology refers to a set of interdependent relationships. It is a view of the world in terms of unified systems. The classroom, then, is a holistic cultural environment organized by language, relationships, and ideas. We have already seen how power differentials, language, and roles challenge cultural ecology in action research. Beyond just informed consent at the start of the research, cultural sensitivity must be an ongoing focus of reflection and discourse. More than avoidance of harm, ecological ethics demand that we recognize the individual as part of a larger system. Therefore protection of the entire environment is necessary, including the attachment of every individual to the whole culture. To damage one part of an ecological system is to damage the whole and vice versa. Responsive communication in reporting, as contrasted to confidentiality, is necessary in ecological ethics. The language that is used must maintain the culture rather than unilaterally controlling it through language that is outside of the growing relationship. The holistic nature of ecological ethics makes it a good match for participatory collaborative action research, which also embraces organic collaboration and the authentic participation of all partners in creating a community of inquiry through discourse. It is important to note that this framework was constructed to aid in conceptualizing approaches to ethical thinking. In practice, there is much overlap. Flinders (1992), rather than pursuing one best system, seeks "a frame of reference that is able to encompass multiple points of view" (p 101). Each orientation of ethical thinking has value. For instance, we probably do not want to do away with university ethical review committees of research even though they lie The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 79 within the utilitarian concept of ethics and is indeed limited. That said, an ecological conception of ethics is relevant to this discussion. Let me now frame the ethical orientation of participatory collaborative action research ecologically in terms of recruitment, fieldwork, and reporting. This model of research focuses as much on process and reflection as on solutions and standards. Those participating in this kind of research, rather than only promising to meet standards before beginning, continuously work toward creating a community of cultural sensitivity. As discussed, trying to meet global codes of ethics open to multiple interpretations does not ensure ethical practice. Since practice guides the actions taken and cannot be predicted, guarantees cannot be made at the start. Rather, participants will engage in constructing a dynamic ethical community that is responsive to changing needs and conditions. It is an ongoing practice that reflects and discusses equal participation, power differentials, language, and therefore, ethics. Recruitment, in this sense, is constantly renewed. There is a deeper commitment to ethics and a more rigorous examination of ongoing ethical practice. ...all research is context-bound, and ...the circumstances encountered in a given study will always interact with various ethical frameworks in unpredictable ways. Researchers must learn to "read" ethical concerns as they emerge, anticipate relevant considerations, and recognize alternative points of view. In qualitative research, these skills are not marginal; they are at the heart of what we do (Flinders, 1992, p. 114). Authentic participation is a central tenet of this model of research. Mutual ownership of boundary spanning issues creates the collaborative incentive. The fieldwork arises from a commitment to the overall community which is created around the research. Participants work to create a holistic research environment where detachment of an individual would damage the community. The challenge of participatory collaborative action research is to report in a The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 80 multidimensional way (Flinders, 1992). The way researchers use language will reflect the quality of the culture they have constructed. It will also reflect the history of their efforts to develop a common language. One or more of the parties will not exercise unilateral control over the language. Rather, the intent and content of the report will be understandable by all participants and, indeed, creation of it will be shared by all participants. Rationale for the Inclusion of Students The goal of educational research of any kind is to improve the learning situations of students. Students, regardless of age, are very much involved in any research on their education whether they are given the status of participants or not. In fact, they are central players. If we believe in the principle of authentic participation in research, then we are obliged to recruit students as research partners. Indeed, we are ethically and professionally obliged to invite students to be part of participatory collaborative action research. If we value the research benefits that could result from reflections on learning by the students themselves, we must value their participation in research. If we believe there are learning benefits to students who have the opportunity to actively plan, implement, and evaluate their own learning strategies, we will be enthusiastic about their participation in such a learning community. Clearly, there are other parties, such as parents, administrators, and other school district staff, who have a vested interest in research in the classroom, at least at the level of informed consent. In practice, they are a significant part of the ecology of the research context. However, for clarity in this discussion, I focus only on those players who are physically present for significant periods of time, directly involved in negotiations, the activities, and the main reflection on the research in the classroom. I discuss (1) the ethical obligation to include students in their own research, (2) the benefits to research that might result, and (3) our educational interests, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 81 namely gains in learning by all involved in the research. I then discuss in more detail how these obligations and opportunities relate to the four major considerations of participatory collaborative action research developed in the first part of this chapter. Ethical Obligation Whether or not we invite students to be our research partners, they are involved in our research. It is ultimately about them that we are researching. In traditional research, we are minimally bound ethically by having to obtain informed consent. But often, consent for student involvement is given on their behalf. So although they are central to the research, they are generally silent in influencing their own involvement in the research. If cultural sensitivity is sought, rather than mere consent, students must be recognized as part of the ecological whole of the research team. They must have full, authentic participation. To avoid detachment, rather than merely protecting them from harm, they must become part of the ongoing discourse to resolve power differentials (which may be enormous) and to make real contributions to the determination of research goals and plans. If responsive communication is needed, rather than just confidentiality, this implies that students will share the language of the research and contribute to the reporting. This does not mean that students will have an unreasonable burden of learning a difficult new language or have to report in a highly academic sense. Rather it means that the language of children will gain acceptance in the research environment and that the variety of ways that children express ideas will be included as an aspect of reporting. Including children in research does not compromise their role as students or coerce them into an adult agenda. Their role is still that of learners and much of their school routine remains unchanged. However, the metacognitive activity of reflection and discussion may be increased for students and teachers alike. This requires an adjustment in attitude and self-perception in a The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 82 community of inquiry. Students begin to gain more control and ownership of their learning and are self-reflective. Benefits to Research The addition of the students' perspective in planning, implementing, reflecting, and evaluating provides the potential for unique understanding in itself. If we include student voices as part of the research discourse, I believe that the thoughts of these partners will be more readily forthcoming. Additionally, the unique perspectives of students can provide valuable insights into classroom structures. What activities were motivating? Which result in what kinds of learning? What conditions promote the best engagement? Finally, students' involvement in reporting of research, integrated into their ongoing learning activities can provide alternate ways of looking at outcomes and alternate means of reporting. Journals, stories, drawings, dance, metacognitive activities, can all be considered part of the reporting process, presenting data in its natural context. Clearly, reporting is more broadly conceived here than it is with standard research practice but this widens the audience and engages the participants. Each form of reporting has strengths and limitations. If all formats are valued by the community of inquiry, then we can maximize the advantages of each and potentially increase the interest in the research beyond just the academic community. Professional Interest and Gains in Learning Action research increases teachers' professional status by giving them some autonomy in the decisions regarding their own practice (Tripp, 1990). Similarly, increasing the autonomy of students in areas of research increases their status and their ownership of learning. As teacher researchers, our primary responsibility is to our students. We need to balance the demands of our research with our other professional demands. This issue becomes far less troublesome when classroom inquiry becomes an intrinsic part of how we teach, and The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 83 when students take an active role in our research - and their own (Zeni, 1998, p. 16). Zeni's statement challenges the dichotomy of teaching and learning, the assumption that one parry teaches while the other party learns. Rather, for this perspective, the activities of university workers, teachers, and student partners are continuing as all three parties teach each other and learn from each other simultaneously. Teachers, teacher-supporters, and their clients are awarded equal status and responsibility for helping the other person's process of understanding to evolve. In this collaborative view, all practitioners at all levels (learners, teachers, supporters) are involved in the process of the development of their own, and each other's, rationality: they are improving the quality of their own learning. Teaching and learning are interchangeable terms, existing as processes that regulate the interrelationships within a network of thinking practitioners (McNiff, 1993, p. 19). McNiff is describing teacher education but I believe the underlying philosophy expressed extends to all participants in classroom research, even children. She terms this process "enquiry in action". Students, as well as teachers or university researchers, learn from their inquiries. In reflecting and sharing their understandings, the understanding of the whole learning community is enhanced. This is participatory collaborative action research. Relating Inclusion of Students to the Tenets of the Ideal Methodology For action research to be truly participatory and fully collaborative, it demands that students enter an organic collaboration, have authentic participation, work to resolve power differentials, and share the language used by the community of inquiry of which they are a part. I now discuss these challenges and opportunities more specifically. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 84 Organic Collaboration Revisited It seems that most topics of research in the classroom impact on students and therefore would be of interest to them, even if that interest is for self-defense. The discovery of boundary-spanning issues is dependent on finding a common language and in facilitating participation. Regardless of the choice of research topic, in an organic collaboration, all partners achieve a consensus on choosing a topic that is both of personal interest and of mutual benefit (Whitford, Schlechty, and Shelor, 1987). The issue chosen for research that includes students need not be of general school reform or classroom wide restructuring (Chisholm, 1990). Rather, important issues of limited scope and high familiarity may be an acceptable place to start. For example, this research team may wish to explore the nature of collecting information from various sources such as the library, the internet, or the newspaper. Which media suits each purpose? Which is more reliable? How do you know? Do some prefer particular media over others? The next research activity depends on the outcome of the reflection on this first step. Eventually, these limited research endeavors could become very significant and sophisticated. McTaggart (1991) recommends that research start small and build a basis for collaboration. It starts with small cycles of planning, acting, observing, and reflecting which can help define the issues, ideas, and assumptions more clearly so that those involved can define more powerful questions for themselves as their work progresses (p. 178). Authentic Participation Revisited As previously cited, McTaggart (1991) states that participation is problematic in research situations where people have different power, status, influence, and language facility. Each of these concerns presents a challenge to the authentic participation of students. As previously claimed, there are no global standards that can be applied as a solution to specific cases. Rather, a collaborative research team must address these concerns on an ongoing and specific basis. It is The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 85 essential that students have an active role and an equal voice in this continuing discourse. I suggest, for example, that the use of class meetings that share governance could serve as the forum in which these issues are pursued, along with reflection and planning for the research content. As these modes of working in the classroom develop, other innovations may be tested. For example, a classroom constitution or declaration of classroom values may be constructed and enshrined artistically, musically, through various language arts, and through celebration. Various levels and means of participation are possible in addition to verbal discourse. Power Differential Revisited The issue of power is indeed problematic in proposing a partnership in research with students, particularly young children. On one hand, there seems to be a logical and ethical argument for the inclusion of students but on the other hand there are enormous methodological barriers due to the status of children in western society. Lynne Chisholm (1990) talks about the wide endorsement of symmetrical, or democratic, relations in research, especially for action research. However, there is a gap in the literature when it comes to symmetry and research with young people (p. 254). Bridging the cultural distances of race, gender, and class is being attempted optimistically and, at least in principle, seems possible. Bridging the gap between adult and child in research is not usually attempted and may seem too daunting to make the effort. But as May (1993) states, the process of action research "...is ultimately empowering to all those involved" (p. 119). ...empowerment, social action, and reform are not only possible, but desirable. Reform is aimed primarily at full, active democratic participation to change inequitable structures, policies, and practices that oppress groups in a particular context by gender, race, ethnicity, economic status or social class, and/or age (May, 1993, p. 120). The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 86 Many authors (Carr and Kemmis, 1986; McTaggart, 1991; cited in Johnston and Proudfoot, 1994) claim that action research should be a participatory and emancipatory process. Its purpose is to enact social change. Although, I do not anticipate a classroom revolution where students dominate the teacher and control without reason, there is an opportunity in action research for students to assume some negotiated autonomy with regard to their own learning in the current research. There is also the potential for students to acquire an intimate knowledge of social activism and experience the possibilities for social change. This is a chance for students to learn about leadership. As always, in action research, the focus is not only on an end product but is also on the process and the discovery of new questions. If this proposed research community is committed to the continuing process of renewing participation, addressing power differentials, and developing discourse, then the focus of this research will be as much on the power arrangements as on the subject of research. There is much to learn. Language Revisited Teachers and children generally participate in language development as a normal course of events. Collaborating in research, with an emphasis on discourse will accentuate the challenge and the enjoyment of this process. Of particular interest is the language of reporting. Rather than relying on university journals as the primary source of publishing results, teachers may wish to publish papers for their peers and provide workshop presentations, and students can present their new understandings through a range of media, such as posters, stories, poetry, plays, multimedia, or dance. These expressions could well be highlighted in the university journal report and the teachers' reports. If they are a central focus of reporting, perhaps a source of data, then there is a likelihood that students will understand some of the content and intent of the reports of the other research partners. Additionally, more interest could be generated in the research by expanding the audience beyond the university community to include other teachers, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 87 administrators, parents, classmates, and other members of the community at large. Summary of the Research Model This has been a largely conceptual exploration of action research and much of it has been speculative. Based on a wide range of perspectives, I synthesized many of the more salient features of the authors' descriptions to construct an ideal model of participatory collaborative action research which includes the participation of the students themselves. At the core of this model is a commitment to interaction and discourse which continuously and dynamically renews the classroom-based research community. The model focuses not only on the research issue, which is mutually owned through organic collaboration, but also on ecological ethics and authentic participation. It seeks to address issues of language, and power differentials. This kind of research is emancipatory in that it advocates social justice within its methodology. There are limitations. Action research does not necessarily result in global solutions to educational questions. Rather, it seeks to clarify understanding in specific practices and to generate new questions. Research outcomes are not readily generalizable beyond the particular context from which they emerged, although propositions may be generated that contribute to theories relevant to such endeavors. Participatory collaborative action research does not seek to provide generalizable definitive solutions or transferable products, nor can it provide conclusive predictions about general outcomes or methods. Rather, mere is a progressive development of action plans and the execution of those plans. The outcomes of this research are valuable primarily in the specific context in which they emerge but also as examples and suggestions for others with similar interests in democratic classrooms. There is an emphasis on continuing discourse and acceptance of alternate forms of interaction. Even though it claims a higher standard of ethics, there can be no guarantees of eventualities. Standard ethical approval requires a promise The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 88 at the start of the research that we will do our best not to allow harm to come to students but this research requires that promise to be renewed moment to moment. The proposal to include students as authentic participants may seem to be an insurmountable challenge (Chisholm, 1992). There is a dearth of literature on the subject so there is little evidence upon which to base a plan of action or expectations of success. Some authors (May, 1993), however, point to our ethical obligations, hope for improved research methods, and anticipation of significantly enhanced opportunities for learning by all involved in the research. But beyond that, is the hope of developing a socially critical community of researchers and learners. A Specific Research Plan It is now apparent that my methodology not only is consistent with my research topic, but, in many ways, it is my research topic. Participation is the overlapping feature of participatory collaborative action research and of a participatory democratic classroom. In this research setting, all of the people involved, the university worker, the teacher, and the students are partners in the cyclical process of planning, taking action, collecting data, and analyzing data. All people involved are at the same time, and by the same process, contributing to the creation of their democratic classroom. The collective planning of the research is also planning for classroom activities. The collection of data and analysis is part of the on-going self-reflective aspects of creating the democracy. Specific research initiatives that emerge (perhaps concerned with rule setting or self-selection of learning topics and activities) are also part of the evolution of the classroom itself, "...enactivist theorists begin and end their analysis with an acknowledgment of the fundamental inextricability of all things. This is not to say that we cannot or should not make distinctions..., but that we must bear in mind that such distinctions are mere conveniences" The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 89 (Davis, Sumara, and Kieren, 1996, p. 157). All of the major issues raised in mis thesis (participatory democracy, unity of autonomy and responsibility, shared authority, process and product, negotiating personal and cultural knowledge, caring, accepting complexity, collaboration, power differentials, language, and ecological ethics) are connected by their reliance on discourse. As such, discourse is a salient element in this study, worthy of particular examination. The data collected were drawn from the discourse among children, teacher, and university researcher. Participation occurs through discourse but discourse, in this research paradigm, as we shall see, is extended in a variety of ways. My first task was to identify a primary teacher who was interested in fostering the socially oriented learning community described earlier. A teacher who I had known and respected for many years expressed her interest in developing such a community in her classroom. Her philosophy was consistent with the basic tenets of a participatory democracy as outlined previously. She then became familiar with the minking presented here earlier around the ideas of autonomy, responsibility, and authority. She offered criticisms and enhancements, and negotiated ways of applying these principles in practice. Her class was a grades one and two combined class of twenty-two children with a diverse range of ability, culture, language, ages, and personalities. Several children had been identified as having special needs so a classroom assistant was assigned. We sought the approval of the children (and, of course, their parents). This involved a full explanation, including the purpose of the research, each person's role, how it might change the daily routines, and what responsibilities were involved. The class meeting was an ideal place to begin the research and to center further interactions. Initial approval and negotiations took place in the first class meeting. When all The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 90 (teacher, university, students, parents, and administration) approved of the research, we selected a limited topic, a classroom issue, with which to begin. We planned to hold class meetings once per week. At this time, students and teachers would reflect on the week's activities pertaining to the chosen research topic, critically discuss our practice, plan enhancements to our practice, and expand our inquiry to related areas. This expansion included explanations for the students of the curriculum, invitations to critically discuss it, possible activities for addressing the curriculum, and student generated learning goals. Additionally, I would meet with the teacher for a half hour each week regarding professional practice. I would interview each child for 10 to 20 minutes each week regarding the quality of their learning and their reactions to the learning environment. I would regularly observe and take part in classroom activities and take notes. All participants would keep research journals. Clearly, in the case of the children, the scope of these journals was smaller and they used an alternate means of recording information, such as drawings, scripting, or role play. All interviews, meetings, and observations were recorded on audio tape. Classroom activities were determined from ongoing practices, individual and group needs, teaching skills, and resources at hand. Suitability, timing, sequence, and degree of change were the objects of careful discussion and analysis of the proposed implementation. The outcomes of this research would consist of a rich account of a specific setting in which autonomy and responsibility were examined. It was anticipated that both a conceptual and practical model of autonomy and responsibility might emerge within this specific setting. The following table summarizes the time commitments of each of the participants that were specific to the research and data collection: The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 91 P a r t i c i p a n t s M e e t i n g s J o u r n a l Class Observat ion Weekly Time M e e t i n g and Help Commitment * Teacher 30 Min. 15 Min. 20 Min. 1 Hr, 5 Min. Students 1 0 - 2 0 Min. 15 Min. 20 Min. 45 - 55 Min. (per student) Myself 4.5 - 8.5 Hr. 15 Min. 20 Min. 40 Min. 6.25 - 10.25 Hr. = about 2 days * The total duration of the project is 6 months or approximately 27 weeks. Table 5.2: Weekly Time Commitments of Participants The Best Laid Plans... Donna had developed an interest in taking a more democratic approach in her classroom for her own professional development. This followed a year in which she taught an extremely difficult class to which she felt she had responded using a more teacher-directed approach than with which she was comfortable. Most of the important themes that arose from this research came from engaging discussions regarding her reflections of our classroom experiences throughout the year. However, the orderly and systematic plan outlined above quickly gave way to scrambling to find time to talk during the hectic activity typical of elementary school. We continually had to replan and reschedule in response to problems, student and adult suggestions, and new ideas, as is the normal procedure in action research. Diversity of ages, abilities, cultures, and family structures and experiences provided a complex setting. The pace of change was rapid and sometimes confusing. Unexpected events, typical in a primary classroom, both challenged and enriched the research. Our roles in the classroom and the research developed and changed over the course of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 92 events during the project. Donna's role was clear since she was the classroom teacher. However, the way she exercized that role changed and adapted with the changes in the classroom as we reflected and acted on the emerging democracy. For example, she gradually gave more and more of the traditional directive tasks to the children, such as dismissing students at lunchtime. The students role was also clear as learners but, similarly, these roles developed according to changes in the community and the taking on of some of the traditional teacher-type tasks. My role was the most nebulous. I was the researcher from the university, another teacher, a classroom helper, or a frequent visitor. Donna and I discussed this abstract function through out the research and many permutations were tried on and adopted or discarded. Mainly, my challenge was to fit in to unique situations as productively as possible while continuing to collect the all-important data. Donna and I sometimes reflected together in the relative calm of the classroom after school. More frequently, these discussions took place 'on the fly' as we escorted the children to the library or gym, or sometimes a quick word as activities changed. A small graduate research grant allowed us to free Donna for three afternoons during the study where we could speak extensively about the project and in depth regarding the emerging themes. Donna wrote long passages in her journal at die start of the project but this gradually dwindled. I took to making quick notes in my Palm Pilot of events, ideas, and recurring themes. Our efforts to e-mail did not withstand our entrenched habits, time pressures, and obligations of home life. I did manage to interview the children individually. The attention span of most students meant mat these interviews were much briefer than originally planned, in the order of two to five minutes. But the children generally participated in mis activity with enthusiasm and provided unique insight into the changes that were developing in the classroom. Eventually, the children began to interview each other, often by themselves. Appropriate interviewing behavior became part of the learning process for all of us. Critical thinking as to what kinds of information were The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 93 important and what kinds of sounds were worth recording was developed, as were creative lines of questioning and interesting verbal styles. Not all of the data from this effort was useful but some was and it was a tangible way for students to be involved in collecting data. The students wrote and drew in their journals weekly. I did not set standards at the start for this activity, fearing the demand for the format would overwhelm the quality and quantity of the content. This was in contrast to a fairly high standard of neatness and quantity that Donna had established for other writing activities. The result was that there was a mix of useful and uninformative data. Certain children, reluctant to write produced very little and what they did produce was often of low quality. Many children chose not to draw while others only drew pictures. On the other hand, some children responded with rich descriptive writing and drawings of high quality, requiring several pages per session. Clearly, these children were the ones who preferred this medium of expression and whose language skills suited the exercise. Conversely, a few children with very limited verbal or written language skills were able to use this activity to express themselves through drawing and through dictation to the teacher. The class meeting was the starting point where the topic of research and definitions were first presented. But the format, length, frequency, and style of these meetings changed continuously and were often the subject of discussion themselves. We moved from once per week for twenty minutes to three times per week for shorter times to, eventually, every day. The meetings changed from adult chaired to student chaired. The class meeting format began with students discussing problems that we all had placed on the agenda. We added a time for compliments and a time for successes. Students began to use the meeting time to plan events. We added partner and small group sessions. We added alternate methods of expression, including role play, posters, and class projects. Although the meetings were the focus of data collection, their format changed dramatically and extended into all aspects of classroom activity. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 94 All of these various interactions (meetings, interviews, performances) were recorded on audio tape. However, this was not as reliable as one would have expected. Low batteries contributed to loss of data on a couple of occasions, as did general fumbling with tapes. Certain settings contained interfering background noise that made deciphering of the data sometimes difficult and sometimes impossible. Other technical difficulties included a temporary lack of access to e-mail and a hard drive crash that resulted in some data loss. As noted earlier, the primary classroom is a complex and unpredictable place. This dynamic is a major part of the description of the setting and interactions. Clearly, it is also reflected in the research methods and in the data itself. Our action research was cyclic and collaborative but it was not tidy. In one of our discussions, Donna and I laughed about the popular conceptions of school programs when we realized that our Handbook for Creating a Democratic Classroom could never exist. The panacea of a practical step by step application of our research seemed quite impossible. As Donna said "We live the research." Method of Analysis of Data Specific topics guided our reflection while immersed in a participatory democracy. Grounded data was gathered through ^ angulation of notes and transcripts of audio tape obtained from meetings with teachers and students, journals, and observations. The frame that bounded the inquiry was the focus on the interaction of student autonomy and responsibility, specifically: 1) Continual refinement of our understanding of the concepts of autonomy and responsibility. 2) Investigating the nature of shared authority. 3) Exploring the factors that maximize autonomy, responsibility, and shared authority. As stated, the specific topics that were pursued during the course of the research are less The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 95 important than the negotiations and processes that continued to evolve as the research evolved. The data was analyzed using the constant comparative method developed by Glaser and Strauss (1967). All of the material collected was transcribed into electronic text on a computer. This enabled the categorization events or themes for sorting and analysis. The categorizing was initially done intuitively but through constant comparison of new items to previously categorized items, category properties began to emerge and categories were more clearly defined. This systematic recording of ideas and reflection provided an emerging structure for eventual theoretical propositions or themes. Initially incidents were compared which produced categories. Then properties of categories were compared which resulted in exploring the relationships among categories. "The accumulated knowledge pertaining to a property of the category [becomes] related in many different ways, resulting in a unified whole" (Glaser and Strauss, 1967, p. 109). Themes became "tighter" by clarification of the logic, discarding irrelevant properties and categories, and integrating properties and categories. As the themes became delimited, only those incidents that were relevant were coded and compared. Both parsimony and scope were realized in the formulation of themes. Categories became saturated, that is, so well defined that fewer examples needed to be added. The creation of theories in this manner was a continuously developing process. Each stage guided the next, ultimately resulting in grounded theories. I will turn now to a discussion of the results of this data collection. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 96 Chapter 6: Emergent Understandings The issue raised at one meeting by Hanna, Sandy, Winnie, and Sheila was concerned with how it felt to lose a friend and the desire to prevent that from happening. This highly complex issue challenged even the normally articulate Hanna: "Um, I think what you should do is if they're doing in a fight like if they're like starting if they're starting to lose their friends say, 'Oh oh. Please. I know how to work it out'. I know how to make them have friends again. Like um, they like um, each other and just be friends again." Clearly, this issue was about friendship and, as such, was very emotional and very relevant. Winnie thanked Hanna for her advice. But Winnie and the other girls' apparent comprehension of Hanna's utterance was lost on Donna and I. Adam suggested they act out the situation. This was the beginning of role play as a support for, and an alternative to, verbal discourse, linked to relevant, child initiated language. The integration of activity, language, and relevance created a new kind of communication for enacting community participation. Four Emergent Properties Here is a reporting of the more significant developments throughout the course of the study. Four developments stand out. Figure 6.1 illustrates that their occurrences were not entirely sequential nor were they random. As this chapter's opening exemplifies, each branched from prior events in the grade one-two class but continued to develop simultaneously, interacting with one another as the school year proceeded. The figure also illustrates how these The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 97 developments began with small ideas and tentative activities based on the experiences of teachers and familiar educational theories. These were immediately transformed through classroom interactions with children and, as the leaves and branches in Figure 6.1 symbolize, reflection and renewed activity promoted a continuous 'growth' of the community. Figure 6.1: Four Significant Developments Emerge As mentioned, we began with (1) the Class Meeting. These meetings explored solutions to on-going problems with behavior in the classroom and on the playground. The class reached its first apparent consensus (though this could be disputed) in constructing (2) Seven Strategies to The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 98 Deal with Problems. The class meetings became more proactive and students participated in the planning and implementation of (3) Various Projects carried out in groups, with partners, or individually. Alternate means of expression were a constant need for many students due to English being a second language or having weaker verbal abilities. One of the more successful alternate strategies was (4) Role Play. This was a popular activity in which all students participated with enthusiasm and many students showed exceptional talent. Near the end of the school year, the classroom prepared a play for the school. In the language of complexity theory, these four developments were among the emergent properties of our particular participatory democracy. Class Meetings Class meetings served as an entry point for the research project. At the first meeting, I was introduced and given the opportunity to address the class and to invite them to participate with Donna and myself in research. Being a primary class, they were already experienced with the word research and with some of its activities. I described to them what I was interested in researching and explained the concepts of autonomy, responsibility, democracy, and community. It was interesting to see how they readily linked these ideas to interactions with friends and it was clear how important friends were to mem. This importance, as we shall see, extended beyond just friendliness to power and politics within the classroom and on the playground. It was the basic way in which these children understood community. Their parents, of course, had agreed to the research project, but I also sought the agreement of the students to participate in the research. Almost all immediately gave their consent Three of them reserved their decision, possibly for the sake of being contrary, but eventually chose to participate in the class meetings. Interestingly, one of these initial dissenters, Jerry, often withdrew during the course of the research. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 99 So with more or less of a consensus, we collectively began to define the parameters of the class meeting. Initially, it was explained as a time to discuss issues that affected the class. It was essentially time for problem solving and planning, although, until near the end of the study, problem solving dominated. The idea of an agenda was introduced to them. Donna, the classroom teacher, placed the first item on the agenda which was concerned with an actual, contentious problem in the grade one-two combined classroom involving some of the older children manipulating and excluding some of the younger children. She couched this issue in a discussion of respect for one another. The idea of the agenda, as a tool to reserve time during the class meeting to discuss issues, quickly caught on. It became a device for airing grievances, such as how to handle a situation when people make mean faces. Soon the agenda became much too long to effectively address issues in a timely fashion, especially with meetings scheduled only once per week. We added two more weekly meetings and eventually incorporated class meetings as a daily routine, with extra meetings for special events, activities, or plans. Indeed, as we shall see, the time of day and the length of meetings became a contested issue in itself, never fully realizing resolution. However, almost all students enthusiastically participated in presenting issues for the class and in brainstorming solutions and strategies. The leadership of the meetings moved from being teacher chaired to student chaired, beginning with those students who had demonstrated good leadership skills. At the recommendation of the students, adults provided reminders regarding proper listening behavior and refocused the attention of class members during the meetings. Some students clearly enjoyed the status of chairing the meetings. Some students showed amazing leadership skills and insight into the interactive process of the meetings. Some students enjoyed being the center of attention and focused more on ego-centric activities, such as talking extensively and repetitively about their issues, and refusing to accept suggestions. Some students did not participate at all initially due to limited language skills or an aversion to drawing The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 100 attention to themselves. However, even these students eventually began to participate both in leading the meetings (often with partners) and in contributing to the discussions. Donna and I also began to divide the class into small groups or partners to discuss issues after they were presented and to share their resulting ideas with the whole class later. Journals were used by the students after the class meetings to record their summaries of the issues or to suggest new ideas through writing and drawing. We also, as mentioned, maximized participation through various alternate activities such as the creation of posters and the use of role play to explore recurring social themes. Donna and I noticed an increase in language skills during the course of the research in all of the children who initially had lower verbal fimctioning. For example Roy, who initially avoided speaking, limiting his responses to one word utterances, eventually would lead the class meeting with minimal assistance. We cannot claim that the increased interaction during the meetings caused this improvement but it was noticeable during the meetings and at other times. The verbal orientation of the meeting, supported with alternate means of expression, seemed to enhance verbal language development. We also noticed, in regard to language development that in the early class meetings, students tended to use a teacher approved type of language in offering contributions to discussions. In other words, students used language that they had heard adults use to encourage appropriate classroom behavior. For example, at one early class meeting, Adam complimented his teacher. "I like the way Ms. Klause is our teacher and when we get over control, then she comes in and gives us a gentle reminder." Clearly he was trying to imitate ("over control") and used phrases that he normally would not ("gentle reminder"). As the process continued, and as the issues became more relevant to them, students used natural, purposeful language, rather than language imitated from adults. In one instance, Ellen's description of how she tried to solve a problem illustrated an authentic use of six-year-old language. "Like and I said The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 101 and Jenny was going to chase them but I said just ignore them because they're just being mean to you." Grammar improves with practice but this revealed a natural tone that was embedded in efforts to express original ideas. Students also began to use the language of responsibility, autonomy, and community, although they seldom used those actual words. Rather, they would describe thoughts that were oriented toward a concern for others and their own roles in the classroom. The underlying principles of the research topic, full participation and inclusion, led me to advocate consensus, complete agreement by class members, in decision-making. This proved challenging and forced us to adopt a realistic perspective toward consensus building in a diversified and schedule-driven school. It was also in conflict with the entrenched method of group decision-making: voting. Voting, while considered (even among most adults) to be a cornerstone of the democratic process, quickly showed itself to be a disruptive influence on the creation of a sense of community. When used near the start of the research project, it divided the class into winners and losers, favoring the popular and marginalizing those with less political influence. It was interesting to see the competition involved in voting overwhelm the issues that it was intended to resolve. Seven Problem Solving Strategies In the initial class meetings, the class spent several sessions on the general topic of how to solve problems among class members. The brainstorming of problem solving strategies was recorded on chart paper. I took these chart papers home and condensed the ideas into eight general categories which I presented at the next class meeting. Among these eight problem solving strategies was revenge. This was our first authentic contentious issue. Strong personalities spoke on both sides of the issue of whether or not revenge was an appropriate way to solve problems. The language was emotional and showed deep personal commitment, rather than being imitated The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 102 adult discourse. The debate raged for several days with both sides making well thought out points. Eventually, those who were against the concept of revenge were able to explain clearly to the others what they thought revenge meant and to convince them that it was not as effective a strategy as they had initially thought. These student explanations, rather than any adult influence, enabled us to reach a consensus on a very difficult topic. The remaining seven categories were (1) show respect, (2) talk it out, (3) be assertive, (4) tell an adult, (5) ignore, (6) include everyone, and (7) change the subject. These became a reference for students when future problems were discussed. Students often drew upon this resource in offering suggestions to social problems raised at class meetings. Projects Although some suggested innovations to class meeting procedures and to problem solving techniques, the students were not taking ownership of other classroom activities, curriculum, or assessment. In response, Donna instituted a project-based approach to some of the curricular activities. She consulted the government mandated Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) and considered her students' interests in setting fairly broad topics, such as The Solar System. Rather than everyone doing the same activity and producing the same product, she offered several possible approaches to creating a project of interest to each student. Some worked in partners or groups, some individually. Some created books, some built models, some designed posters, but it was open to individual innovations. All were accountable for their research by making a presentation to the class and by writing an explanation (with varying levels of assistance). In this way, the mandated curriculum was addressed but each student was also able to pursue particular interests according to a preferred method. Most notable about this approach was not the quality of the products presented but rather, the change in the quality of the process in project-based activities compared to other activities. Each student was engaged in their project. The The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 103 presentations of their projects was a celebration rather than a fearful, self-conscious evaluation. It is difficult to determine if there was a relative increase in learning, but clearly, each child was a confident 'expert' in the knowledge that they had personally gathered. They also learned a great deal from each other as the ensuing discussions revealed. It was doubtful that anything was lost in terms of learning but much was gained in terms of attitude, motivation, and quality with regard to the process of learning. Also significant was that the discourse, with which the students created their learning community, was extended beyond the class meeting into their daily learning activities. All participated enthusiastically in projects with few problems regarding the nature of their interactions, although these interactions were often intense. Verbal discourse was the main method of interacting but, rather than all students demonstrating their learning in the same way, each chose their own presentation method. It could be verbal, written, artistic, demonstrative, musical, kinesthetic, or even a Lego construction. It was an activity that best suited their needs and preferences, and yet shared a personal understanding with the rest of their learning community. The way behavioral expectations and learning activities were negotiated, or framed, is an interesting subject which will be discussed later in detail. Role Plav Role play was another way for students to express themselves and this was used effectively in many situations. At the class meetings, students sometimes had difficulty describing an event. Someone would suggest "why don't you act it out?" They then assigned each other roles. Interestingly, they did not always play themselves which added an element of appreciating another's perspective. This was not only helpful in giving the class a clear sense of what had taken place but also assisted in the problem solving itself. Everyone enjoyed the activity. We began to use role play for social problem solving. For example, students would act out The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 104 what the Seven Problem Solving Strategies looked like so we could check their understanding, clarify, and have the class learn from their peers in this way. At other times, we would contrive a social problem (often very familiar situations) and have groups act out responses. With their affinity to role play, it was a natural progression to use acting as part of their learning activities. They decided to put on a play about Space for the rest of the school and their families. This was an interesting exercise in participatory democracy. Donna insisted that the inclusion be authentic, that is, everyone was to be on stage acting, as opposed to some being 'stars' while others worked 'behind the scenes.' So a play was chosen that had enough cast members for half the class and we created two full casts which alternated over four shows. Everyone, with assistance, made their own costumes and designed the props. This was a challenge to our preferred decision-making process of consensus. There was a time limit involved for the dates of the play with little room for flexibility since the end of the year was approaching with many friends and family members anticipating the performance. Therefore the sometimes laborious and lengthy process of having everyone agree became problematic. Indeed with the complexity of this major production, the discussions became chaotic and confused. When Donna offered another option for resolving the situation, namely, "Who wants me to be the director?", consensus, in this case, was easily achieved and all were relieved. But Donna was a benevolent, even democratic, director. She still listened to all the suggestions, gave reasons for her choices, and validated everyone's ideas whether they were implemented or not All students were very engaged in the preparation for the play. This included diverse but integrated activities. They had to write, read, memorize, and speak their lines. Some children took it upon themselves to memorize their friends' lines as well, and some knew the entire play. They learned the songs and the dance steps. They created costumes from common supplies, such as tin The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 105 foil for space visors. They negotiated, collaborated, and helped one another. The performance was the celebration of their learning efforts. Their complete sense of ownership of the production was evident in their consistently perfect and enjoyable performances. But the exciting part for Donna and I, from an educational point of view, was the nearly complete engagement and enthusiasm for learning during the process of organizing the play. The research experience was centered on the four areas of classroom life as described here: Class Meetings, Seven Problem Solving Strategies, Projects, and Role Play. Of course there were many other smaller branches, some of which will be discussed presently, but these four illustrate how the classroom community developed based on the collective choices of the students and adults. Like a growing tree, this democratic community organized itself as a dynamic adaptive system. Although we could not predict the outcomes from the start, our small begirmings grew into significant and unique learning experiences. Complexity As previously discussed, Complexity Theory provides a helpful way of thinking in attempting to understand a community. It is particularly useful within the concept of a participatory democracy, as developed here, with its complex intertwining of autonomy, responsibility, and authority. The language and concepts of Complexity Theory both emerged from our classroom experiences and also helped to frame our understanding of those experiences. Indeed, the importance of accepting complexity in a democratic classroom was an outcome of the research itself. A community is not built from a collection of parts, such as programs, methods, curricula, or administrative directives. Rather it evolves from small beginnings and develops gradually through the interactions of individual members with a regard for the whole, and is The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 106 significantly greater than the sum of its parts. This, no doubt, will be disappointing to those immersed in the prevalent mindset of solutions, quick cures, concrete methods, formulas, ready-made techniques, and transferable programs - "Something practical that I can use on Monday morning." Further, every community is unique. Our story, hopefully, may be enlightening but it is not a prescription for building a universal participatory democratic community. Process and Reflection "This isn't working." The comment came from the classroom assistant as we were in the early stages of implementing group projects. "I know", laughed Donna. "That's okay. I'm not product oriented." "Me neither", added eight year old Karen. Donna commented on the clever things that Karen was attempting with her project. The classroom assistant agreed and she and Donna began to offer suggestions. This contrasts with comments made by Donna early in the research as to how traditional primary classes are very solution oriented. Indeed, this is evident when you walk down the halls of just about every elementary school, including Donna's school. The many years of experience in school for both Donna and I tell us the walls display the best teacher-assisted works of students, carefully presented by each teacher, with colorful backgrounds and borders. These are wonderful celebrations of student achievement and a subtle promotion for work carried out in those classrooms. But in Donna's class, this year, she is interested in the continually changing and evolving processes involved in each of her students learning. We came to realize the inseparability of authentic products and processes. The projects that the students undertook were authentic in that they represented each student's interest and preferred method of expressing their learning. They were truly student initiated and, although Donna insisted on high standards, these standards were relative to the student's best efforts and individual tastes. In comparison, some of the children's products lacked the polished, completed appearance of the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 107 displays of neighboring classrooms. The uniformity and the invisible hand of the teacher were missing from our products and Donna worried about the comparisons that people might make. But she also saw that her children were motivated and independent. Their projects were varied rather than similar and quite detailed. This creativity and individuality was evidence that the students reflected deeply on their projects and learning. Earlier in the school year, I had an interesting conversation with Inderjit. He was complaining about how long the class meetings were and as I pressed for alternatives from him, it became evident that there was no real solution to this issue for Inderjit. In fact, the real problem was that he didn't want to come to school at all. He thought that he should stay home and have his mother teach him. His mother, he explained, "Knows everything." So here was a child who at age eight was disenchanted with the institution of public schooling. Later in the year, the idea of projects had been established. One project, as mentioned earlier, was for students to find out about the solar system and to find a way of presenting this information to the rest of the class. I was in attendance for this presentation and was struck by a transformed Inderjit as he confidently and proudly stood before the class with his illustrated book that he had produced. He cheerfully shared his new expertise on the solar system. Donna and I had to admit that the book he produced wouldn't measure up to the wall display standards of neighboring classrooms. It was a little tattered, the pictures were pasted in unevenly, the writing was hard to read. No one in the class commented on these short comings, although there were questions about the accuracy of Inderjit's information that required his clarification. The product, a source of pride, reflected not so much content knowledge, but rather the success of the process. It demonstrated a dramatic change in attitude about learning and perhaps even about school. It demonstrated learning about the solar system but much more. This project approach, without predefined outcomes, required reflection on the part of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 108 the classroom teacher. Donna consciously made herself focus on the learning processes but also set topics within which the diverse approaches of the students could thrive. She found ways of addressing the process but covering curriculum content as well. She initiated activities by explaining the topics and allowed much student discussion both for planning projects and for assimilating the meaningful aspects of the topic. They were even able to challenge the relevance of the curriculum topics and the activities. Focusing on the process, which includes the products from a Complexity perspective, results in a state of disequilibrium. There are no finite endings to learning, just steps along the way of continuous development. Since the steps are unending and not predetermined, they do not serve as a balance to the efforts of teaching. That is, the equation, teacher input equals student output, no longer makes sense. This is different from a more traditional approach where a discrete lesson is presented for the purpose of learning a defined outcome with a final product that is submitted at the end of the lesson. Our approach was always unbalanced so that lesson outcomes determined the direction of the next step. This disequilibrium, however, did produce anxiety. At one point, Donna expressed her hope for a clearer vision. Instead there were changes on a daily basis. "There was no final way of doing things." The dynamics of the group were always factoring into the direction taken and there was never a final resolution. This disconcerting feeling required Donna to respond with much more reflection than might have been necessary in a classroom routine where outcomes were clear and activities predetermined. She claimed that it helped to have another adult around with whom to discuss the 'journey'. Resolution was not even possible in determining a specific democratic approach. Decisions were complex and difficult and Donna often doubted her attempts to be democratic, especially in times where she felt the need to direct activities. She described her internal debates, during one of our interviews, and the need to take time and energy to consider how children could The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 109 participate. Our conception of classroom democracy itself was in constant disequilibrium. Donna remarked that we were moving toward a developing ideal rather than a static target as is expected in a traditional classroom. Though we constantly tested a variety of approaches, we recognized that we would not reach the ideal. Indeed, one day we mused that if everyone was happy, we would no longer be democratic. If that conception of happiness was based on achieving all of our ultimate goals, we would be left with a static environment, devoid of growth and new challenges. Whenever you change, even if it is a positive change, it will cause a perturbation in the community, and from this turmoil comes growth and learning. A democratic community is always in a state of flux. "And it's a good thing," adds Donna, "There is no end." Constant reflection and acceptance of disequilibrium is one of the challenges as well as one of the successes of a democratic approach to teaching and learning. Products are milestones, celebrations, and dkection-finders within the on-going process. This focus on process was evident in the on-going evolution of class meetings. They evolved from sitting on the floor for a long period once per week, to small group or partner discussions, to role play, to becoming a daily part of the opening routine, with special meetings from time to time as they were needed. Sometimes problems were solved and plans were made without any formal gatherings. Sometimes problems seemed to solve themselves or, after changes, became irrelevant. Rather than thinking of the class meeting as a product, it was more useful to regard it as an emerging property of our classroom community since it was developing in an on-going way. It was changing, moving, growing. Similarly the Seven Strategies for Problem Solving (show respect, talk it out, be assertive, tell an adult, ignore, include everyone, and change the subject) were never carved in stone. They did not become the classroom rules, although, at one time, we were tempted to institute them as such. Rather, they were like strange attractors. A strange attractor is the mathematical concept of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 110 elaborate patterns that repeat in spite of random initial conditions. The Seven Strategies often arose in response to new problems, sometimes usefully, sometimes not. They were subject to critical reflection by students and applied in many different ways, with varying kinds of understanding. For example, there was a subtle discomfort for some of the students around the idea of ignoring, which was one of our identified responses to confrontational situations. Just as the idea of revenge was examined and ultimately rejected by consensus, there was a similar argument against the idea of ignoring that was not overtly addressed. Perhaps the lively discussion on revenge overwhelmed the subtlety of this other issue or perhaps the quiet nature of those whom it affected caused the delay. Sheila used the term ignoring during this debate as an example of how you can get back at people. Clearly, ignoring and revenge were similar ideas for her. At other times, students raised problems at meetings that they attributed to ignoring. They had lost friendships because of their ignoring when a problem arose. But this kind of ignoring was not identified as a problem until late in the school year in a class meeting led by Roy. Roy had never led a meeting before and rarely even spoke at the start of the year. Alana, another quiet yet bright and kind-hearted student, took surprising exception to someone's suggestion that Roy should ignore the people who were bugging him. Ignoring, for her, was a very negative thing to do to someone and that it would be better to find other solutions to the problem. This alternate but legitimate view of the concept of ignoring, required us to redefine what it meant. As a result, the idea of ignoring lost much of its status as a problem solving strategy. After this, when ignoring was raised in discussion, it was often qualified and often rejected because, as we learned, it was often in direct contradiction to the idea of inclusion. This illustration shows that the value of the Seven Strategies was that they were not rigid, inflexible rules, but rather, that they were dynamic and fluid, always up for critical analysis and change in response to the changing discourse and activities of the group. They attracted comment The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 111 and clarification in relation to on-going issues. Progress and Prediction Our acceptance of on-going process, guided by reflection, led to a change in our conception of progress. Certainly, general curriculum goals were mandated, but for this class, the path toward them was less defined and there was never a certainty of reaching a set of prescribed outcomes. Instead we examined progress in the past tense, recounting the journey we had made and celebrating the milestones of individual students, the class as a whole, and our own increased understandings. We took the time to do this reflective activity because that was how we determined the next step. If strict curriculum goals had directed us, there would have been less need for our reflection because the next steps would be evident or prescribed and the same direction would be taken for all students. For instance, we noticed how Jerry became able to stay on topic. This afforded him more opportunity to contribute to or to lead class meetings. The six year olds were learning to raise their hands before speaking. This actually gave them more freedom to discuss challenging issues since they did not have to compete with older or more aggressive children. Progress was not measured by the expected results and acceptable pace toward universally accepted standards. Rather, it often surprised us: Sandy realized she could get the attention of the class through rhythmic clapping just like the teacher, Rajdeep, having rarely communicated to me beyond one word responses, called from across the room "Hey Mr. Collins, come and see this"; Donald, normally accommodating, held his ground as the only person in class to disagree with the idea of having shorter class meetings, defying total consensus; Arnrik acquired a sudden fluency in reading and memorizing lines of the play. But progress was not necessarily conceived only in positive terms. Progress was sometimes an adaptation to an evolving community rather than an advancement. It was not always success. Sometimes it was simply avoiding failure. For instance, the discourse in class The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 112 meetings evolved from imitating phrases that they had heard adults use to more authentic language that arose from efforts to express original thoughts. But eventually this new language became jargon. The children began to use the phrases we had generated for the Seven Strategies in ah automatic rather than an inspired way. This practice had to be challenged to keep the meaning alive and to conserve the gains we had made. This was why the idea of ignoring had to be reexamined. This conserving or maintaining kind of progress was not always a celebration but it was ever present as a necessary adaptation to continuous change. Solutions merely provided a change in direction so that we could meet the next challenge (or problem). At one class meeting, I noticed that Donald was fidgeting as he usually did. I wondered if he was uncomfortable sitting on the carpet so I got him a chair. This was a good solution for him since the fidgeting stopped and he was apparently more able to focus on the discussion. In a few minutes the meeting was interrupted by other students going to get chairs. Lots of students thought it would be nice to sit on chairs but there wasn't room and the commotion was distracting. The problem of sitting on chairs had to be put on the agenda for the next class meeting. So there was progress in mat I had solved Donald's fidgeting. There was progress in my new understanding of why it might be better for Donald to fidget on the floor. There was progress in the resolution to explore a new facet in the structure of class meetings. For some reason, this particular conception of progress always reminds me of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark, in which Indiana Jones is seen running wildly through the tunnel with a gigantic boulder seemingly inches behind him. He certainly is making progress through the tunnel but it is prompted more by avoiding calamity than moving toward a known and desirable place. Predetermined outcomes, goals, and standards are not always important parts of progress. In the language of complexity theory, determinism does not always imply predictability (Nicolis and Prigogine, 1989, p. 14). That is, mat although there may be an initial cause for an occurrence, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 113 in a complex system such as a classroom, we cannot predict at the start what the eventual outcome of a decision might be. Many of the values of our evolving participatory democracy, such as autonomy, responsibility, a sense of community, interactivity, and process, are not tangible products that can be measured for evaluation. The traditional practice of assigning A's and B's to concrete representations of student achievement seems irrelevant and perhaps counterproductive in an environment devoted to constant change and multifaceted ways of understanding and interacting. A challenge of the democratic classroom is not only to enhance communication within the classroom but to communicate in descriptive ways the richness, the uniqueness, and the value of process-oriented learning to the many other stake holders in society at large. For Donna and I there would never be a linear, step by step application of this research entitled The Handbook for Creating a Democratic Classroom. As Donna said "We live the research." Turbulence If the preceding discussion describes a Utopian ideal of the democratic classroom, that illusion must be dispelled. Our participatory democracy was not always an organized, comfortable place. Unpredictability does not always yield a romantic air of anticipation and adventure. In an environment like the public school where predictability is the norm, disequilibrium can invoke a sense of disquiet and insecurity. As mentioned, Donna often spoke of her uneasiness that colleagues might compare her class to theirs or her practice to theirs. She worried that she might not cover the prescribed curriculum. She was concerned that standard evaluations might miss the qualitative aspects of her students' learning. She also worried about her students' sense of security in a changeable environment. Jerry was one student who wanted order and predictability at school. His behavior could be regarded as a measure of the degree of uncertainty in classroom routine. If he became worried about the level of noise or potential The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 114 unruliness of classmates, his response was to call out inappropriately or to withdraw from the activity. Finding a level of comfort and routine within a changeable environment was a particular challenge for Jerry, but for all class members there was a constant renegotiating of their roles, identities, and significance in the class. Sandy sought attention through long stories at class meetings. Jason tried to consolidate his personal power through competitive actions. Roy and Rajdeep withdrew from verbal activities. Hanna asserted her verbal persona. Adam tried various strategies to maintain leadership in the classroom. Ellen constantly talked about her friendship with Hanna. The classroom interactions were intense and sometimes turbulent. As a result, a recurring theme was that of respect. At times, the teacher was frustrated by the tension between encouraging active participation and maintaining some sense of order. She wanted to allow dialogue but the children did not always speak or behave in respectful ways with each other. "If there is a lack of respect, am I sacrificing one for the other?" Our challenge was to have freedom within respect. The turbulent social interaction was the context in which intangible concepts such as this were explored not just by the teacher but also by very young children. It was challenging and often rewarding but it was not always comfortable. The Edge of Chaos There were many types of organizational structures experienced in mis fluid environment but I wish to demarcate three, illustrated by classroom events, for the purposes of comparison and to identify a theoretical idea. The first two have already been presented in the opening vignettes of the first and second chapters with the purpose of providing a context in which to contrast varying approaches to democracy and to authority. I now wish to re-examine those events in more detail and with the more refined purpose of contrasting the extremes of order and chaos as observed in classroom experience. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 115 As you recall, one related the story of how I took the class in Donna's absence to continue our role play as we practiced the Seven Strategies in solving potential problems. Although the activity began successfully with all students enthusiastically engaged, as we proceeded, the testing of behavior limits, with their teacher not present, began to escalate. Rather than ending the activity while it was still within tolerance levels for the classroom, the three actors began to run frantically after each other in the classroom, cheered on wildly by the audience. At the end, Jerry was pretending to cut Jason's head off with his ruler. Enthusiasm had turned into chaos. The other story was of the typical troubles of a teacher on call. With Donna away, the children were testing the behavioral limits once again. To maintain order and focus students' attention on her, the TOC used threats ("Two more and I'll have to send you to the office because what's happening is you're disrupting people who are sharing. It's a class meeting, not a fooling around time."), bribes ("This is for after the class meeting but if you keeping talking and playing with other people's hair, you won't get your bubble gum."), reinforced her position of authority, and directed attention to the rules. A substitute teacher has a difficult challenge since she has not usually established a relationship within the classroom community. The goal, generally, is to survive the day by maintaining order. As in these examples, order is maintained most efficiently by exerting authority through external means such as the use of threats or bribes. Students are given little opportunity for internal regulation through negotiation of choices. These two experiences with classroom structure represent the opposite extremes of, in the language of Complexity Theory, chaos and order. In the first case, students exercised an extreme form of autonomy that was unconstrained by a regard for the rest of the class. They chose actions that were appealing to themselves at the moment without consideration of how it The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 116 might affect the whole group. This resulted in a temporary breakdown of the community where useful learning activities were impossible. In the second case, students were responsible only to external authority and could not exercise internal choice. This resulted in the stifling of creativity and limited ownership of behavior. Our research was an exploration of the relationship between student autonomy and responsibility. Our continuous struggle to establish a participatory democracy afforded students the opportunity to enact individual choices that respected their own community. Neither freely autonomous nor rigidly responsible to authority, the ideal classroom community mat Donna and I envisaged existed at the edge of chaos. In actual practice, we sometimes slipped temporarily into disorder and sometimes we were overly restrictive. Reflecting on each misstep and each success allowed the community to self-correct, or self-organize. Self-Organization Self-organization is key in the ability of a dynamic system to navigate the tensions and turbulence at the edge of chaos. This is the third kind of structure that we experienced in our participatory democratic classroom. In our case, students were able to participate in the self-organization. It was interesting how collaboration among the children would often take place informally and spontaneously. An example of this is offered at the start of Chapter Four which is about Complexity Theory. Again, I will re-examine this event in more detail to illustrate the idea of self-organization. To recall, it describes the class meeting that Jason, Jerry, and Ronald decided to chair collaboratively. The politics and power tensions were evident, yet they were determined to be successful in leading the meeting. Jerry was very concerned about proper rules and procedures. Jason wanted to be in charge. Ronald often acted as mediator but had an agenda of his own as well. They often had to interrupt themselves to work out the order of the meeting and the correct versions of their stories. Donna worked very hard, not in directing, but in guiding with The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 117 questions, skillfully determining when to intervene and when to let the trio work out the organization on their own. The group ventured close to disorder at times but with their commitment to be the leaders and with Donna's guidance they were successful. This was not a typical class meeting. Generally, one or two people would lead, occasionally with prompting from one of the adults or one of the students as to how to proceed. They became quite good at expressing their concern about agenda issues and the class always had interesting questions and often generated original suggestions for coping with the problems. At times, the meetings became unruly with many voices at once, or the need to run to the window to see the guy with the weed wacker, or the distraction of planes flying overhead. Donna could always bring them back to attentiveness through various methods, such as saying "One, two, three. Eyes on me" or by using rhythmic clapping. The children also learned to regain control of the group. This meeting led by the three boys was an extreme example of how class meetings could wander to the edge of chaos, occasionally even slip over, yet could be brought back to sensible discussion. Conversely, the temptation toward rigid order was resisted, sometimes courageously. Donna was rarely directive. Rather, she skillfully used questions and offered suggestions to facilitate student leadership and contributions. Clearly as the year proceeded, students were learning to self-organize through speaking, listening, movement, drawing, and gesture. The class meeting, for example, was a stable activity but it was far from a stagnant balance of equilibrium. It was continually co-evolving with the students and the classroom environment. In daring to push toward the edge of chaos, the class became creative in organizing their own community structures and in finding ways to organize their own learning. Self-organization is a feature of complex adaptive systems. In the preceding examples, one can see how varying levels of autonomy are exercised within the formal and informal negotiations with others in the group. An awareness of responsibility to the community intermixes with these The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 118 autonomous actions but it is not possible to separate one from the other. The interplay of self-oriented expression and group awareness can be understood as a complex, co-evolving unity only if we consider the community as the context in which this interplay is possible. "In that process, organism and medium change together congruently as integral coherent systemic components of a changing biosphere" (Maturana, 2001, p. 5). Activity Frames The project approach that was initiated during our research in this class allowed self-organization and framed the limits between chaos and order. This is an example of liberating structures discussed by Davis, et al. (2000, p. 87). In our case, the teacher set a topic based on the publicly mandated curriculum but allowed a great deal of freedom as to how the topic was researched and presented. The curriculum itself was interpreted for the children in a general sense and opened to questions and suggestions. Negotiation was a central feature of this approach. Students and teacher negotiated the boundaries or frames within which the projects took place. Students negotiated with each other as to the specific construction of the projects. They decided on the content, the format, the make up of the group (or whether they worked alone), and the roles of each person. The idea of framing is itself interesting and complex. Previously in this discussion, frames, or frameworks, have been used to describe the bounds and biases of certain perspectives or to define an intellectual paradigm, "...frame is used to refer to the ways our perceptions and interpretations are caught up in personal and collective histories. We are framed by where we are from. And because we are never still, our frames are constantly evolving" (Davis, Sumara, and Luce-Kapler, 2000, p. 1). However, in the current sense, I use the term activity frames to clarify the limits of behavior or the range of learning activities. In a participatory democracy, the activity frames may not be as fixed as it might The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 119 otherwise be assumed. The frames must be clear for all concerned or insecurity will result in a search for the limits of behavior. This was illustrated in the examples when Donna was absent where the frames for behavior, as embodied by the teacher, were missing. But activity frames vary from activity to activity, from day to day, and from setting to setting. A teacher may wish to have a very narrow frame with limited freedoms for a new activity and gradually broaden the frame as students demonstrate their responsibility. Different teachers will have varying levels of comfort with activity frames. Within a democratic setting, framing is a constant focus and is the subject of much reflection by the teachers. It is ultimately part of the teacher's responsibility and authority to establish the frames for learning, but a democratic teacher seeks the input of students and clarifies the activity frames to explain the purpose and the limits for behavior. In discussing the topic of framing and interpreting the curriculum for very young children, Donna said They don't know what they should know. They don't know what the possibilities are. But we can explore it first and maybe say we're going to use as many ideas as we can. If they come up with five and they're relevant and on topic, then we'll use them. But [I] have veto power if it doesn't address the things we're supposed to be covering....But to actually present the IRPs [public curriculum], I'll have to interpret because of the language (In conversation, February, 2000). She found an IRP goal that states "Describe the basic structure of the various organs involved in speech and hearing." Realizing our students would never understand that language, she interpreted: "What we're supposed to do here is figure out how our body helps us talk and hear." Then students engaged in their increasingly familiar brainstorming and categorizing for activities to research the topic. Recall that one kind of brainstorming activity was I Know/I Wonder in which we listed first everything that was already known about the topic and what we wondered about became the areas that we were going to research. We called this process guided The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 120 participation because it was open-ended within limits or activity frames. The curriculum was used as a general guide or frame setting tool rather than a prescription. It was revealed for students to understand and to question. It was used much like a checklist to see what we had learned and what else we still needed to cover. In a sense, the class was guiding the curriculum rather than the curriculum setting the course of study. Still we met most of the curriculum goals, as many as most teachers do, but we also addressed other important issues along the way. Compared to our prior experiences working within traditional classroom structures, we observed that the difference in the approach to curriculum was in the degree of ownership by students and in the internalization of learning. Frames provided boundaries so that autonomous decisions were constrained from the extremes of chaos. At the same time, the activity frames defined student responsibility while allowing negotiated levels of freedom. This provided the necessary order without rigidity. Activity frames assisted classroom management by defining the appropriate measures of autonomy and responsibility, and were negotiated as the course between chaos and order. Diversity and Creativity Self-organization, acceptance of individuality, and learning at the edge of chaos implies a comparative increase in creativity of students, teachers, and the system, or community, itself. A traditional, balanced lesson plan often approaches learning in a uniform, singular fashion with all students doing the same exercises, with identical, expected outcomes. At the edge of chaos we embrace diversity. At the beginning of the school year, Roy knew little English and was hesitant to participate in discussions of any kind. His participation in the class meetings, for example, was limited to only his physical presence since class meetings, initially, were a very verbal activity. When the class began their projects on the solar system, Roy made a space ship on a stand out of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 121 common scraps of cardboard and tin foil. This was a unique expression of his knowledge. His creativity was demonstrated through his project. The liberating structure of the project-based approach provided a creative environment that allowed for diversity. For perhaps the first time, Roy was a fully participating member of the class. Acceptance of individuality and autonomy produced creativity which in turn changed the system itself. The class had become more inclusive. This enhanced inclusiveness then allowed for more individual contributions from Roy and others. The system was co-evolving. Individuals could help to change their environment while the environment enabled individuals and the community to change. Diversity, as mentioned, was an obvious feature of this classroom, as it is in most There was a cultural variety that included North American, Central Asian, Caucasian, and Southeast Asian heritages. The ages in this grade one/two multi-age class ranged from five to nine. Several children had been identified as needing extra classroom support which meant there was a classroom assistant assigned. Some children had suffered from crises in their families and other events beyond school influence. This diversity, combined with an emphasis on individuality and autonomy, resulted in mteresting discourse among the children. Some discussions were intense and the children were constantly learning appropriate ways of settling differences. Some activities tested the limits of public elementary school tolerance. But the discourse became more authentic as the children became more active participants, embracing both their diversity and their creativity. Inclusion and Participation While diversity was a creative force in the co-evolution of this classroom, it meant that inclusion, a basic tenet of this classroom community, was continually challenged. In this classroom where differences were celebrated, the teacher had the very difficult task of getting to know each student on a personal level. It was amazing how Donna could anticipate the intent of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 122 children's actions and expressions. One time, after listening behaviors were reviewed with the class, Jerry placed his face approximately one centimeter from Janice's face as she was trying to address the class. I assumed this was typical annoying behavior toward some unknown purpose. Donna, however, realized that he was merely being a little too literal in following the listening expectations just discussed. A listener should keep his eyes on the speaker. Donna complimented Jerry on his listening skills and suggested he give Janice a little more room so she could talk to the class. Ravinder, although he had little ability in English and struggled with most tasks expected for a student of his age, loved to participate in class meeting discussions. This required anticipation and sensitivity on the part of Donna to interpret and to suggest language for Ravinder so that he could participate. Adam, on the other hand, was incredibly skilled beyond his eight years in the art of social interaction and social problem solving. He was given the opportunity to model these talents for the class. Adam truly changed the classroom with his ability to suggest creative adaptations to the class meeting, individual problem solving, and classroom activities. However, Donna also needed to support him in his lack of ability and desire to write. A unique profile could be provided for each child and since this classroom celebrated diversity, it was a huge challenge for Donna to develop individual relationships in order to anticipate learning needs and styles. Interestingly, the purpose of this effort to support individuality was inclusion in the whole group. The strength of the community rose from the strength of individuals within a concern for the whole. A poster making activity was an example of the diversity-inclusion relationship. Before the class left for their spring break, we wanted an activity to help them remember all the wonderful thinking they had done regarding the Seven Strategies. We divided the class into seven groups of three and each group created a poster The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 123 illustrating one of the Seven Strategies. As the groups worked, the teachers made various comments and questions promoting inclusion. "We can't ignore Alana's idea.", "You can't really do it without Jason, can you?", "Are you being included?", "Jerry, what is a better way to solve the problem with Ravinder than hitting?", "What does Alana get to do?" When the posters were finished, we met to present them to the class. The children were very excited and took a lot of ownership. They pointed out the individual parts that each person did. All the children were able to tell what their poster was about, demonstrating a general understanding of the issues. All of the posters were displayed so that the whole class could learn about each other's poster topic and also get more ideas about how they could make better posters. This kind of group activity and extension to the whole class illustrates how the relationship between diversity and inclusion created a shared community product. The term Used in Complexity Theory for this interdependence among parts and whole, and the environment in which they exist, is ecology. It highlights the relationships and interconnections among class members, groupings, and the whole class. They are each interdependent in the creation of knowledge. In this case, the success of creating a poster depended on the contributions of each participant. Conversely, each student's learning was enhanced by the shared experience and outcomes. In a dynamic system, such as a participatory democracy, the whole community is dependent on each member just as each member is dependent on the whole community. Donna and I learned that the ecology of autonomy and responsibility was an important concept to reveal to the children. These kind of activities emphasized how individual choices affect the whole group and how the class influences individuals. The questions and comments that guided the reflection of the students about the nature of their relationships and the connections between individuals and the whole promoted the ecology of the community and countered narcissism. This ecology preserved the community as it The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 124 co-evolved. It provided stability although the community was in disequilibrium, continually changing, developing, and adapting. Asymmetry It is important to note the asymmetry in such an arrangement. The natural diversity in a classroom is in contrast with the ideal of equal participation. Much of the effort of the teachers in this research were, through reflection and adaptation, in support of the process of increasing inclusion and participation of all the students. Adam was easily a leader when it came to thinking about social change in organizing the classroom. He often led even the teachers in social problem solving. Ellen, a six year old, always thought very deeply about any class issue and considered her friends and the classroom as a whole in making suggestions. Roy and Rajdeep on the other hand, started from a disadvantage in terms of their ability to use language to contribute. It was partly their presence that led to transformations in how students could express themselves in other than verbal ways. Hanna and Sandy, in contrast, were talented in verbal areas and used their ability to talk to draw the attention of the class to themselves. Winnie was articulate and thoughtful and another natural leader with a caring nature. Sheila struggled to stay on task and often sought attention in ways that were distracting. Jason and Jerry sought personal power and their autonomy often had to be tempered and redirected toward the good of the class before they slipped over that slope toward chaos. Ernest was a master at making himself invisible during class meetings. The unique gifts and challenges that other students brought to the group have been mentioned before. The make up of the group was diverse and their individual abilities to participate were asymmetrical. This democracy was never complete. In this case, it continued to co-evolve in collective character and in finding ways of including each individual. Clearly it was a task of the teacher to reflect on the co-evolution of democracy. In our group, it also increasingly became the task of the children themselves, but asymmetrically rather than equally. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 125 Shared Consciousness Our participatory democracy was never finished. It continued to evolve. Of course the end of the school year forced the disbandment of our classroom community. It would have been interesting to see what became of the seeds that were planted in individuals and in the random clumps of students who stayed together, integrating themselves into other communities. But we should not expect their new communities to be like the old, even if the teacher and class also embraced a participatory democratic approach. Each community is different because it emerges from the contributions of unique individuals, interacting and negotiating together. Even a strong influence, like Adam or Winnie, will have to make their contributions relevant to a new group of students and teacher with their own needs, strengths, styles, and history. Our own classroom community was unique, never to be repeated. The teacher made a commitment to a democratic model without an exact blueprint as to what the outcome would be. Our particular version of democracy emerged with many surprises along the way and much learning on the part of the teachers and students. Some of the emergent properties, such as evolving class meetings, the Seven Strategies, projects, and role play, have been mentioned. There were other collective characteristics. It was an active group. It was often a noisy group. It was a group that was concerned about the group itself. It was also a class that experimented with various power arrangements. It was a musical community. It interacted with curriculum, indeed created curriculum, in very different ways. It was a community that became quite skilled in group work. It was a class that often discussed autonomy and responsibility, freedom and care for the others. It was not a community of agreement, but rather, a community of negotiation and debate. This community enacted democracy, but a unique kind of democracy emerged. All of these emergent properties reflected shared values. In enacting these values, a sense of shared consciousness also emerged. In some instances the pattern of relationships was harmonized through a unified The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 126 purpose. The singularity of a common mind was occasionally experienced in a very real way. Sometimes the immersion in these experiences can only be felt. They defy concrete thought and verbal description. Recall the vignette at the start of chapter three which discusses how the children had just finished performing their play and were debriefing at a class meeting. They spontaneously began to sing. This describes an unspoken coordination of group activity that gives a sense of shared consciousness. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 127 Chapter 7: Democracy Donna and I had one of our discussions on our favorite topic (democracy) shortly after she had attended a teachers' professional focus group. This group noticed a similarity in their practices in which an increase in a particular kind of problem with their students had occurred over the last ten years. Our culture provides children with highly stimulating environments. The computer game embodies the kind of individual attention, entertainment orientation, and immediate gratification in which today's children are immersed. The focus group pondered whether we give students too much freedom. Our popular view of democracy seems to be equated with the protection and enhancement of individual rights. Since this attitude is rarely linked to a regard for the rights of others or society as a whole, it invites narcissism. "In fact", added Donna, "Many children are raised by parents who value individual rights and freedoms as the basis of democracy". This self-centered perspective, which downplays social responsibility, likely leads to chaos. It is no wonder that many children become bored when not permitted the freedom to pursue their immediate impulses and lose motivation to attend to the lesson or engage in more interesting, but disruptive, behavior. Near the beginning of this dissertation, I defined democracy as the inclusive participation in one's community through discourse, resulting in continuous changes within that community. I have claimed that a democratic community is always in a state of change and that change causes not only turmoil, but also, growth and learning. This constant change and turmoil is partly due to the diversity in a classroom, particularly when all members are encouraged to participate in The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 128 decision-making. We came to believe that a community of like minkers was probably not a very interesting community. Rather, there would always be disagreement and struggle when participatory democracy was a basic tenet of a community. Self-interest The discussion between Donna and I that opens this chapter, of course, is consistent with our premise that students need both autonomy and responsibility to productively engage in a democratic classroom. The ideal attitude is one of autonomous responsibility where students voluntarily choose to adopt a responsible regard for the whole class. Conversely, students are empowered to make independent choices because they have developed responsibility. So why were these same self-centered attitudes appearing in our professed democratic community? Inderjit disliked school and often became sullen and withdrawn. Jason seemed to regard group decision-making as an opportunity to compete and assert his personal power over others. Sheila used disruptive behavior and inattentiveness to gain attention during group activities like class meetings. Sandy used her time leading class meetings to relate long stories that drew attention to herself, about problems that seemingly had no way of being resolved. Ernest could, but would not, participate in group discussions. Rather, he would make distracting side comments to his neighbors. Even Adam, who was clearly a class leader in developing and practicing social structures, sometimes used his status as a leader to promote his own agenda in almost a manipulative way. He also liked to play the role of devil's advocate which frustrated problem solving. 1 do not wish to give the impression that this was a difficult or particularly egotistical group of children. To the contrary, they were exceptionally friendly and caring. The point of these examples is that while the basic tenet of our research project was the promotion of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 129 autonomy within a sense of responsibility, the children often still displayed a typical level of self-interest and personal power seeking for their ages. They were being encouraged to make independent choices and their attention was being focused on the effect of their choices for the whole class. Indeed, many of the children were becoming very adept at making thoughtful, respectful choices. But it was not universal in all the children or all the time. We were already well into the research project when a basic oversight was finally revealed to us, as follows. Community as a Context for Autonomy and Responsibility Once, I overheard Jason, Adam, and Amrik discussing the most recent contentious issue for class meeting reform, the length of the meetings. Jason wanted shorter meetings. After much badgering, he persuaded Adam to side with him. Amrik, now suddenly outnumbered, joined in solidarity. Jason's argument was not for the merit of shorter meetings in improving the quality of the classroom or the effectiveness of the meetings. It had to do with competition and voting was the way of keeping score. If Adam and Amrik would join him, they would become a significant force in winning the debate. The appeal of winning was more persuasive than improving class meetings. In other words, personal power dominated the interaction rather than a concern for the community. We were focused on building autonomy and responsibility separately from other community influences rather than on developing the context and interactions in which autonomy and responsibility made sense. We were defining some of the elements of community as related but isolated entities rather than developing an overarching sense of community in which the elements would naturally fall into place in a complex rather than predictable fashion. We did have a certain kind of community, of course, like every classroom. All of the pieces were there. We had a room, tables, chairs, students, teacher, administrator, library, and The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 130 computers. The students had been assigned to this classroom perhaps randomly or perhaps because of parent lobbying, space, numbers, or performance assessment. The students had not chosen this community nor had the community chosen them. In our early conception of community, we relied on all the discrete pieces for a community including a philosophy that valued autonomy and responsibility. Although the community and students were gradually co-evolving on their own, toward the middle of the project, we realized our oversight was in focusing on the parts rather than the ecology of the parts interconnected within the whole. We were trying to build a community from parts rather man allowing it to emerge in a unified way from small beginnings through the interactions of individuals and groups. In fact, the progress that we had noticed had come from these ecological community interactions rather than discrete lessons in autonomy and responsibility. We came to understand community as being an ecological whole, which, through the interactions of individual members, co-evolves from small beginnings and continues to co-evolve. It self-organizes and self-corrects to remain at a place where it is not too ordered or too chaotic. In the process, shared values and eventually shared consciousness result in emergent properties and characteristics unique to that community. It is a dynamic, adaptive system. This can be illustrated in how the children understood and demonstrated the philosophical base. It is unlikely that six and seven year olds can provide sophisticated verbal expressions of abstract concepts like autonomy and responsibility. They can, however, demonstrate an unspoken understanding in the way they interact in the community. The basic way in which these children experienced community was in enacting the idea of friendships. For the children, community meant friends. After the first class meeting when we talked about the ideas of autonomy and responsibility, I gave them their research journals in which they could write or draw their reflections on the issue we talked about in the class meeting. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 131 I asked them what they would draw or write. These were their answers, in order and unedited: "I would write to help your friends.", "Keep an eye on your friends.", "Help your friends.", "Be safe with your friends", "Make pictures for your friends.", "Be nice to your friends.", and "Make a picture of your friends playing soccer." These comments indicate that although the children may not be able to provide a 'grown up', verbal explanation of what autonomy or responsibility is, they know these ideas have something to do with friends. Through playing and talking they explored how their individual needs, desires, and feelings related to those of others. A complex co-evolution with their community was experienced, in the seeming simplicity of childhood interactions, in which the beginnings of sophisticated social concepts were experienced. Even though they did not have the capacity to express their thoughts and feelings they could appreciate the context which they understood as friendship. The playground provided an authentic forum for these interactions. Not coincidentally, this was the place in which children had the most freedom and control over their activities. The relating of playground events often provided the basis for mtrinsically motivated, meaningful discussions during class meetings and, as mentioned, precipitated a change in the style of discourse from teacher approved (imitated) to authentic (self-initiated). Friendships, and therefore their sense of community, were negotiated on the playground on a daily basis. Of course, these events were not directly observed but rather were reconstructed from class meeting discussions. They told many stories about playing soccer and who was on which team and why, or who was included and the criteria for being included. Through these kinds of interactions, they were learning not only how to express their feelings and wants, but were also learning that the feelings and wants of their peers were important as well. In one of the first class meetings, we were addressing this very issue of including others in playing on the playground. The children could easily identify the bad feelings that would result for those who were not allowed to join in The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 132 and they began to make suggestions on how to include everyone. This empathy demonstrated both an awareness of their own feelings and a concern for others. As the year proceeded, the community co-evolved with the children through the dynamic interactions with friends. Within the class, there were changing groupings of children who worked and played together. Groupings were often dependent on the nature of the activity. For example, to work on Lego constructing Star Wars space ships, Adam, Inderjit, and Ernest formed a group until the interest in the space ships passed. For a time, Jerry and Jason played together with Game Boy at recess. Although while inside the classroom we tended to think of ourselves as a closed, defined group, there were many interactions outside of the classroom community that helped to define its emerging identity. At recess our class played games with children from other classes. Ronald typically came back from recess with a bumped head or bloodied nose as a result of playground interactions. Ellen and Hanna had an enduring friendship with each other that extended beyond school time into playtime at home. Our class partnered with other classrooms for school activities. There was a weekly assembly of the whole school that contributed to a strong school wide sense of community of which our class was a part. Of course, there were also family influences mat were often the topic of class discussions. Family relationships were even subjects for problem solving or often cited as examples of how problems were solved at home. The boundaries of our classroom community were porous, flexible, and dynamic. Like adaptive living systems and like individual students themselves, communities are constantly interacting with and changing with neighboring adaptive systems and the common environment. So while the classroom community was identifiable largely through friendships, there were strands that reached out into other communities. On one hand, the members of this community were, in a sense, artificially assembled together through age groupings, class lists, and The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 133 the whims of adults, and contained within classroom walls. On the other hand, upon being forced together, they naturally began to co-evolve into a community through interactions which they understood as friendships. This concept of friendship was much stronger than any preplanned teacher agenda for building community. It developed in unexpected ways in spite of our well thought out ideals about how autonomy and responsibility ought to form the basis of a democratic community. It became clear that a sense of community must develop first as a context in which autonomy and responsibility can be enacted. The ways the children understood the autonomy and responsibility within their community were expressed in both unspoken and in verbal ways. Karen revealed the tensions that she experienced as she navigated between the appeal of her personal choices and the will of her friends. The class had reached a consensus that revenge was not to be included in our list of strategies for solving problems. Karen had been a vocal and tenacious supporter for the usefulness of revenge, but on the day of the consensus, she had been away sick. The next day, at Adam's insistence, I talked to her to make sure she agreed with the way the class had reasoned out their arguments against revenge. 1 asked if she wanted to talk to the class about it some more. She said simply, "No." I pressed further, "So you don't want revenge to be on our list anymore?" She answered, "Well I do. It's just that my friends want it off." Clearly there was a conflict between her personal beliefs and her concern for acceptance by her friends. I made several suggestions: We could keep talking about it. We could explain it better for her. I also told her that it is okay for people to disagree. Finally she said "Let's see. I can just change the word." She felt that if she simply changed her word for what she meant to assertiveness (a term we had discussed) she could have the agreement of her friends and still retain her basic belief that she should be able to stand up for herself. This seemed to me to be an advanced way for an eight year old to negotiate the complex intertwining of autonomous belief and responsibility to her friends, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 134 her community. Although she could not provide a sophisticated verbal explanation of the terms autonomy, responsibility, community, consensus, or compromise, she was able to enact an enlightened, but unspoken, understanding of these concepts. Karen remained a tenacious and vocal debater on various issues, but she was not malicious and her friends were very important. She became skilled in the art of compromise. Some of the children also overtly expressed their understandings of the words autonomy and responsibility in basic ways that their experiences had helped them to define. Near the end of the research project, I had the opportunity to ask many of them directly what they thought those terms meant. They essentially defined the idea of responsibility in two ways. One related to caring and the other related to duty. These concepts were not entirely distinct from each other and often overlapped. However, the children were able to think about responsibility in one sense as motivated mtrinsically (care) and in another sense as motivated extrinsically (duty). Jason asserted that responsibility meant to take care of people, like when his mother was sick. He would take care of her and when he was sick his mother would take care of him. Hanna said it meant "to take really good care of your friends." For Winnie and Ellen, it meant taking care of things such as a gift that a friend gives you, or a gold fish. Inderjit said responsibility meant faking care of your mother and, at school, taking care of your friends. Closely related to this enaction of caring was Keery's idea that responsibility is helping people or listening to people. It is interesting to note that these definitions of responsibility relate to the specific action of caring. On the other hand, Adam said "responsibility is when you have chores to do and you do them." Ellen said that responsibility lets people get their jobs done faster. To Amrik, it was taking care of the gym pass. Sam felt responsibility had to do with "telling ideas, doing chores, and cleaning up after yourself." Donald said that using his brain was responsible so he could get The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 13 5 his work done. "If you don't use your brain, you become a potato head." Of note is that even the class leaders (in terms of social awareness and social problem solving) often subscribed to responsibility as being a sense of duty. Both care-oriented and duty-oriented conceptions were present in students who showed a high level of social leadership. Some of these children responded to my questions at different times with both kinds of definitions. However, what was common was the fact that responsibility was always connected to a regard for other people. Even the responsibility of the gym key, the gold fish, or presents from friends, was ultimately connected to the well being of others. The term autonomy was less familiar to the students even near the end of the research project. Student definitions included "sticking up for yourself and "you need to talk." Sam said that it meant being brave. Adam said it meant making your own choices. Donald, wise beyond his eight years, said, "You should make your own choices when you are a child because, if you don't, when you become an adult, you won't know how to." Ravinder said that it meant eating your own food. Hanna, typically, came up with a lengthy story about being by herself and if someone came, she would say "Excuse me, I want to play by myself." Clearly, almost all the children realized that autonomy had something to do with choices and that it was oriented toward themselves. But then, in the course of my discussion with the children around their ideas about autonomy, the conversation took a surprising turn. One student said that autonomy meant choosing to play with friends. Adam said that you could choose to help people. Winnie told us about a picture that Ellen, Sheila, and Hanna helped her draw. She exclaimed that they chose to work together. Another student added that caring was autonomy. Perhaps I should not have found it so remarkable that the children had began to link choices with a regard for other people The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 136 given the context in which they had been working for the previous eight months. But we had not made a point of directly teaching the terms autonomy and responsibility after defining them in the first days of the project. We focussed more on the interactions of the moment and engaged in authentic kid language to reflect on them. As we then revisited these terms, the children's application of language in this way validated the idea that at least some young children are able to conceive of a unity of autonomy and responsibility. The fact that there were limits to their autonomy was not lost on these children. Winnie wrote in her research journal: "Autonomy means making your own choices and other people should make their own choices but sometimes you're not allowed." I asked her when she was not allowed to make choices. "When I have to go to bed." The definitions of autonomy offered by these children indicate that they were developing an intrinsic way of limiting their autonomy by considering the well being of other people. However, the influence of adults was still a strong extrinsic factor that limited autonomy. I should add, though, that after telling me about the limits of autonomy, Karen added secretively, "My mom puts me in my bed but I still stay up in my bed." Adult influence might account for two of the phenomena previously reported. First, as already stated, the concept of autonomy was not as familiar to these students as was the concept of responsibility. Second, the duty oriented conception of responsibility was strong even among classroom leaders. The overt understandings of autonomy and responsibility must be gained almost entirely through listening to adults. These are adult terms. As such, responsibility is used quite often by adults but autonomy is not When responsibility is used by adults it is quite often used in a one way, top down manner. In other words, children are taught to be responsible to adults and to adult values. Therefore responsibility often means to get your work done, listen to the teacher, and to clean up. When adults discuss responsibility with children, the students' care The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 137 for the community or their autonomous choices are not usually emphasized. Rather, responsibility is explained in terms of duty. This reminds me of my experience in another school, which, like many schools, had initiated a school wide program promoting responsibility and respect. Although the conversation was couched in community values, in practice, it was clear that responsibility meant conformity to adult expectations of behaviour. It rarely implied mutual respect in which teachers were obliged to consider the autonomy of children. Participation. Discourse, and Action As mentioned, when applying Complexity Theory principles to classroom communities, it is the interactions, the communicative behaviors, that allow for the continual co-evolution of the students, the community, and the environment. This co-evolution of individuals and community illustrates how discourse, and other communicative forms, is the vehicle that allows development to proceed. Furthermore, it is clear that participation and communication are inextricably linked. One generally participates via engaging in discourse. For participation and discourse to be productive, autonomous individuals require a sense of responsibility to their community. We can better understand the complexity of a classroom community by examining not the collection of individuals, but rather, the relationships and the patterns that are emergent. Inclusion for Participation Since participation was the prime objective of our democratic community and there were many who struggled in that area, Donna and I engaged in what we called guided participation. We assisted those who were reluctant or unable to contribute to discussions by anticipating and interpreting their messages, or by prompting and making suggestions. The rest of the class would often join in to elicit discussion from others. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 138 For example, Ravinder always wanted to join in the conversations but often missed the point or was unintelligible due to his difficulty with speaking. But his right to speak was supported and defended by teachers and students alike. At one class meeting, he was the object of a complaint about not sharing. Although he did not understand the discussion, he knew he should say something and began to speak off topic. Donna thanked him, encouraged him to remember that for later and explained that we were talking about sharing. Sandy, anticipating a negative response from the class, said, "It's not nice to laugh at Ravinder because he doesn't know how to talk." Others agreed. Donna then redirected the class to the topic of sharing and asked "Should you always share with Ravinder?" Sandy and others said, "Yes, because it's good to share." Winnie considered the issue in a little more depth, "You could say 'you can use it after I'm done'." Others agreed. Hanna then added, "If we were playing with it, we wouldn't have to share because Ravinder didn't share with them." Ellen says, "That's revenge. That's not fair." And so the conversation continued in this sophisticated fashion (for seven year olds) for some time with Ravinder included regardless of his verbal ability. Ravinder always maintained his interest in trying to communicate verbally and the class maintained their support for his participation. When it came time for auditions for the play at the end of the year, Ravinder was first in line to try out for the part of the Captain of the space ship, the main speaking role. No one questioned his right to do so. I have described the diversity of personalities among the class members. There were among them a core group of students with exceptional abilities in social problem solving and a willingness to suggest and implement changes in their classroom routines. Adam, Ellen, Winnie, Donald, Janice, and Karen were easily identified as models and perhaps leaders for a democratic approach to classroom structures. The temptation was to rely on these children as the spokespeople for the class and then claim a democracy. Indeed, these children were articulate and The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 139 had gained the respect and support of their classmates. They had power and influence over the others. This kind of governance would mirror that cynical view of popular democracy where the advantaged govern and continue to increase their power. In sharp contrast, however, we were committed to the participation of all. This included Roy, Rajeep, and Ravinder with their limited English. It included Ernest and Inderjit who were reluctant to contribute. It included Sandy and Hanna whose enthusiasm for public speaking overwhelmed their regard for the interests of their audience. We developed several strategies to promote inclusion. They included guided participation, small groups and partners, projects, interviews, research journals, role play, and class meetings. Guided Participation. The story of how Ravinder was helped to participate both verbally and non-verbally despite his limited language shows the possibilities for everyone in the class to make contributions to the community. The description of how the children were able to participate exposes an assumption that participation depends on discourse and that the dominant form of discourse in the classroom is speaking in a public forum. Shortly after our first class meeting, Donna pointed out that this was precisely the flaw in our approach. Pubic speaking was not a strength for many children in this class. Therefore, communication had to be extended beyond verbal discourse to include alternate and diverse forms. Small Groups and Partners. In one of these early class meetings, we had an open discussion with the whole group which was dominated by a predictable few. Donna then broke them up into partners and triads to further discuss the issue at hand and later had them report back to the large group. I interviewed Roy afterward. With typically few words, he revealed a step toward better participation. I asked if he talked at the big meeting. He said, "No." I asked if he talked with his partner. He said "Yes." The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 140 Since his partner reported back to the whole class, Roy indirectly participated in the decision-making. Projects. For Roy, engaging in a classroom project was his main route toward participating. We discovered he was extremely creative working with his hands. Creating his model of a space ship, for instance, was a way that he could engage in the topic of study and demonstrate his knowledge. But a secondary effect was that it stimulated conversation. He would answer yes or no questions and use short responses, but through these interactions, he built up a vocabulary to further aid verbal ability in describing his space ship. With this success came confidence. Again, the concept of co-evolution applies. His language emerged within the context of building projects. Interviews. The process of interviewing students individually became another avenue for participation. Students had the opportunity to express their concerns or ideas about classroom issues. I could direct them to the class meeting agenda, help them write their suggestion, offer to present issues on their behalf, or go over some strategies with them to address their issues outside of the group format. Donna was envious of my role as an interviewer. She wished that she could always have the time for individual conferences with the children to the same degree that was happening now, with an extra adult in the room. We were able, though, to multiply the number of individual interviews by allowing our student research partners to interview each other. Of course, this in itself was a learning process. I had to explain to the children that the kind of data I wanted recorded had to be important and sensible. I said that I would have to listen to all their tapes and I didn't want to listen to silly sounds, only their serious thoughts on the topic at hand. Some children learned to be gifted interviewers and some were deeply thoughtful interviewees. Many children participated in mis The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 141 discourse offering advice for improving the classroom structures: Donald: What did you like about today's One Hundred Day Activities? Winnie: Well they were nice. My favorite one was the painting. Donald: What did you not like about the One Hundred Day Activities? Winnie: Well I didn't really like the one with the straws out of the box. Everybody was getting so mad and like everybody got in a big argument and we were wondering what we should do. Donald: Oh. At the end of the research project, I gave Donna and the students a microcassette recorder as a j goodbye gift so that these kinds of conversations could continue. Research Journals. In anticipation of the diversity in verbal ability, we also instituted the idea of research journals at the start of our project. Students were to document their understanding of classroom issues (particularly ones raised during class meetings), ask questions, make comments, and describe events. I have already remarked on the mixed results of this activity in terms of quality and quantity of contributions. Adam, who was a class leader in the verbal forum was reluctant in the written forum. He would always ask what he could write about and actually produced very little. Alana, though not overly vocal during meetings, often showed remarkable insight into social situations (e.g., Ignoring is not always a good way to solve problems). She was very capable in making intelligent journal entries but, for whatever reason, refused to engage in written conversations with me in her journal, instead, she would write her pronouncements and ignore my written questions. We eventually agreed that she didn't have to respond to my questions and I didn't have to respond to her entries. But the idea of written correspondence in a journal format was foreign to most of the children. They were only accustomed to providing pictures and The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 142 captions in other journal activities. On the other hand, Hanna, Winnie, and Donald approached the journal activity in the same chatty way that they conducted themselves verbally but were also able to add interesting drawings, providing another perspective to their thoughts. The ability to draw in their journals supported discourse for some of the students with verbal difficulties, such as Rajeep, Roy, and Ravinder. Their drawings, though unsophisticated, communicated their knowledge and feelings about events and issues. The teacher could learn to read the children's unique invented spelling, make written language assessments, and model written grammar and spelling in a meaningful context as illustrated here: Figure 7.1: Roy's Journal Of course this activity in itself did not necessarily communicate to the community at large. However, the adults who looked at the drawings could engage in discussions with the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 143 students and pass on information to the class or assist the students in doing so themselves. This interaction between teacher and the student communicating through drawing enhanced the ability of the student to communicate both verbally and in writing. The teacher would discuss the drawings and their implications and assist with writing the corresponding thoughts, sometimes scripting the thoughts herself. This provided the student with verbal and written language in the meaningful, functional context of affecting the community of which he or she was a part. The interaction also gave the teacher insight into the thoughts, wishes, and personality of the student. This is a good example of co-evolution with the journal activity as the medium of interaction. But it is important to realize that the process of journal writing in itself was not sufficient to affect community change. Without adding links to the community through decision-making with the teacher or through using other skills beyond journal keeping, such as speaking or collaboration, the mere act of keeping the journal related more to one's individual world. In other words, it was a highly autonomous activity that required the addition of some responsibility to the classroom community for co-evolution to take place. This meant talking to the teachers, as mentioned, or discussing their writing and drawing with their friends. This type of social activity often took place among some of the students. In fact, Ernest and Ronald occasionally came up with identical entries. But journal writing was essentially an individual activity which served as a catalyst for interaction. Without the additional step of interaction, journals could not directly influence the class or even individual members in the same way as verbal discussion. Role Plav. Role play, by contrast, was intensely social, directly interactive, and highly inclusive. It most closely resembled the natural language of all children: play. No child in mis age group had completely mastered the English language. However, they could all readily express themselves through play, which in turn, helped to develop their verbal language. Yet another example of co-The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 144 evolution, this process was adopted in the classroom to facilitate discourse and participation. We did not always use verbal language in role play, though. The use of mime leveled the , playing field even more. The children would try to guess the issue that was being acted out, such as a playground problem, and the solution that was offered. This was a coordination of behavior. It was paired with verbal language as the portrayed problem and solution were discussed after the mime. Class Meetings. After using role play as a mode of communicative interaction, I asked several of the students how they felt about class meetings. Winnie liked it that they could stand up. Rajeep thought class meetings were boring. Others agreed but some liked the class meetings when we talked about interesting things. Ellen liked to listen to Hanna talk. Although many students liked discussing issues and learning to solve problems, in general, students identified common difficulties with the class meetings. They were too long for most. They were sometimes boring. It was uncomfortable to sit. Many were distracted. It was hard to listen. Indeed, many of the recurring issues that we discussed had to do with improving the format of the class meeting itself. We worked on listening and talking skills. We discussed whether or not we should have chairs to sit on at the meetings. Teachers were requested by the students to monitor class meeting behavior and issue reminders. Class meetings were the starting point for our participatory democracy. They did co-evolve with the community, in large part due to student generated concerns. We added the compliments and successes segments, students did learn to listen and contribute verbally, sometimes with assistance. We did discuss interesting issues including the planning of projects, field trips, and plays. We did try to include all. Donna and I felt that it was important to maintain a forum in which verbal discourse dominated since verbal discourse dominates the world at large. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 145 We wanted our students to learn and experience competencies in that area in a safe, accepting environment. But other elements of communication, beyond only verbal discourse, emerged as well like branches from a tree. Among them were the elements that have been presented: guided participation, small groups and partners, projects, interviews, research journals, and role play. In addition, we used music, secret hand signals, and the creation of posters as further elements of classroom interaction and communication. We could say that these all emerged from the class meeting format in order to address its limitations, but, more accurately, they grew from the same roots as the class meeting. They were all ways of maximizing the interaction and participation of students in the growth of their classroom community. Active Discourse Donna once told Adam, as she was being interviewed by him, that she was looking for ways to get more of the children involved in the class meetings. Adam replied, 'To make it less boring, let's do some kind of activity with the agenda items instead of just talking". The most inclusive methods of interaction, projects and role play, were also the most physically active. These alternate modes of expression were successful, in terms of increased participation because of their enhanced level of activity. Although we had some remarkably articulate seven and eight year olds in this group, none of them had an adult mastery of verbal language. It was interesting to observe that when the language of class meetings became inaccessible to some children they responded with physical activity, often of a disruptive nature. They would play with each others' hair or poke at each other. They would wiggle around on the carpet often traveling from one end to the other in search of a partner who would respond to their physical activity. This active behavior was clearly communicative, even if not always related to the topic under discussion. Michael Polany wrote "...we can know more than we can tell" (1966, p. 4) in describing The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 146 tacit knowledge. Whether tacit or simply inexpressible, the children clearly knew things that were beyond verbal communication. Coordinated behavior assisted these children in exchanging ideas and expressing feelings. It was evident that physical activity was an essential element of communication. Conversely, in situations where activity was not possible or discouraged, communication was often obstructed. Discomfort and frustration distracted the children from productive participation. I wish to augment the familiar meaning of the word discourse in an effort to describe the nature of the developing communication methods of these children. In contrast to verbal discourse, active discourse clearly enhanced participation in the classroom community. Perhaps, for this age group, physical activity must support verbal discourse. Perhaps movement as coordinated behavior is necessary in learning spoken language. If so, then the common school practice of forcing children to be quiet and listen, and to speak without action, interferes not only with participation, but also, in the acquisition of language skills. Humberto Maturana (2001) observes the linkage between language and physical activity in a biological paradigm: Languaging as a manner of daily living in consensual coordinations of..behavior can in fact take place in many different manners. In us, languaging takes place mostly through speech, so it must have involved sound production by mouth in correlation with coordinations of behavior from very early in this history (p. 4). For small children, activity and language are linked. They co-evorve. Action brings forth language, verbal and non-verbal, which then influences the activity. An active classroom may provide the opportunity for more inclusive participation, heightened creativity, and more enthusiastic learning. In practice, though, the classroom cannot always be bustling with activity nor do we wish to suggest that activity become chaotic. There are times for lots of activity. There are times for quiet listening. Again, the challenge for a participatory classroom is the continuing The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 147 process of navigating a course between order and chaos. The experience gained from this research project, however, does suggest the need to link activity with discourse and questions the wisdom of the traditional classroom that promotes an overarching tendency toward stillness and quiet with exclusive reliance on verbal discourse. We must question how reasonable it is to expect young students to spend extended time sitting quietly in desks or cross legged on the carpet. Rather, we should be looking for opportunities to provide a meaningful context for language and learning through activity and participation. Perhaps it is the obligation of the teacher to enter the exciting, active world of the curious child rather than always expecting the child to forfeit that world in favor of unengaging adult standards for discourse. One time, when we were braihstorming ideas to improve quietness and listening behavior at class meetings, I asked Rajeep, "What makes people listen?" He replied, "A teacher." Active discourse is the enaction of participation through coordinated behavior, activity, and language. Children create their community and are shaped by their community in this way. Activity and language, of course, are not enough to ensure productive participation. As recently referred to, one can envision a highly active chattering class merrily slipping into chaos. In navigating the course of participation between order and chaos the discourse must be relevant. It must be relevant to the children and to learning. The projects, for example, were a relevant and active approach to learning and curriculum. The students' own choices of topics and methods ensured interest while their interactions with classmates shared knowledge and expanded their sense of community. Relevance was embedded in both autonomous choice and responsible interaction with the community. To paraphrase the words of Davis, et al. (1996), knowing was doing was being. In other words, learning was inseparable from the students' actions and reflected the relevance of knowledge as a central aspect of their lives rather than being imposed from outside as a self-contained, isolated entity. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 148 Relevance was also an issue with class meetings. When we first invited the students to participate in class meetings, we were immediately impressed by the willingness of some students, the more verbal ones, to contribute their thoughts. They at least were providing a model of participation for the others. We became somewhat distressed as, increasingly, we recognized our own adult voices emanating from the mouths of the student speakers. They tended to imitate the phrases we used in setting expectations for social behavior and problem solving. They would structure sentiments which they anticipated would meet our approval. A brief discussion with Jason exemplified teacher approved language: Me: What do you think the class meetings are good for? Jason: They are good for listening and learning. Me: Learning about what? Jason: Lots of things. Me: Like? Jason: Like... all of them. Me: Well we learned a lot about how to solve problems that we have with people didn't we? You talk a little bit at class meetings don't you? Do you feel that people are listening to you? Jason: Not really. Me: What do you think we could do to make that better. Jason: Make it better to talk it out. Me: Talk it out? Jason: And respect yourself. Me: You were saying that you don't think that people were listening at class meetings? So what do you think we can do about that? The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 149 Jason: Mind my own business. Here Jason was struggling to conform his expression to phrases he thought sounded teacher-like. He was more concerned about teacher authority than self-expression or even making meaning. The other students who were capable of producing teacher approved rhetoric modeled participation but it was our desire to move beyond the superficial nature of this discourse to be able to discuss authentic, student oriented issues. We needed to make the discussion relevant. As we persevered with the class meeting structure, the topics of the discussion increasingly centered around playground events. The politics of the playground provided relevant, even passionate discussion. The children began to raise specific issues and used then-own expressions that sometimes had to be translated for the adults. At times words failed. It was the class meeting (described at the beginning of Chapter 7) in which Hanna, Sandy, Winnie, and Sheila tried to verbalize their concerns regarding the highly complex issue of preserving their friendships. Words, for these eight and nine year olds were inadequate to express these deeply held feelings. Adam's suggestion to act out the situation resulted in effective communications of these feelings and was the beginning of role play as a classroom technique that enhanced the participation of all, regardless of verbal ability. Authority When exploring the ideas of democracy and decision-making within any group, the issue of authority is quickly recognized as problematic. This is particularly true in a public school system where authority is entrenched in a hierarchical structure with the government at the top and the students at the bottom. Within the classroom, the teacher is in authority with regard to the students and the activities that take place. The teacher is also under the authority of the school's administration who answers to the school board. But surely this linear, technical view of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 150 a system of authority is far too simplistic. Teachers, for the most part, care about the wishes, needs, even happiness of their students. The students themselves are interested in exercising their own power. As we have seen, power is an important issue among students and has a strong effect on how smoothly a classroom runs. Administrators are interested in maintaining some popular support among the staff. Teachers influence each other. So in practical terms, authority does not simply decend from the top down. There is also influence and power from the bottom up and horizontally in a network-like community. Democracy, in theory, recognizes authority as being imbedded within the community. A participatory democracy highlights the authority of all members of a community. When exploring the possibilities of a participatory democracy in a public classroom, this results in a tension between an idea of recognizing shared authority and the traditional singular authority of the teacher. Community as Authority Indeed, this was Donna's initial conundrum. She felt that democracy meant giving her students more freedom to make their own choices and behave under fewer constraints, but, at the same time, she felt frustrated and nervous when they made impulsive choices or seemed disrespectful. It was clear that there was some role for teacher authority in a public school classroom. It was also clear that it was necessary to have some measure of student autonomy in a democratic classroom. As we observed when examining the ideas of autonomy and responsibility, the terms are only viable in the classroom when students have a sense of community, tempering and unifying these concepts within a concern for the whole. Similarly, I claim that shared authority, which allows student choice and accepts a teacher's responsible position, can only make sense if authority is embedded in the community. That is, students do not solely self-govern through their own autonomy nor do teachers take an authoritarian position, rather, the ultimate authority in a democratic classroom is the community itself. Since developing a sense of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 151 community involves negotiating a course between order and chaos, this sharing of authority is also a dynamic process of co-evolution. At the very beginning of the project, 1 went to Donna's classroom to wait for her and the start of school after lunch. It was an "inside day" so the children were in the classroom playing with no other adults present. The lunch monitors, apparently quite bossy grade sixers, had just left. Donna said that some of her students often tried to emulate this bossiness at recess. Jerry, in particular, liked to tell others what to do. I sat off to the edge of the room behind a set of shelves, not hiding, but not making my presence felt. The room occasionally became filled with activity that seemed a little chaotic and abnormal for a classroom. Some children were throwing things. Some children were running through the classroom. I debated whether to assert myself as an adult and go over the rules, but instead, I took advantage of my status as a newcomer who could feign ignorance. What I really wanted was to see what would happen without an adult authority from the school present. A couple of times a student would turn off the lights and announce loudly "Running's not allowed." The room would then actually quiet but gradually the chaos would return. Eventually Hanna came over to me and said "You know, you're not allowed to run. That's the rule." I asked what she was going to do about it. She asserted "No. You have to tell them." At that moment, Jerry rushed in from the hallway calling out "Ms. Klause's coming! Ms. Klause's coming." There was a sudden response. Children rushed about organizing themselves. When Donna entered the class, all the students were seated quietly at their tables. This is an example of the authority structures and power influences in a classroom, and perhaps as a base point from where to begin the exploration of shared authority. I quietly watched the children as they sought to control the behavior of their peers that seemed inappropriate. Some came to me to enforce my authority as an adult, even though, at that point, they did not know me or my role in the classroom. But as Donna approached the classroom, it The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 152 was clear mat her mere presence was enough for all the children to quickly conform to the behavior that they knew was expected. The scene illustrates at least two issues. Firstly, adults have implicit and generally unchallenged authority. Secondly, power is fascmating and motivating for young children. As Donna said, "The fact that it is in primary [school] may be special. The kids are so egocentric. Power is a huge issue for the kids." In a democratic classroom, the process of sharing authority can address the dangers inherent in each of these two dimensions. A teacher can avoid the traditional drift toward authoritarianism and children can practice exercising power in a responsible way rather than in a self-indulgent way. If authority is shared and therefore embedded in the community itself, teachers can exercise authority for the good of the community rather than promote their own position and status. Similarly, students can learn to use their own power to support their classroom community rather than to compete and thereby divide the community. For Donna, who was not an authoritarian teacher in the first place, the shift toward sharing her teacher authority was subtle. It was a decision to be more reflective about her interactions with students. "It's making me be cognitively more aware of how much I control. So perhaps that's the first step.... Every time I sit with them now and I'm talking, I have this uneasiness, thinking they could be doing more here. I don't need to be so directive." So from this base point, we began to look for ways for all to participate in sharing authority. Many of the teacher's jobs gradually became students' jobs. This had to be done without compromising the teacher's role of leadership in learning or in classroom safety and security. We also had to be careful about disproportionately elevating power positions for certain students or factions of students. Authority, ideally, was to be shared by all members of the community. Since this was an ideal, in practice we engaged in a process toward that ideal. It was The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 153 a process of reflecting on what duties could be shared, what students could manage, and learning the skills that enabled an authority that benefitted the community. Donna reflected, "With these guys,... there's just so much more freedom within the classroom in terms of how they're even allowed to move around [for] activities because they can handle it." This process saw more and more of the teacher's duties and activities become students' duties and activities. Students were given choices to make within their individual abilities and levels of responsibility. Freedom to choose and act was increased. Instead of Donna giving assignments for activities, she would give explanations for the purpose of activities regarding what could be learned and why it should be learned. Students were increasingly allowed input into classroom plans. Individual and group styles influenced their projects. Instead of directives and pronouncements, Donna would ask questions to have students self-initiate and self-evaluate. Even before we started the research project, Donna had students take turns being the "VIP" for the day. The VIP would perform special duties such as dismissing students at recess and trying to get the attention of the class to prepare for activities. I asked Donna how this was working. She described how Jason tended to scream at Hanna to get her to pay attention to him. "So we're working on politeness. I think we will need to address leadership skills at the next class meeting." Of course the class meeting was the first and most obvious place to work on sharing authority and developing leadership skills. Adam was the first of the students to take over the teachers' role of leading the class meetings. He provided an excellent model for the others and had an intuition as to how to respectfully guide the interactions. But despite his natural talent in social matters, even Adam had to learn to temper this power. He tended to play devil's advocate when presenting a problem, resisting any suggestions for a solution. He could even be manipulative in winning others over to his point of view, having them join his political faction The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 154 and increasing his own personal power within the group. Sharing authority involved identifying areas appropriate to share, having students who were responsible enough to share in the authority, and guiding the students' learning in how to assume a position of authority. Adam had the wonderful opportunity to practice his strengths in social leadership, where in another class these might have been overlooked. He also had the opportunity to learn about responsible management of his personal power to enrich the community as a whole. Through his positive modeling, all of his classmates eventually had the opportunity to lead the class meetings. Some required close guidance, some led collaboratively, and some, like Adam, were very independent. Diversity in the classroom was again an issue in developing shared authority. Leadership style varied with each individual but in allowing for a multitude of styles, leadership was a creative and dynamic process. As already described, it was Sandy who discovered that students, as well as teachers, could use rhythmic clapping to gain the attention of the class. Soon, everyone used this technique whenever they needed everyone to listen to them in the class meeting or at other times. While Donna gave explanations rather than directives, the students began to take on the role of explaining. When Jerry was not convinced that revenge should not be on our list of problem solving strategies, it was Janice, not a teacher, who successfully explained the problems with revenge in her own 'kid language'. Gradually, students took over many of the duties that traditionally are included within the realm of teacher authority. They developed and augmented classroom rules and expectations along with problem solving strategies. They chose learning activities and made plans. They even suggested roles for us, the teachers. The teachers modeled discourse practices, respect, and thoughtful behaviour. Students then began to model discourse practices, respect, and thoughtful behaviour for each other. They began to self-organize, reminding each other of appropriate The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 155 listening and the order of the events in the class meeting and other activities. They took initiative, asked increasingly appropriate and critical questions, and became self-directed in many activities. More significantly, they became teachers themselves. Taking advantage of the diversity in the classroom, with students having specific strengths and other students with specific needs, Donna was able to judiciously employ the use of peer helpers. Rajeep was constantly asking for re-explanations and assistance. Donna was able to have Adam or Janice take over that task which freed her for more demanding duties. Jerry had excellent academic skills but lacked social interaction skills. Pairing him with Adam or Sam for a group project maximized strengths and filled voids. It was discovered that Inderjit, despite his attitude about school, loved teaching, sharing the things he knew about. Authority by Assent It was interesting that students validated the teacher's authority in certain situations. For instance, they insisted that the adults continue to monitor students' behavior during class meetings and they all agreed that Donna should be the director for the play when time constraints became worrisome. In many ways, Donna sought the assent of the students for her authority. So although the adults to some extent were continuing traditional roles in the areas of behavior management and project organization, they had been explicitly given assent for this authority by the students. The actions may have looked traditional but the intent and the attitudes were radically different. We are reminded of Herbert Kohl's (1991) assertion of the importance of assent in learning. Authority, according to Kohl, is given rather than being an innate quality of the person in authority. Authority can be gained through coercion, persuasion, or by choice. We can recall the threats and bribes that the TOC used to gain control of the class. We recall also my temporary loss of authority as the students chose not to attend. This can be contrasted with Donna's authority in the classroom gained, not just because of her institutionalized role, but more The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 156 as the result of time and care in building relationships with individuals and the whole class. Her authority was negotiated with the community. The negotiations were on-going. When Sheila sat on the phone and disrupted the class meeting, this was a form of non-assent to authority. When students wiggled, played with hair, talked while the teacher was talking, these were all examples of non-assent. All teachers must find ways of gaining students' recognition of their authority. Donna chose a democratic way, in which students were actively involved in negotiating authority. Negotiating Authority As authority was shared, students also had to negotiate their own authority. This often became a struggle between exercising personal power and providing leadership for the good of the community. Experiments with power were ubiquitous. In general terms, power equaled talk. It has already been documented that those who had good verbal abilities were more influential in the class. Some students, like Hanna and Sandy verbally dominated discussion. For some students, forcing a continuation of a class conversation, regardless of content, was an exercise in power. Inderjit resisted positive involvement in learning activities. Sheila misbehaved. Karen was stubborn and tenacious. Jerry withdrew from difficult activities. Jason generally took a contrary position regardless of the issue. Students experimented with political alliances. The strong communicators would coerce the more dependent to join their point of view on classroom issues. In class meetings, students would give group compliments which involved listing their special friends (and not listing the others). Girls would play exclusively with girls and boys with boys. Competition emerged in even the most seemingly insignificant of activities, like agreeing on a name for work groups. Jason eventually began to realize that his power could be expressed in terms of The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 157 responsible leadership, but initially, his experiments with increased autonomy centered around how he could use power to dominate the group. Leading the class meeting was an opportunity to control. At one meeting he raised the issue of how rude it was to plug your ears. Presumably, he was referring to an incident when he, no doubt directively, was trying to tell somebody something to which they resisted by plugging their ears. He seemed to have chosen an issue that he could easily win. Donna asked him if he just wanted to remind the class to not be rude by plugging ears but Jason insisted on making his presentation. He began the discussion, "Okay, everybody's eyes on me." After the issue was presented, the class provided many innovative and useful suggestions. Clearry no one disagreed mat ear plugging was rude but there was also the revelation that Jason himself did a lot of ear plugging. Jason said he used to do that but had decided now that it was rude. With Donna's assistance, they determined that they had consensus in the ear plugging issue. Donna asked him to tick it off on the agenda. The class enthusiastically started chanting "Tick it off' as they often did at the successful resolution of an issue. However, this was beyond the control of Jason. Unable to silence the class, he became angry and plugged his ears. Clearly Jason's concern was to dominate others regardless of the issue. It is also clear from this example that the class did not completely give their assent to his authority. The class meeting structure had already been negotiated and students participated positively. However, when Jason tried to exert unreasonable control, that was not negotiated and the class rebelled. This rebellion was part of the negotiating process mat informed Jason as to what elements of his authority they would accept. Later, the negotiation, and the learning, continued during an interview of Adam by Jason. Adam told him that he thought he had a good point about ear plugging but that he was a little too bossy. He also pointed out how Jason had contradicted himself by plugging his own ears. Jason The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 158 defended himself by saying, "I only plug it when people say loud things." Adam questioned this rationale and continued to point out the inconsistency. Jason eventually relented "You have a point there." It was interesting to watch Jason's leadership emerge over the course of the research project. Although he remained interested in his personal power, he also became much more socially aware and, therefore, much more influential in his leadership role as he realized that he must negotiate rather than dictate. This negotiation of authority was on-going, embedded in every conversation. Children played with their personal power to see where they fit into the group. They wanted to belong and they wanted to be recognized individually too. On one hand was their personal power and on the other was authority that was sanctioned by the community. Intermixed in the turbulence was the struggle for a sense of belonging and a sense of individuality. Teachers do not escape the turbulence in a democratic classroom because we too must negotiate our authority and much of our teacher identity is defined by our interactions with students and our continual search for our place in the community. With the emergence of the concept of community as authority, our redirections with the children's choices or expressions of opinion began to reflect this holistic orientation. "How will this help the whole class?" "We don't want to leave some people out." "Are you thinking of everyone or just yourself?" Sharing authority reinforced the idea that both autonomy and responsibility reflected a concern for the whole community. If authority is directed toward the good of the community, then this not only legitimizes students sharing authority but it also validates the teacher's authority. Asymmetry From the preceding section, it is evident that authority levels are not equal for every The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 159 individual in the community. They are not even constant within each individual. Authority changes from person to person, from situation to situation, from day to day. It depends on expertise, experience, skill, opportunity, inclination, mood, and setting. It must be said that the teacher's authority is often a source of security for students. With shared authority, security is unified in both the teacher and in the community. In an authoritarian classroom, the teacher's authority competes with the community's authority, diminishing a student's sense of security and promoting the stress of having to choose sides. Perhaps we all can recall a school day's struggle where we wanted to be part of the fun in a group but did not want to get on the bad side of the teacher. Clearly, the teacher is usually (but not always) the highest authority in the classroom. It is her responsibility to set the framework within which authority can be shared. Sometimes this framework is broad and loosely structured. Sometimes it needs to be tightened. This is not a contradiction unless this high authority is imposed without any assent of the class. In fact, students look for leadership, direction, and security. In some cases, both students and teachers need to be relieved of the stress of decision-making and "just be told what to do." Donna often expressed this sentiment in trying to make the wisest choices when navigating the course between teacher direction and student freedom, order and chaos. Teachers need, perhaps not to be given directives, but to receive validation, indeed to share in the authority embedded in their community of peers. Donna realized that an authoritarian approach was much easier from a control perspective but saw the value in inviting her students into sharing and internalizing the responsibility of learning and developing a community. It is the aim of participatory democracy to unify authority under the umbrella of caring for the community. As always, this is a long term, complex process enacted through negotiations among diverse agents. In Donna's class we had merely begun that process. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 160 Rules in a Democratic Classroom An important articulation of classroom authority is rules. These are the expressed limits of behavior and procedural guidelines that apply to all community members. In some classrooms, these rules are set and enforced by the teacher. In most schools, there are general school wide rules that apply to all classrooms and all students. The process of democratizing classroom rules is in moving them from being perceived as extrinsic to intrinsic within the classroom community. Three approaches emerged from our experiences. One approach in this process is an explanation of the rules and the reasons for them. Another approach is for rules to become an open topic of discussion and can perhaps even be challenged. Whether challenges to rules can be successful or not depends on their entrenchment level, the responsiveness of those in institutional authority, and the approach taken in the challenge. The final approach is for the community to construct the classroom rules. I do not mean to suggest that these approaches are sequential or exhaustive, nor necessarily innovative. They occur concurrently and are intermixed and fluid. Neither do I mean to suggest that entrenched institutionalized rules are necessarily destructive to democracy and, therefore, to be challenged as a matter of course. I do maintain, though, that in an effort to have students participate in authority, there must be an intrinsic aspect in the perception of rules that are influential in the community. I highlight the preceding approaches because, in the course of our research, these approaches, in varying degrees, became particularly salient attractors in discussing rule setting and shared authority. The first approach, giving explanations, was part of Donna's routine interaction with the children. She did not command. She explained what needed to be done and why. "Ravinder, you might want to listen for a little bit and then you'll get some ideas about what people are talking about because you've been away." Often she used questions so that students could figure out an The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 161 explanation for themselves. "If we have a problem with someone being mean to us, we do something back to them. Is that a good solution?" Further, in generating explanations, Donna would often invite the input of students. "Okay, so they just say its time to start the meeting. Is that a good idea? Anybody have a different idea? Winnie you don't agree with that idea. Who do you think should start?" So stating rules took the form of reminders, reasons, questions, and critical minking. As such, rules, although evident in the structure of the classroom, were not highlighted as rigid edicts. Rather, they were part of the management discourse. Within the class, students knew the rules ("You're not allowed to run in the classroom.") but they were becoming internalized. They understood the reasons for them and often used them in self-organizing. The second approach, discussing and challenging rules, did not seem to be particularly relevant with this group. They knew what the general rules and school procedures were and discussed with each other the consequences of breaking entrenched rules. For example, Sandy and Sheila spent one class meeting talking about how unfair it was that they had to go to the office for fighting with a girl from another class. However, they were not challenging the rule about fighting, they were complaining that the other girl should have been treated in a similar way and was just as guilty. General school rules (versus classroom rules) at this age level seemed inevitable and not within the realm of the students' influence. At the same time, there did not seem to be an interest in changing them. They were more interested in fair enforcement. In reality, these rules were quite clear and reasonable. They were easily followed and rarely interfered with their daily activities. The children seemed to be accepting of their necessity, as evidenced by Sandy and Sheila's assent in the above example. On the other hand, it is also likely that the perceived power differential was just too great to challenge. Perhaps if these young students continue to be educated in participatory democracy, they will, in the higher grades, have the courage and skills required to attempt a wider range of governance and inquiry beyond their classroom. I can imagine a The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 162 politically experienced Adam seeking social justice regarding high school dress codes. Perhaps Winnie will mount a school wide campaign for more humane treatment of animals in the city. But hopefully they will do so in the interest of improving their larger community and without moving toward rebellion. The third approach, construction of classroom rules, was substantially implemented in this classroom. The word rules may give an inaccurate impression of these classroom endorsed policies because they were fluid rather than entrenched and they were within the control of the classroom community. They were also proactive rather man punitive. They were just good ideas for living in this particular community and they invited more good ideas and improvements to the existing ones. These rules emerged from informal discussions in response to events, from class meeting discussions, and from special efforts to deal with on-going problems. They didn't need to be written down or enshrined since they were changeable and because they were usually quickly incorporated into the students' behavior routines and became part of their conversations. They reminded each other rather than having to refer to a central authority. There were other rules of this informal nature that we agreed on and accepted even though they did not necessarily construct mem themselves. For instance, when they reminded each other not to run in the classroom, there was no charter that listed "No Running" as a rule. Nor was there ever any verbal presentation of No Running as an official rule. It was simply based on common sense and perhaps was addressed at some point by a teacher (not necessarily Donna) in response to someone impulsively running in the classroom. Most students instantly adopted the idea as being sensible behavior. Others needed reminding from time to time but the rule itself had become an accepted classroom practice and there was no need for formal discussion or debate. There were many examples of this kind of common sense, unspoken agreement upon The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 163 rules. They knew they should not talk while the teacher was talking. They knew they should come in when the bell rang. They knew they should try to ignore the weed wacker outside the window. They knew there was a certain noise level that would not be tolerated in the class. On reflection, we realize that most classroom rules become tacit in nature. We live with them without discussion and often without conscious knowledge of their status as rules, unless a situation demands an appropriate response. It is when there is ambiguity about whether or not something is a rule, the belief mat someone is violating a rule, or the perceived need for a rule, that rules need to be raised to conscious discussion in order to seek common agreement. This turned out to be an important function of the class meetings. Although Donna and I tried to make the meetings more positive and proactive, most of the agenda tended to be complaints. In some cases, students wanted to remind others of a rule, whether that rule had been formally presented or simply inferred from historical patterns. For instance, Jason's ear plugging issue seemed to simply be a reminder to the class that it was rude. Regardless of Jason's experimenting with power, the issue itself was not really a subject of debate. Everyone was in agreement prior to discussion. It was a process of highlighting, defining, and reminding. On other occasions, students saw the need for a rule where none seemed to presently exist. Near the start of the research, Adam noticed that a lot of children seemed to be sad because of hurt feelings. This important classroom problem was raised and dealt with by the children without an adult having to impose rules. The result did not even seem like a rule. It could not be verbalized in formal rule-like language, but the issue had been raised and most children had a new sensitivity to the feelings of their peers. The closest we came to formal rules was when Donna and I identified classroom issues for the children and sought their solutions. We did this by (1) clarifying the problem with the children, (2) brainstorming for ideas and solutions, (3) categorizing the results for the children, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 164 and (4) presenting the results to the class for further discussion and modification. A good example of this procedure was the generation of the Seven Strategies for Solving Problems. This event actually emerged from Adam's issue regarding hurt feelings. I presented the idea of finding ways to solve problems. The students helped by describing several events, both real and made up, that required social problem solving. We then brainstormed four pages of chart paper full of suggestions for solving problems like these. I took the papers home and found that all of the suggestions were easily grouped into eight general strategies. I listed these for the class and presented it at the next meeting. We read through the list (a meaningful application of written language skills) and discussed them all. Within a week we found mat revenge was not a suitable way to solve problems and removed it from the list. We kept the list handy and reviewed it often, turning the items into poster subjects, journal entries, role play, and direct applications on the playground which were reported at the class meetings. So the list was flexible, not carved in stone. We often discussed the importance of each item relative to the others. We found that several could apply in many situations. We found that some could be contradictory (i.e., tell an adult versus be assertive). We found that some were more important than others, that some we used more frequently than others, and that some had to be used with caution and only in certain situations (i.e., ignoring). These were not rules in the sense that punishment existed if they were broken. They were suggested guidelines for behavior in the community. They were not rigid like traditional rules. They co-evolved with the class. A similar event took place when Donna and I felt we had to make a special effort to improve the participation and behavior during class meetings. We divided the class into five small groups which I brainstormed with separately. The intention was to receive input as to how to change the structure of the class meeting to optimize participation and attentiveness. We did receive many helpful suggestions, such as breaking up into partners, having a stretch time, sitting The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 165 on chairs instead of the carpet, and several scenarios regarding meeting length and frequency. But what also emerged, unplanned, were two lists for common expectations for behavior. The first list was the responsibility of listeners and the second was the responsibility of talkers. The overlap among the five groups was quite high and I was easily able to compile the two lists which included all suggestions. The next day, I presented Listener Responsibilities: Listen, Don't Talk, Look at Talker, Ignore Distractors or Move Away, Silent Signals, Tell Teacher, and Remind Others. I also presented Talker Responsibilities: Get Attention (clap, silent signals, ssh!), Not Bossy, Speak Clearly, Don't Yell, Don't Talk Too Long, Remind Listeners. These were universally accepted and we could refer to them as reminders during class meetings. Again, they did not include punishments or consequences and they were open to change and interpretation. They came from the children themselves and served as good ideas to guide behavior that was internalized, not commanded. In this case, the community was the authority and the teacher, among other members, was the conduit for that authority. Another tweaking of the rules concept for a democratic classroom was that of framing. As discussed, activity frames are the liberating structures used to define the boundaries in open ended learning activities, such as the project based approach to curriculum. Framing was also used by the teacher to establish clear limits within which self-motivated, creative, and enthusiastic behavior could take place. For instance, there was a limit to noise for certain activities, movement around the class must be safe and respectful to others (no running), materials must be shared, everything must be cleaned up at the end of the activity. Choices must respect everyone in the class, everyone must be included. Frames, although clear for the students, are adjustable, narrowing for when more control is necessary and broadening for more freedom and creativity. They could also be negotiated. Motivated students tend not to require the teacher to manage their behavior. If students' The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 166 autonomy is based on a responsibility to their community, the concept of rules changes. They take on the role of good ideas and helpful suggestions, rather than directives. I do not mean to advocate abandoning rules. Donna's classroom had clear, effective rules. However, they were not rigid nor authoritarian. They could be changed and adapted from situation to situation and sometimes from person to person. Diversity was valued above uniform control. This kind of conception of rules was not simple nor always predictable. This was a complex classroom and, as Donna will attest, it was hard work requiring much reflection and discussion. The gain in terms of creativity, social concern, and internalized responsibility, according to Donna, was worth it. I asked her about the gains her students had made. She answered: Would Jerry be better off somewhere else? I think he benefitted from being exposed to discussion about social things. Its an interesting question to ask whether any of these kids would do better in a different situation. I don't know. I want to think not. Most of the Children have gained a real understanding of responsibility, autonomy, respect, democracy, talking things out, and so on. There certainly have been successes that I doubt would happen in traditional classrooms. Collaborative Decision-Making The negotiations involved in collaboratively making decisions were an exercise in dealing with complexity. Most of the decision-making in an active classroom takes place informally and the decisions are transitory, continually co-evolving through on-going interactions. They may begin in a discussion between two students and quickly spread throughout the class with each person adding their personal texturing to the topic. It is interesting to watch children playing at recess. They negotiate, through actions and words, a way of playing a game. More people join in, some people leave but the game continues, changed but with all the players in agreement as to how it should be played at that instant. If you The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 167 observe again the next day, you will see the same game being played but probably a little differently and with different people. There is no meeting to decide how to play. In fact, it seems that a lot of the decisions are agreed on while in action and not verbally discussed at all. But the game co-evolves with a subtle kind of collaborative decision-making as the catalyst. It is when this informal decision-making breaks down, leading to conflict, that a formal, overt decision is sometimes required. Formal decisions must also be made when a classroom plan is discussed so that all can participate. We observed three basic ways of collaboratively making formal decisions: (1) Random Choice, (2) Voting, and (3) Consensus. Random choice was simply allowing chance, such as flipping a coin, to decide an issue when all were willing to abide by the outcome. One time, we were trying to come up with an agreement as to the length of the class meetings. We had several convoluted options suggested. Finally Adam said, "Why don't we just fill up the whole chart with ideas and then the teacher closes his eyes and whichever one he points to, we'll do?" It's interesting how often it is that once one makes one of these decisions randomly, all the pros and cons of the options seem to emerge. It is a good way to generate discussion of the issue but probably not a good way to make important decisions. If there are deep commitments to options, random choice will not be a satisfying decision method. Voting was the most popular method at the beginning of the research project. Voting is so widely associated with democracy that some may find it surprising that we found it very detrimental to the democratic process and to the development of the community itself. Voting intensified the power issues in the classroom, especially for certain students. It increased competition at the expense of collaboration and divided the class into winners and losers. The losers, of course, were left out of the decision outcomes meaning that they were not really participants. Even the winners, by definition, could not participate with the whole class, only The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 168 their faction of winners. Apart from the divisive competitive aspects of voting, children often like to vote for the same reasons as adults. It simplifies a complex situation by arbitrarily quantifying opinions. It is arbitrary in the sense that one vote for one person does not reflect strength of feelings, the unequal effects that a decision may have on individuals, or protection of minority rights. I first raised this difficulty regarding voting with the class when we were trying to decide if revenge should be included on the list of problem solving strategies. The Revenge Issue was our first passionate discussion where students were intrinsically committed to their opinions. As the discussion raged for about a week, Sam eventually asked for a private vote. I pointed out that some class members agreed with the issue and some clearly did not. If we voted, that meant some people, with their strongly held beliefs, would feel left out by the decision. This went against another problem solving strategy to which we had just committed ourselves - that everyone should be included. After some discussion, we reached a compromise that we would vote just to see who was agreeing and not agreeing but that we would continue to discuss the issue. We voted: six in favor of revenge, twelve against. Immediately the cry went up from some of the students, "We win! We win!" But it was consensus to which we were now committed. I explained that now the twelve people must convince the six - or the six must convince the twelve. "Can we just take it off the agenda?" whined one weary student. "We can just talk it out," said Sandy, denying the crisp, clear, simple solution in favor of the murky and unending world of more discussion. "Okay. Who's the six people?" continued Sandy, immediately highlighting an intense and perhaps uncomfortable aspect of trying to reach consensus. Dissenters must have the courage to disagree despite peer pressure, and the community must tolerate and respect those who would take a contrary view. The smaller the minority, the more difficult it is to hold an unpopular position The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 169 and the greater the temptation for the majority to override that view. Voting, while trying to reach a consensus, became more of a survey to check the closeness of unanimous agreement Still, the competitiveness and divisiveness lingered. A few days later, the discussion regarding revenge continued. Adam suggested another private vote, sensing a consensus. This vote revealed that now only one person was still in favor of revenge as a classroom policy. Donna and I worried that this person would be unfairly pressured but we hoped that both the courage to express an unpopular opinion and the respect of the class could be fostered. 1 tentatively ventured, "Does that one person wish to say why they voted against it?" "No he doesn't," Jerry responded immediately. Fortunately the humor of the situation overwhelmed any potential negative reaction. As already described, this provided the opportunity for Janice and Jerry to have a very reasonable discussion about the nature of revenge. Subsequent research journal entries showed that Jerry was convinced and had taken an authentic anti-revenge stance. As for voting, we began to move away from quantifying a stark dichotomy of being for or against a particular issue. We started the long term development of a secure and respectful environment where class members could simply express their own disagreement accompanied by persuasive arguments. Donna often asked individual class members what their opinion was. This built trust and encouraged individual expression. It took longer than voting but it avoided the quantification and competition. Trying to reach consensus emphasized the complexity of classroom interactions. Diversity and asymmetry again were revealed. Some students were better than others at presenting cases for both agreeing and disagreeing. We needed many methods to include all. We needed to value the process, the ongoing negotiations, as well as any potential resolution. For example, even though the class in this instance had apparently reached a consensus, it was The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 170 impossible to know if everyone really agreed. Perhaps some were intimidated. Perhaps some were tired of the debate. In fact, some students were away for the vote, including Karen, the strongest supporter of the revenge policy. Adam insisted that Roy (who was also away) and Karen be included in the consensus. It has already been described how difficult this was for Karen and how clever she was in finding a way to reconcile her own strong beliefs with the influence of her friends' opinions. So there was no clear end, no packaged solution, just continued interaction and co-evolution. Consensus was conceptually the preferred method of decision-making for a participatory democracy but it was also the most challenging. Indeed, we had to abandon any fantasy that a pure consensus could exist There were several exciting instances when the whole class agreed on issues but these were generally simple and unimportant items that everyone probably agreed on anyway. The rudeness of plugging one's ears when someone else was talking is one example of reaching a consensus however short lived. Another example was the swearing issue. Karen said that she didn't like to hear swearing. Winnie agreed and said that at home people swear sometimes. "Not all the time. Just when they are really mad. They stop doing it when I'm around because they don't want me to start swearing." Karen said that it's okay for teachers to swear sometimes. Everyone laughed at this suggestion and Donna, feeling the awkwardness of the power differential, asked why it's okay for adults to swear. Karen said she just ignores it when her mom and dad swear but she didn't think kids should swear because it could hurt their friends' feelings. Adam thought adults should not swear because they knew better. Karen added obliquely, "My mom and dad mostly swear in the kitchen." The conversation was lively and continued in this fashion with everyone talking about how generally swearing was not a good thing but with some variety of opinion regarding whether or not it was okay for teachers and parents to swear. Sensing the consensus, I asked the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 171 class if anyone thought swearing was okay. Nobody responded. Karen, needing a more tangible result, asked people to raise their hand if they didn't like swearing. Again, the consensus was confirmed. Later Donald interviewed Karen and asked why she put no swearing on the agenda. She said that she didn't like swearing and that she liked to lead the class meeting. She said that she does swear sometimes when her dad "gets her so mad." When asked if she would ever swear to her parents, she said, "Oh God no." She said she was very pleased with the consensus at the meeting and summarized by yelling, "If you're a kid, DON'T SWEAR!" We were all very excited about reaching a consensus on the somewhat obvious issue mat children shouldn't swear. It was also clear that there was an unresolved complex issue simmering beneath the consensus regarding the power differential between children and adults. Donna and I often reflected on these imperfections and formulated three strategies for working toward a consensus and for dealing with the inherent shortcomings: (1) If the discussion on an issue reaches an impasse or if there are time constraints, the teacher acts as an arbitrator and makes a choice based on student input and her own good sense. The ideas that the students have contributed are recognized and validated. The reasons for the choice are clearly explained. The issue, when possible, remains open for further discussion. When this strategy was implemented there was no apparent resistance or resentment on the part of the children. It was clear that it was a last resort and that it seemed to be the only way to move on with the issue. They were tired of the endless debate. This strategy was used when we had to have the play ready for the school by a certain date. The children had no problem with Donna's substantial powers as director. In fact, they did reach a consensus in electing her to the position. (2) After reasonable debate with no movement anticipated, we declare that there is no decision The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 172 and we return to the status quo. Again the issue remains open and can be revisited when someone raises it again for discussion. This was the case when Winnie proposed that we all sit on chairs for the class meeting instead of "criss cross applesauce". She felt the class would be more comfortable and more attentive during meetings. Others agreed but still others felt it would take a long time to set up and that there wasn't enough room in the meeting area. The debate continued without progress for several days. We divided into groups. We wrote about the issue in journals. Some drew pictures. The students interviewed each other. Some students argued on both sides of the issue. Some were entrenched. At the same time, we were distracted by a more important issue of meeting length. There was no resistance to temporarily dropping the discussion so we moved on to the time issue instead, making it clear that the chairs issue was still on the agenda and up for discussion when new ideas were found. (3) If there is no time deadline and there is a will to do so, the discussion simply continues. Students are encouraged to seek compromise. In spite of a popular fixation with closure, in some instances it is not necessary to arbitrarily or artificially come to a resolution. We came to realize that there is value in the negotiation process regardless of the outcome. Students were learning to use language in public, in groups, and in partners. They were developing an ability to see issues from another point of view. They were using their academic skills in a meaningful context. Their community was co-evolving with both verbal and active discourse with many different forms of activities and interactions emerging from, as well as changing, the meeting format The length of meetings issue was a very complex one with many prospective solutions and permutations of those solutions being offered. Basically the tension was between the social learning that was taking place at class meetings, which most students valued, and the discomfort The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 173 and challenge of having to sit and attend. It was suggested mat we shorten the meetings but have more of them, have a stretch time, have short meetings three times a week and a long one once a month, have long ones just for special issues, listen harder, cover more issues in each meeting, alternate short and long, or make them exactly eight minutes. We divided into groups and partners, we made posters, we wrote and drew, we did role play, we sang, we argued, and we celebrated. There really was no point in forcing a conclusion to so much wonderful learning nor to the emergence of a tolerant, respectful, and creative community. There really never was a solution to the meeting length issue. In fact, consensus was usually beyond our capabilities as a community. What was interesting, however, were the changes in the nature of interactions as we worked toward consensus. They began to learn the language of compromise but not usually in the sense of trading off, giving something to gain something. They became adept at the art of creating win-win situations. We did a lot of group projects toward the end of the school year. Donna would set the activity frames for some very open-ended activities which required a lot of negotiation. One such activity frame was to build something from toothpicks and clay. In one group an argument started about whether they would build a house or a building. The significance of the distinction was lost on me but the children were impassioned on both sides. Then Winnie suggested "Let's make a building beside the house." "Yeah!" responded the others and instead of making just a building or just a house, they created a neighborhood of buildings and houses. Eight year old Winnie had introduced an change in perspective that not only settled the argument, but also created a much more interesting and creative product. Similarly another group was to create something with pipe cleaners: Hanna: Who agrees on making a car? Jason? Car? Jason: Yeah, car. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 174 Amrik: I want a truck. Jason: Well three against one. Ronald: I want to make a butterfly. Amrik: We can put a butterfly on the car. Hanna: Lets do it. Put it on the wheels. Jason: If you'd like to do Amrik's idea put your hand in. Ronald: We all want a butterfly. Hanna: Yeah. We all like it don't we? Ronald: I'll make the butterfly. Jason: I'll make the car. Amrik: I'll make the wheels. Hanna: How about you do something on the car, Jason? Jason: Because the car's a hard job. Let's make something else. Ronald: Let's not do either one of them and then choose another one so we won't fight. Okay Jason? Jason: Ah, okay. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 175 Chapter 8: The Teacher's Jobs Jason: Its Ronald. He be's mean to me and... Donna: Jason. We're talking about successes right now. What was your success? Jason: It's - he wouldn't let me be on his team in soccer so I went on Sam's team then. Donna: So what's the success, Sweetie? A success is when something works well. Jason: That I walked into Sam's team. Donna: That the group included you? Jason: They wanted me. The teacher's unique roles in a participatory democracy in a primary classroom are discussed here as they relate to the two intertwining issues of community and curriculum. A sense of community, with its values and activities, generates the context in which curriculum takes place. Therefore, as community and curriculum co-evolve, so do the teacher's roles. The above excerpt of a classroom conversation between teacher and student exemplifies the kind of on-going negotiation that takes place in the democratic environment. Donna interprets, makes suggestions, and ask questions. She does not direct. Jason listens, experiments with language, and makes his best effort to communicate. Such conversations are complex systems in themselves. The interactions between participants determine the course of the conversation. The end point is negotiated and, therefore, not predictable from the start. Accepting the complexity of a classroom results in an appreciation for the ecology of the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 176 classroom community. The popular democratic approach, to many, would focus instead on student autonomy and choice, perhaps without a corresponding regard for student responsibility. If we think ecologically, however, the phrase student directed learning seems to be something of an oxymoron. As Donna says, "They don't know what they should know. They don't know what the possibilities are." So there is often some external source of direction required. Providing direction for learning activities is part of the teacher's role. In a participatory democratic classroom that recognizes its ecology, we practice teacher-student negotiated learning. This ecological perspective does not allow one to think of teacher roles and activities as separate from student roles and activities. Rather, they are closely interconnected. They are individual perspectives of a shared purpose. The roles within a participatory democratic classroom community for both the teacher and students co-evolve in response to each other's interactions and are not always known beforehand. That familiar, unsettled feeling, due to impermanence, was one aspect of the co-evolution of roles in Donna's classroom. As for the students, Donna remarked "Their roles are changing because of this process. They evolve because of what we're doing, and sometimes they have that puzzled look." The teacher's role also became puzzling at times. As noted earlier, Donna often looked to myself or some other adult to simply give her direction in the face of no clearly established formula for resolving each unpredictable situation. As part of the co-evolution, the traditional teacher's jobs became students' jobs and students' jobs became the teacher's job. Most obvious, was the fact that the teacher became a learner and the students were often teachers. With the students having some say as to the learning activities and projects they would undertake, Donna was required to learn about the content, the method, and style of learning for each individual student and project. On the other hand, the students were able to help each other and teach each other as they worked collaboratively in the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 177 democratic environment. Increasingly, as the school year proceeded, students began to take on other tasks that initially fell within the teacher's domain. They began to lead the class meetings and other group events. They made instructive presentations of their research projects. They redirected each others' attention and behavior, reminding each other of rules and procedures, and keeping classmates on topic. They started using teacher management techniques, such as rhythmic clapping and "only choosing the quiet people." They chose learning themes and methods for implementing them. They became responsible for inclusion. They helped set the tone and invented the kind of language mat was used in the classroom (e.g., The Seven Strategies for Problem Solving). All this is not meant to cause confusion about the teacher's role, although it is not as clearly defined as a traditional teacher's role might be. Rather, it is meant to highlight the ecological complexity of a democratic classroom. Again, as we examine a teacher's role the principles of complexity serve as helpful guidance. A teacher's role is constantly changing and in a state of disequilibrium. It negotiates a course between order and chaos. It respects the self-organization of the community and also organizes itself through co-evolution with the roles of others. An awareness of ecology guides that role. Its various aspects emerge from interactions. It depends on a shared consciousness, which supports and defines the values of the community. Some of the new roles for the teacher that emerged during this research project clustered around certain areas. These areas were not exclusive to the teacher nor were they rigidly defined. These areas were: (1) Promoting a Sense of Community; (2) Negotiating a Curriculum; (3) Framing; (4) Planning and Assessment; and (5) Reflecting. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 178 Promoting a Sense of Community We found that a strong sense of community was fundamental in providing a context in which autonomy, responsibility, and other democratic tenets could have meaning. The community is a secure place where members feel a sense of belonging and significance. Perhaps this seems contradictory to the "puzzled faces" which were just mentioned. In a classroom of continuous change and constant development of individual roles, security does not mean consistency and comfort. Donna and I agreed that a successful community is not necessarily a place where all the students are always content. It is a place of testing one's autonomy against responsibility for others. Belonging and significance can be a struggle rather than a static condition which would be the result of fixed identities and relationships. According to Donna, security does not mean contentment. "Being responsible and autonomous doesn't necessarily mean happy. You understand and contribute to community. For many it should bring contentment and comfort but for others it won't....They will be secure and accepted but may not want to learn....The difference is that we're always thinking about it and moving toward an ideal." Security, belonging, and significance result from work, interactivity, and change. In our democratic classroom, we began to work toward creating an environment where all children felt valued and where they acquired the confidence to contribute. Security, especially for little ones getting used to leaving mom and dad, is often embodied in the teacher. 1 smile when I recall some of the young children in Donna's class inadvertently calling me "Dad" or occasionally even "Mom." The teacher's role is to extend the source of security into the community, similar to a family. As is very evident by now, Donna worked hard to create a positive classroom environment In addressing individual children, she often used affectionate terms such as Sweetie or Sweetheart She had infinite patience with the impulsive and often bizarre behavior of Jerry, The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 179 Sheila, and Jason. She not only identified the individual learning needs of each child, as most teachers do, but she also found the good in each and discussed their strengths and contributions with them and their families. Sandy made a point of telling me, on two occasions, how Ms. Klause told her she was a good girl. Clearly this had a strong effect on her self-esteem and, I'm sure, was something she needed to hear. A meeting with Adam's parents dwelt not on his difficulty with writing, but rather on his incredible social gifts that came to the fore in the democratic environment. This valuing of attributes that are frequently overshadowed by academic concerns in school, brought tears to the eyes of Adam's appreciative parents. The focus on social worth and promotion of values not only helped to create security and acceptance, it also modeled the kinds of positive interactions that foster a sense of community. Modeling respect gave the students a frame of reference for their own interactions. The teacher's role included the validation of students' self-worth and it also made certain that each student's efforts were worthwhile by ensuring that they were authentically successful. Donna would help students select activities that they could successfully accomplish. These strategies varied from person to person depending on their strengths and interests. For example, when Adam led the class meeting, he was given complete freedom because he had enough sense of responsibility to be a successful leader independently. Recall, on the other hand, when Jerry, Jason, and Ronald led the class meeting. Donna was intensely involved in making sure the meeting remained within the realm of reasonable interactions. They were given freedom to the extent that they could be responsible but guided and redirected frequently in order that they too would be successful in leading the class meeting. In fact, part of the class meeting routine was for students to discuss their successes and thereby highlight their achievements and worth. On one occasion, Jason struggled with his negative feelings of rejection which threatened to engulf his successful resolution of the problem. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 180 That dialogue, which begins this chapter, showed how Donna was able to redirect the conversation toward the positive aspects of an authentic sense of belonging to a group. Of course individual self-worth is meaningless in creating a sense of community without the relationships between individuals through which a community emerges. A teacher is also a counselor. We recognized that, although we strived to create a positive environment, it did not mean that there were no problems. Indeed, the continuous changing and co-evolution of relationships ensured that disagreements and hurt feelings were simply part of the disequilibrum. Rather than imposing solutions or enforcing standard procedures, the teacher promoted interactions. It was the interactions that created relationships and formed the community. Within the frame of safe and productive interactions, students negotiated their own ways of being with each other. They created imaginative and surprising links. It was as if the turmoil itself strengthened relationships. Winnie related one of many turbulent interactions with her group of friends in her research journal (if I have interpreted her invented spelling correctly): 'Today on the monkey bars, Amy hurt Sandy's feelings because me and her were having a kicking fight. So Sandy walked away. Sheila came and said to Amy 'You hurt her feelings'." This discourse moved from the playground to the class meeting where the class and teachers could facilitate. Winnie later wrote "Today in the class meeting, Sandy was talking about feelings. She says Sheila hurt her feelings. I want to be both of their friends. That's why Sandy wrote it down [on the agenda]. They always fight about me." Later, in another class meeting, Sandy talked about her friendship with Winnie and the other girls. Donna asked how we could help her but she seemed more interested in just continuing to talk about it, rebutting any suggestions for solutions. I suggested that the small group that was involved meet by themselves at lunchtime. Winnie replied that sometimes people won't attend lunch meetings. Sheila confirms this by saying she won't come. Donna asked if it The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 181 would help to have an adult attend and they arranged to meet before the lunch bell. These were typical interactions that continued all year with this particular subgroup of the class, and yet they were good friends and always played and worked together. It seemed that the struggles with feelings were a natural result of trying to adjust to changes in their relationships. Their on-going discourse was a manifestation of their developing sense of community. The important element was not in finding immediate solutions to specific problems but in continuing the conversation. As described, it was one of the roles of the teacher to facilitate the ongoing discourse in terms of both quantity (ensuring conversation takes place) and quality (teaching appropriate, productive interaction skills). A positive environment was created in the sense that it was a secure place where the children wanted to be. But it was also a turbulent place where individuals struggled to clarify how they belonged and how they were significant. In promoting a sense of community, the teacher worked to provide validation for individuals, to ensure that each experienced success, and to encourage exploration of relationships through constant negotiations. This meant that it was also part of a teacher's role to encourage participation in the community. Donna spoke of the importance of a teacher in structuring a discussion. As we have seen this meant much more than providing order for a verbal conversation during a class meeting. It also had to do with finding innovative ways for students to participate in non-verbal communication as well. In Donna's class, barely half of the students were proficient in verbal conversation and even these children had limited language ability simply due to their age. To underscore this division between the verbal and reluctant speakers, near the beginning of the research project, I asked Janice what she thought of the class meetings. She said that she "liked how you can talk and ask questions." When 1 put the same question to Rajeep, he refused to answer or make eye contact and walked away. Many of the ways we included verbally The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 182 challenged students in the discourse were detailed earlier. These strategies could be pre-planned to maximize inclusion. This goal was facilitated by creativity, empathy, and the assistance of the children. As already described, role play or just acting things out was a successful approach used in this classroom that helped to encourage participation. Rajeep, in particular, became immersed in this form of expression. Rather than sullen looks and avoidance behavior when pressed to speak, while acting, he was smiling and enthusiastic. He was certainly one of the main participants in this non-verbal communication. We found ways for all students to participate verbally or non-verbally and, as reported, found that the two were very much linked for this age group. That is, that activity enhances communication. But oral language is a standard method of interaction in society and Donna insisted that all children have an opportunity to learn to express themselves verbally in addition to other more physically active modes. This aspect of encouraging participation through talking required the teachers to ask for input for specific, meaningful issues and events, like how to deal with mean face making or planning for a field trip to Science World. This often involved directly eliciting the opinions of individuals who were silent (due to intimidation, lack of understanding, or lack of vocabulary) and validating their responses. Jason: I like that a long time ago, me, Sam, Adam, and Kevin played soccer. I liked it a long time ago. And it happened. Inderjit: And I did too. Donna: Jason are you complimenting how they played well with you - and played cooperatively? Jason: Yes. This exchange shows how Donna was able to bring Jason's words into the conversation The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 183 through listening carefully, interpreting the intent, and giving him the language that he lacked. In the process, she validated his contribution to the conversation. Even students like Ravinder, who had extreme language difficulties, were included in verbal conversations. Through guessing, questioning, gesturing, and interpreting, Donna was able to include him in many conversations. We found out, for example, that swearing made him sad and that he was afraid that if kids were careless with sticks they could go in their eyes. Another way of giving the children language was through modeling. For instance, when we introduced the idea of giving compliments in the class meeting, the teachers first had to give compliments so that students could hear what it sounded like. They used this teacher approved structure (e.g., "I'd like to compliment <name> for <action>.") to gain experience in complimenting. After also experiencing what it felt like to receive a compliment, they quickly adopted this use of language and transformed it into kid language. For instance, after the play we heard compliments like: "Everybody was very good at knowing when to come out and say their lines.", "Jerry didn't bother me very much.", and "I compliment all the teachers and that means Ms. Chan too because she made the costumes." Clearly small children love to play with language. Rather than becoming alienated or fearful from my introducing big words like autonomy or consensus, they took delight in learning to say them and in bringing them up in conversations to describe events. When introducing children to new language, we found that it was important to be specific and to relate the words to motivating, meaningful events. When we first talked about responsibility, we asked them to think about what we said over the weekend and come back with some examples. On Monday, they reported back. Hanna said, "I was being nice. Like Ellen was being nice every day and whenever I go over to her house, she gives me something. That was yesterday and she gave me two stockings." Similarly, when discussing new concepts for problem The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 184 solving, we would ask the children to give us specific examples of things that happened on the playground or at home. At times, they did not have the language to discuss these events and used role play instead. Then, once the ideas were clear, the teachers helped to supply the words. One day, in a small group brainstorm session near the end of the project, Rajeep surprised me by verbally dominating the discussion for several minutes. The fact that he was slightly off topic did not matter in this instance. Clearly, Rajeep had progressed from non-communication, to expressing himself through actions and activities, to having episodes of being a chatterbox. But it was not just his gradual acquisition of verbal skills that allowed him to communicate more effectively. It was also his comfort and confidence that arose from feeling a sense of belonging and significance in his community. To summarize a teacher's role in promoting a sense of community, we found that it was important to work toward creating a positive environment and to encourage participation. A positive environment, in this case, was developed through validating students' contributions, ensuring that they were successful, and focusing on the development of strong relationships. We encouraged participation by finding alternate, active means for students to express themselves, and, while validating these non-verbal expressions, linking them with verbal expressions at the appropriate times. We asked for student input on issues and plans, modeled language, gave students language through listening, interpreting, and suggesting words. Language was linked to specific, meaningful events and situations. Negotiating a Curriculum Implementing a curriculum is a major role of any teacher. In many schools it is often perceived as the main role of the teacher. In a participatory democratic classroom, however, developing a sense of community is the first requirement. The curriculum can then be specifically The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 185 connected to the values and activities of that particular community. This provides a meaningful context for curriculum. Indeed the curriculum, in one sense, emerges from the community, and in another sense, is adapted for the community. In the first case, students have input as to what is learned and how it is learned based on their interests and activity preferences. In the second case, we must be sensitive to the values of the community at large that are embodied in the public school curriculum. These are not necessarily in competition with each other but clearly the need for negotiation is critical. The teacher must negotiate with students to make sure their needs and interests are met, as far as possible, while at the same time meeting the expectations of the public curriculum. On the other hand, the teacher may have to negotiate with the school administration, colleagues, parents, and even government sponsored agents, for the same purposes. This is a complex but not impossible situation. It is assisted by two factors. Firstly, it is the professed goal of all parties to attain the best education for the students. Secondly, the teacher and students can, and must, act before there is final resolution. Again, the curriculum will co-evolve as it emerges, with the teacher negotiating the path among the various vested interests. This is actually quite similar to what has always happened in the public classroom. Teachers rarely cover the entire public curriculum precisely due to the fact that the interests of the students influence the nature and substance of every lesson. Merely mandating a program of instruction does not mean it will be replicated identically in every classroom. Donna had no trouble in meeting and surpassing the curricular standards she had attained in prior years or those of her contemporaries. Yet what was significantly changed was the sense of community and meaningful learning for all. Fortunately, British Columbia's public curriculum is based on the Integrated Resource Packages (TRPs)1 which allow for some degree of flexibility and creativity on the part of the teacher. The school district in which this project took place was one of the more progressive 1 http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/irp/ The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 186 districts in the sense that social and collaborative values had a high level of acceptance. This is evidenced in an excerpt of a school district professional development document written by an assistant superintendent: An inclusive curriculum is "constructed" on the basis of required content and student needs, rather than simply "delivered" in a standard way. From this perspective the notion of "lesson planning," which either ignores or presupposes learner response, is replaced by "lesson preparation," which provides a clear framework of intents but assumes that actual classroom activities must be adapted or even initiated on the fly according to student responses, both individual and collective (Beairsto, 2001, p. 6). Also fortunate was the fact that this school's administration, staff, and parents had made a commitment to community. A sense of community was evident school wide. Clearly this was an advantageous location in which to explore participatory democracy given the importance of a focus on community. The teacher's role was to negotiate a curriculum with students that incorporated the students' interests and styles and integrated an accessible public curriculum. This meant explaining the curriculum, interpreting it, linking it to realistic purposes (for seven year olds), and inviting their input and criticism. This, of course, sometimes took us to unexpected places. The public curriculum became a checklist to account for what we had covered. Things not yet covered could be brought forward later to the class to finish if needed. The project approach that was documented earlier was an ideal way to focus on student needs and preferences while incorporating the public curriculum in a negotiated way. We moved away from a sequential, prescriptive curriculum toward a flexible, adaptive curriculum. We strove to respect both the children's specific and society's global values in education. In fact it was part of the teacher's job to provide direction and reason to the students' learning goals. Adam, for The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 187 example, suggested that we go on a field trip to the Grand Canyon. While an excellent and creative way to study the Water, Earth, and Air theme we had undertaken, albeit impossible, the idea needed to be augmented through an impromptu lesson on geography and economics. We went to the Science World instead. Individual students sometimes had to be protected from unreasonable societal standards. Ravinder could not hope to cope with typical academic standards for his age and had an individualized curriculum which met his needs, motivated him, and included him in classroom activities and events. While academically proficient, Jerry's behavioral needs required a thoughtful, specialized program focused on socialization. For others, standard curricular demands were trivial and they needed to be able to pursue individual and social interests beyond the standard curriculum. Once again, the teacher had to navigate a course through the turbulence created by the demands of both order and freedom, individual and societal values, and, indeed, autonomy and responsibility. Among the tools for implementing curriculum, Donna and I made use of: (1) Seeking Input from Students - It has been discussed how the input from students was elicited by directly asking questions. Donna and I also did individual interviews and group brainstorming. (2) Identifying and Categorizing Patterns - We collected all of the ideas, rejecting none, and sorted them into categories. This was usually done by the teacher after school to be presented for the class's examination and refinement the next day. Collecting and sorting the ideas in this way reduced the number of items to consider and clarified the situation. At the same time, we did not overlook anyone's contributions. This was an authentic and concrete manifestation of the students' contributions to our collective research goals. (3) Explaining and Interpreting Curriculum - It was mentioned how Donna took items from the IRPs and phrased them for the children so that they could clearly understand the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 188 learning topics, the purpose of activities, and have a chance to modify the topics and methods to better suit their needs and interests. The interpretation was two way, however, because Donna needed to interpret what the children were saying as well. Words, as we have seen, are not always effective for young children so it was necessary to understand what was behind the words. This involved getting to know the child and using alternate means of expression. (4) Questioning - It was mentioned that sometimes young students need direction along with their freedom to choose. Donna was a master of guiding the choices of her students without being overly directive or limiting. Her use of questioning challenged students' ideas which made them think more deeply and critically about their choices of topic, activity, and behavior. (e.g.,"How does having short class meetings help everyone?") (5) Knowledge - Jerry once told me with certainty, "Ms. Klause knows everything." The fact that this belief was undoubtedly shared by the class underscores the authority and responsibility of a teacher's knowledge. Clearly the teacher is a resource of information in the classroom as well as a pointer to other sources of information. But the knowledge of the students was respected as well. In this community, knowledge was shared. It was part of classroom life rather than just a packaged curriculum handed down from the government and distributed by the teacher. (6) Summarizing and Extending - The popular teaching concept of closure as an ending did not seem to fit with the idea of a complex, ever co-evolving community. Rather the teacher's role was in summarizing and extending. Certainly there were milestones and celebrations of learning. The presentations after completing projects were one example of these. But these were not endings or closings. They were pointers to the next steps and openings of new opportunities. It was important to gather up the highlights of the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 189 learning activities in a summary in order to be clear about what would naturally and logically come next. Summarizing was a habitual task for Donna during class discussions. If a student invited class discussion of a problem during class meeting, many suggestions would be offered as a solution. Donna kept track and at the end of the discussion, she related them back to the students. The student who raised the issue then talked about which solutions were best and which ones were to be tried out in the days to come. Another form of summarizing is categorizing or labeling. Students sometimes struggle with the complexity of interpersonal interactions. The tendency to focus on linear relationships of events and feelings can be overwhelming. They appreciate being able to simplify a situation as being one of a type with which they are already familiar. For instance, Ellen and Sandy told Donna of a long series of interactions with Ravinder where they all wanted to play with the same game. It involved a difficult arrangement of whose turn it was and how long one could play and what the protocol for exchanges might be. Donna said "This is a sharing problem." The students then had a clear frame of reference and a model based on past experience that helped them resolve the problem. Likewise, learning activities were summarized with suggestions for future activities. This parallels the pattern of emergent properties. Often the chaotic swirl of ideas coalesced into a recognizable and predictable entity. Then it would transform, branch, and develop into new properties. The class meetings highlighted the importance of activity which contributed to the development of projects and role play activities, which, in turn, developed into a school play. Summarizing and extending helps with this tree-like growth of the curriculum. It occurs at the node where the branches emerge from the trunk. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 190 Framing The teacher sets the activity frames, or liberating structures (Davis, et al., 2000), for learning activities and behavior. These can be negotiated but it is the teacher who has the knowledge, experience, and wisdom to understand which kinds of activity frames are reasonable in each situation. The strategy is to set frames for activities that are not so rigid that they inhibit creativity, and not so loose that focus and productivity are lost. The teacher knows that the dimensions of these frames vary according to many factors such as student maturity, clarity of expectations, general mood, time of year, and the weather. In the terms of complexity theory, this is the now familiar navigation of a course between order and chaos. Setting frames is one way a teacher can share authority. Not only can a student have freedom and be the dominant authority within the frames, but also, in a participatory democracy, a student can negotiate those frames. It is an authentic, relevant, and concrete way for a student to explore the relationship between autonomy and responsibility. One example of negotiating frames occurred when we were trying to establish an orderly routine for class meetings while encouraging free speech and participation. The behavioral protocol of listening and talking was unclear to some children and they were testing to find the limits. I had an extended conversation with Adam about this problem which was most helpful. We then shared that discussion and Adam's ideas with the whole class: Me: Okay. Adam and I were talking last Friday. Adam, I wonder if you remember what you were saying. You had some really good ideas about how we should be running the class meetings. Adam: You should let the kids do it. Me: So the kids should start taking more responsibility. We talked at the beginning about democracy. That means the kids are going to run the show themselves. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 191 But there's a problem with that right now, isn't there? When the kids are talking the other kids aren't listening. So what should we do about that? Adam: Well maybe we should like get the people around the people who are talking and remind them. I also said that Ms. Klause and Mr. Collins could make sure people were paying attention and behavior was good. And some of the kids could. Me: That would be great wouldn't it? Have the kids remind each other. Good ideas, Adam. I wonder if the role of Ms. Klause and myself is to make sure that people are behaving and listening and on task, and see if the kids can join us in doing that. Does that seem fair? Does Everybody agree with that? Students: Yes. Me: Does anybody disagree with what I said? Students: No. Me: Who disagrees? Nobody? Well, then, with your help, Ms. Klause and I are going to keep an eye out and make sure everyone is following the listening rules and staying on topic. In this way, a clear activity frame for class meeting behavior was being negotiated and the students were invited to share the authority in monitoring the expectations. Setting behavioral and learning expectations and establishing limits are ways of framing. In initiating learning activities the teacher, after explaining and discussing the activity and its purpose, also specifies the range of choices and defines the parameters. This is done with student input which the teacher facilitates. Donna used the / know /I Wonder brainstorm method where the students listed all they knew about a topic and then listed all they wondered about it. These wonders were defined and categorized, and a plan for research was devised for each student or The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 192 group of students. Definitions, categories, and plans are each elements of framing. Students require clear limits and when the frames are unclear discomfort arises. This is a threat to their security. They test to find those limits which bound their behavior and provide a safety zone where they know someone is watching and caring for them. The effects of unclear frames were described earlier. Adam told me, "The class doesn't act very well when we have substitute teachers. Ms. Klause keeps us calm." But later in the term we then noticed that a lot of the students behaved pretty much the same way regardless of the presence or absence of the teacher. Adam happened to be one of those students. He said that he was "responsible inside himself even if Ms. Klause is away." He had internalized the frames. Clearly, frames are dynamic, their manifestation varying from person to person, situation to situation, and co-evolving over time. It is not the case that they can be set at one point in time, such as the start of a project, and be expected to remain constant and effective. They require maintenance and adjustments. One of the frames for class meetings and group discussions that required constant monitoring was the need to stay on topic, regardless of airplanes overhead, the weed-wacking guy outside, or the distraction of someone accidentally sitting on the telephone. Adam defined the teacher's role: "Its your job to let the kids run it and make sure they stay on topic." Consistent reminders (e.g.,"Boys and girls, if you'd like to make comments at class meetings, what do you need to do?") led to the internalization of frames. Recall that near the end of the project, sitting on the phone was a minor amusement rather than the major disruption that it was near the start when students were exploring the frames and testing the limits. Donna did not regret being teacher-directed to some degree, in certain areas, near the start of the school year, because it allowed for greater independence later. As students internalized frames through increasing responsibility, the frames could be broadened to allow for more autonomy. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 193 If, as was claimed, students need direction, they need redirection as well. But we found that as the year progressed, students could also contribute to redirection. The authority for frame setting and clarifying could be shared. Instead of teachers always having to keep the discussion on track, the students could remind each other. They started to use rhythmic clapping like the teacher had, and "One, two, three. Eyes on me." During discussions, it could be Karen, Adam, or even Ronald who would say, "What does that have to do with the issue?" It is the teacher's job to set, define, clarify, adjust, and negotiate frames for classroom behavior and learning activities. Within activity frames, the teacher can seek the students' assistance in monitoring behavior, redirecting attention, and sharing authority. Dynamic frames allow the teacher and the class to exercise appropriate and productive responsibility and autonomy. Managing time is a good example of the teacher's role in framing. An anomaly of an early primary classroom is that, usually, the only person in the room who can tell time is the teacher. Therefore it is up to the teacher to initiate time frames for activities and daily schedules. For the class meetings, we optimistically initially allotted twenty minutes. It was soon discovered, however, that the little bodies of the students had an internal physical appreciation for the passage of time. There was a biological limit to the amount of time children could sit and listen. The length of class meetings became the topic of much debate. Nearly everyone was involved in negotiating the length of class meetings and the issue was never really resolved. But class meetings continued with the teachers monitoring the time and making adjustments after considering the input from students. The time frame was dynamic and co-evolved over the course of the year, with some complex branching into related activities. When we first established a time frame for the class meeting, I brought in a timer that I could set to exact periods - Two minutes for opening successes, seven minutes for discussing agenda hems, and two minutes for The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 194 compliments at the end. The timer did not seem to have much meaning for the students other than to be incredibly amusing because of the distracting sound that it made when our arbitrary time periods expired. 1 finally found a much better way to define the time frames at class meetings based on the children's more subtle expressions of their physical experience of time: You know I didn't bring the timer over today because it wasn't working out very well before but I think people are getting a little bit fidgety and a little bit noisy now so maybe that means we've had enough of the class meeting. It was necessary to implement time frames and we began with the expertise of the teachers. Through various interactions, non-verbal and overt negotiations, students were able to share the authority for setting flexible, dynamic time frames. The teacher's job became that of recognizing the activity frames mat the students were negotiating with their non-verbal expressions in individual situations. Planning and Assessment Planning in a participatory democratic classroom involves negotiating frame setting with the stake holders, including students, and considering the public curriculum. Content, therefore is more loosely determined and less predictable than with a strictly predetermined curriculum. This has an effect on assessment and evaluation. It was described how the public curriculum can serve as a checklist rather than a prescription and that we end up in more or less the same place in terms of that mandate. Assessment for those predefined areas can be done in standard ways. However, Donna was quite critical of the increasingly popular tendency to teach toward standardized tests. She also complained about superficial reporting that used similar language and a lack of data in describing diverse individuals. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 195 In this class, there was so much learning beyond the standard curricular expectations. There were unique individual achievements and shared community knowledge that needed to be celebrated. These ways of demonstrating learning took on many forms, both formal and informal, individually and collectively: (1) As alluded to earlier, parent conferences were collaborative including students, parents, and teacher. The conversations extended beyond the academic into the interpersonal and emotional realms. (2) The presentation of projects to the class was one form of demonstrating knowledge but these projects were also accompanied by a written or verbal explanation that provided student accountability. (3) Of course the play presented before other classes, families, and a school wide assembly was a very real, if nonstandard, accounting of the integrated development of reading skills, verbal skills, development of self-confidence, music, memorization, and collaboration. (4) There was on-going informal self-assessment within the community. Rather than relying on extrinsic evaluation from the teacher, students would choose their best work and explain why it was so good. After discussion with peers or the teacher, they would often redo efforts that did not meet their personal standard. (5) There was on-going informal feedback from the teacher. Donna maintained high standards but they were based on an individual's own capabilities and style. (6) The classroom walls, tables, and bookshelves always displayed authentic student products such as posters, sculptures, lego constructions, and student writing. (7) Process was valued in addition to the products. There were no endings, rather there were celebrations and summaries that pointed to the next step in learning. Standard reporting was important but not for comparing child with child or meeting some The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 196 arbitrary measurable criteria. The reports described the unique learning of individuals and the continuing co-evolution of the community as a context for learning. Standard and nonstandard assessments were valued equally. Reflection While not necessarily a priority in teacher directed classrooms, the most evident obligation for a teacher in a participatory democratic classroom was the unrelenting need for reflection. In the absence of prepackaged, sequential programs and the lack of predetermined learning outcomes, every novel situation required original minking and negotiation. Instead of trying to simplify the complexity of a classroom, as is the popular practice, we worked to understand the changing patterns and the co-evolving self-organization. In negotiating students' autonomy and responsibility it was necessary for Donna to "just look at every situation and say 'how much can I keep letting go?'" When Jerry, Jason, and Ronald collaboratively chaired the class meeting, Donna brilliantly facilitated the proceedings, carefully encouraging their discussion and promoting their authority, while at the same time intervening when the situation was beyond the ability of the three boys to manage. She had to work hard at reflecting while in action. There was no script nor standard procedure for this situation. She invented responses as the situation dictated. Afterward, she confessed that the whole time, she was wondering how much she should intervene. We noted the frequency of these internal debates and the amount of time and energy it took to consider the children's participation. A particular focus of the teacher's reflection was an awareness of the effects of her authority. As already examined, there was no denying the teacher's position of authority nor should a teacher abdicate her responsibility to that authority. It was necessary for the sake of the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 197 children's safety and security. There was also an obligation to provide a rich learning environment. There was a constant tension in tempering the teacher's power with respect. There was also constant reflection on discovering ways to share authority productively and responsibly. One thought that should come to mind after this partial description of the teacher's role in a participatory democratic classroom is mat it is a tough job. Donna often commented that it would be a lot easier to be authoritarian or to simply administer a pre-planned program of activities. She identified areas of support that would assist a teacher undertaking the challenge of facilitating democracy in school. Reflection is hard work and it is also fraught with insecurity when action is required with no foolproof guides as the best response and no authoritative feedback. Donna, like the children, often expressed the wish for someone to just tell her the right thing to do. However, for the course of the research project, we were both in the privileged position of having a partner with whom to discuss our reflections and actions. For a teacher committed to community development, always an exploration of the unknown, there is a need to have a partner, a mentor, or another adult with whom to consult. When Donna was producing the class play she was torn between doing a good presentation and allowing inclusion and autonomy. She said "sometimes when I give directions, I listen to myself and think I'm not very democratic. Then I wonder what you [me] would do in these situations." We then had the opportunity to debrief, discuss different options, and talk about how it all feels. There were still no guarantees of making the best choices but it did provide much confidence and security to have another person as an aid to reflection. In other situations, a teacher might form a partnership with another like-minded teacher, an interested administrator, or a classroom assistant. It is also important to discuss classroom events and experiences with parents and allow their input to influence the classroom. It is essential to The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 198 have the parents support and understanding. Ideally, a whole school community committed to democratizing education would provide excellent support for all. Indeed the co-evolution experienced in each classroom would result in a powerful community force if implemented school wide. Teachers need the opportunity to share their unique experiences, discoveries, and reflections. Workshops, conferences, and professional journals are likely forums for this. Of course, staff meetings, on-line discussions, hallway chats, cooperative lesson planning, and many other less formal venues can be found. Teachers also need to do what they are best at doing. They need to educate. There is a mounting need to educate the public who vote and lobby for government education policies. Donna was particularly concerned about political pressures in teaching that promote rigid standards and conformity, such as measurable test scores. These quantifying techniques artificially simplify learning outcomes and deny the complexity of the learning community, individual approaches to learning, and the unique contributions that some children make beyond mainstream values. She described the need for a professional voice against trends that were clearly contrary to the things that teachers know about children and learning, such as the need for context, ownership, and meaningful integration of content. All of these defy measurement These are all claims about what Donna felt should govern practices in a democratic classroom based on the experience gained during this research project. Also, Donna felt that for a teacher, committed to a democratic classroom, he or she would need particular support in (1) helping students who are not risk takers, (2) meeting individual needs with large class sizes, (3) maximizing the coverage of the public curriculum (IRPs), (4) helping students in particular areas of weakness, (5) ensuring relevance, (6) providing realistic assessment, and (7) finding time. Concerning the latter, "You have really good dialogue with the kids but when I'm teaching The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 199 sometimes I have to move on. I would love to have those interviews with the kids and chat but sometimes I have to cut them off." Indeed, those occasions when there were two teachers in the classroom working in partnership, provided both of us with the opportunity to influence and be influenced, co-evolving through interactions with each other and the classroom community. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 200 Chapter 9: Small Beginnings Donna and I sat in the White Spot Restaurant near the end of the project. The conversation turned to a debriefing regarding the various significant events of the previous eight months. "People don't expect an eight year old to speak out", I say. Donna says, "I think democracy is often not attempted at the primary level because of the age." We agree that the age of this group was an important aspect of the project. Dot says, "At the start it was too abstract -words were difficult - but now they have made gains. They have a tacit knowledge of the concepts even if they don't really understand the words." We talked about the idea that having choice makes responsibility more authentic. Donna says, "Traditionally responsibility is thought of in terms of values prescribed by adults and there is no choice. The kids have become more independent but it's hard for people to see the subtle changes like I can - like when Derek makes a presentation, or Ravinder being willing to speak. He is doing a speaking part in the play even though nobody will understand it." She wonders how to communicate these changes to the next teacher. "Roy has learned to express himself through projects because of what we've done this year. Rajeep still doesn't want to speak out, but he does talk a lot more." I say, "I haven't connected very well with Ernest or Amy." We wonder if Ernest would have done better in a different classroom. It is hard to speculate. Donna says, "Ernest has opened up over the year but not always in a positive way. But he has opened up more to me. I think in a rigid structure he would have sat there and clammed up." We talk about people like him who become well practiced at being invisible. Donna says, "Well he's not invisible anymore." The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 201 This debriefing session, although we examine our successes and failures, has a sense that we are still very much at a beginning and that there are more challenges ahead. There has been progress but the path ahead is fairly unpredictable. Donna, the children, and I have made various gains in our understanding of autonomy and responsibility, but clearly, there is more to explore. A sense of disequilibrium that pervades the conversation no longer daunts us. Complexity is accepted. This dissertation examined the possibilities for young children in a public primary classroom of engaging in a particular form of democracy that promotes authentic participation. At the beginning of this dissertation, the term democracy was reclaimed from popular conceptions to mean an inclusive participation in one's community through discourse, resulting in continuous changes within that community. This is in contrast to the popular political conception of democracy that highlights technical structures, such as voting, representation, and special interests which, by themselves, result in apathy, perfunctory participation, and cynicism. At the center of this examination was the relationship between the children's autonomy and their responsibility which enabled them to participate in the creation of their learning community. It was discovered that this relationship was not dichotomous, with autonomy and responsibility in simple tension between each other. Rather there was a complex interplay among these and many other elements, such as authority arrangements, that contributed to a continuing process of community development. The ideal of instilling within students a sense of autonomy within a sense of responsibility toward the community was not fully achieved. That ideal was, at times, a light in the distance, guiding our steps. At other times, it was Donna and I who shone the light, renewing our understanding of the basic conceptions of community, autonomy, and responsibility, through daily interactions with these ideas and with each other. Our practice and these concepts co-The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 202 evolved through interactions within the context of community. In the course of our purposeful wandering, we discovered many useful themes which enlightened our understanding of the potential for a participatory democratic primary classroom, enhanced the professional development of the teachers involved, and expanded the concept of learning for all. Rather than being regarded as static, isolated qualities, or a dualism in tension, autonomy and responsibility were appreciated through their complex interplay with each other, with other concepts, and with community values as a whole. Complexity Theory served as a useful way of minking about dynamic adaptive systems. In our case, the complex interplay of a variety of social elements in the community of a primary classroom was elucidated through the lens of Complexity Theory. Rather than trying to simplify the community into artificially segregated and isolated components, like subjects, grades, or labels, we embraced complexity and explored interconnections, interactions, and integration. An appreciation for disequilibrium enabled us to think beyond products, endings, and closure toward continuing processes. Though this resulted in some feelings of discomfort due to unpredictability, it also promoted creativity which is typical of learning at the edge of chaos. We self-organized by navigating a course between order and chaos, setting frames in which both freedom and constraints were clear. The diversity of individual contributions enriched the shared learning and the shared consciousness of the community. From our capacity to self-organize emerged unexpected properties unique to our community. The non-verbal, active discourse helped create the special inclusive characteristics of the class meetings, social problem solving strategies, projects, and role play. The co-evolution of the community recognized the ecological nature of the participatory democratic setting in which individuals influenced the whole community and the whole community influenced individuals. Learning was enacted in this community rather than isolated through subject area distinctions or discrete measurements of standard knowledge. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 203 Knowing, doing, and being were inseparable. A sense of community was essential in order for children to practice democracy, participation, autonomy, responsibility, and shared authority. Although these terms may have been beyond the ability of young children to define verbally, they could demonstrate an unspoken understanding of them through action within their friendships. Activities that allowed for or promoted interactions with friends helped to create a sense of community and therefore a context in which social concepts made sense. Academic learning that was relevant to this social context promoted meaningful, integrated, and shared knowledge. The project approach was an example of this. It is important to note the distinction between this complex adaptive systems concept of community and the popular conception of community building. Building implies an assembling of preformed parts and a blueprint of how the community will look once it has been built. Our adaptive, self-organizing community, by contrast, co-evolved from small beginnings and continued to change and adapt in often unexpected ways. The boundaries of our community were flexible and porous with many connections to other individuals and communities. Rather than developing and promoting individual concepts such as autonomy and responsibility, we realized that a sense of community was the context in which conceptual elements could make sense. Autonomy and responsibility seemed inseparable when children focused on their friendships. In choosing to please their friends and in feeling a sense of belonging, their community co-evolved. The children developed both more autonomy and more responsibility with an increasing sense of community. Their conceptions of autonomy and responsibility overlapped. However, responsibility was largely conceived of as either a duty or an act of care. The concept of autonomy was less developed but it was related to self-orientation with limits, usually imposed by adults. The more autonomy was discussed, the more it was clear that autonomy and responsibility were very much connected in the minds of the children. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 204 As autonomy and responsibility mutually increased, this allowed for more sharing of authority. Authority, in our democratic community, was embedded in the community itself. Decisions, in theory, were made to benefit the whole community. In practical terms, the teacher interpreted this authority and attempted to extend the decision-making to students in situations where such sharing of authority was productive. Many duties and activities which traditionally were in the teacher's domain were transferred to students as they gained the responsibility required. Clearly, the teacher, in practice, was regarded as the ultimate protector of the cornmunhy's authority, though it could be shared. But even such authority as the teacher exercised, was given by the assent of the community in either non-verbal or overt ways. When assent was not given, there was turmoil and defiance in the community. Since authority was not necessarily enshrined in the person of the teacher, all members of the community could share in it. Authority was continually negotiated between students and teacher, and among students. Power, which is so important to children, could be actualized in supporting the community rather than in competition between members and groups in the community. Rule setting in our complex democratic community was dynamic, not absolute. Rules were explained to the children who came to understand their purpose. Rules could be discussed and challenged. Children had a part in creating rules. Since rules were not in opposition to the autonomy of students, they tended to become less of an issue and often became a tacit part of community behavior rather than contentious points for challenge and debate. Issues that were not addressed by regular patterns of behavior or that tested habits of conduct could be dealt with on a case by case basis with the outcomes causing further co-evolution in behavior routines or the more overt classroom rules. These routines and rules were open to change and interpretation. They came from the children and served to guide behavior that was internalized rather than commanded. Students were motivated rather than managed. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 205 Decision-making, in a participatory democracy, involved working toward consensus. Voting, although common in popular democracy and, of course, much quicker and easier, was a distraction from inclusive participation, promoted competition, incited power struggles, and isolated the minority rather than including them. Consensus, on the other hand, while inclusive, and presumably more enduring, was very difficult to achieve. However, in the effort to work toward consensus, three strategies helped us: • A teacher could arbitrate a decision based on all students' input and with the rationale for the decision clearly explained. • If there was no consensus after a reasonable effort, we could postpone a decision at that time but could keep the issue open. • We simply continued the discussion if there were no time constraints and if the participants had the will to do so. The emphasis here was on promoting communication and negotiation rather than an artificially closed resolution. There was value in the process regardless of the outcome. Activity framing, with the assent and understanding of the community, was a feature of this participatory democratic classroom that defined negotiated and flexible boundaries in which students pursued their own autonomous choice with regard to their behavior and learning activities. Teachers, through negotiation, offered narrow or broad activity frames depending on a multitude of factors such as, experience of the class and teacher with a topic, time of year, general mood or energy level of the class or teacher, and the complexity of the task. Participation depends on discourse. The common meaning of the word discourse, as involving speech, had to be expanded, as active discourse, for these young children to include alternative, non-verbal methods. Though verbal forums dominated in this classroom, as in all of society, activity was essential for inclusion and participation in the co-evolution of the The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 206 community. Action was necessary for diversity to thrive and to enhance the community. It was conjectured that action is required in the acquisition of verbal language because coordinated behavior is the basis of communication. Participation through a variety of modes of interaction was the basis of community self-organization and co-evolution. The teacher's role in a participatory democracy co-evolved with the classroom. Learning activities were neither teacher directed nor student directed, but rather, they were teacher-student negotiated. In spite of the complexity and changeability of a teacher's job, in general, it was important for the teacher to: • promote a sense of community by establishing a positive environment and encouraging participation. This began by providing security. • negotiate a curriculum with a regard for both the public's and the student's values and interests. Curriculum was on-going. The idea of closure was replaced by the ideas of summarizing and extending. • negotiate activity frames that allowed for autonomous choices within a responsible regard for the effective operation of the learning community. • plan and assess in collaboration with the students and other stake holders. • reflect on the continually changing and novel situations that arose when one embraced complexity. Internal debates, requiring time and energy, were needed to constantly consider the nature and extent of the students' participation. For the teacher to effectively exercise her roles, it was most desirable for her to have the support of and a dialogue with her own community of peers and colleagues. The success of this project was not just in meeting and surpassing the curricular standards attained in prior years. It was the emergence of a sense of community and meaningful learning. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 207 Research Directions Revisited Returning now to the original topics that shaped this research project, it is apparent that the results of the research were not predictable from the start, and at times tangential to the original framework. In toleration of some incongruity along the way, but also with the sense of success from unexpected events and outcomes, the original research directions are now revisited: The nature ofdemocracy as a participatory process in a public primary classroom is explored. Ofparticular interest are the elements of student autonomy and responsibility, their relationship, and the factors that influence them. Related to this interplay is the nature of authority in a Participatory Democratic classroom. We found that autonomy and responsibility, though not exclusively in tension with each other, were part of the complex interplay of many social forces in a classroom community. They were particularly important factors in the self-organization of the classroom. Autonomy and responsibility were readily understood by young children both in unexpressed ways and, for some, overtly, if a sense of community was fostered. Authority could be shared to the degree that students were responsible. Authority, as with many of these concepts, was not an absolute but a gradual co-evolution. If the community was seen as the authority, then sharing authority was a sensible and productive thing to do. Authority was granted by the assent of those affected by it. Complexity Theory is used as a lens to interpret the events and activities in the classroom under study. As such, the classroom community is regarded as ecological and in a state of continuous evolution. Understanding Complexity Theory was in itself a complex process. At the start of the project, our knowledge of complexity was limited. Through the experience of viewing classroom experiences through the lens of complexity theory, our understanding increased. So complexity The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 208 served to assist in understanding experience but, at the same time, experience helped to develop our understanding of complexity - yet another co-evolution. Complexity theory proved to be very useful in appreciating the messiness of the ever co-evolving classroom setting. Rather than attempting to isolate elements for direct study, we framed them as inextricable, interconnected features of the context in which they were integrated. We were patient with disequilibrium. We allowed ourselves to explore the edge of chaos. We negotiated. We were creative. Learning activities co-evolved through the cyclical process of planning, acting, observing, reflecting, replanning, and so on. There were many activities that promoted autonomy, responsibility, and shared authority but none of these activities could be rigidly defined and packaged for transport to other communities. Rather they were in constant disequilibrium, co-evolving within the influences of this unique community. The class meetings, the problem solving strategies, the projects, and the role play were identified as important properties that emerged from this particular community. What was important to us was the continuing learning process of which the products and outcomes were a part. The creation of a strong sense of community was essential for these concepts to make sense for the children. The community was seen to be ecological in that individuals influenced the co-evolution of the community and were, in turn, influenced by the whole community. Their shared values and, ultimately, their shared consciousness was the bond that defined the community. Participation of all was required and this, in turn, required continuous discourse. Discourse required activity. In attempting to establish factors to guide the community, we chose to navigate a course between order and chaos. This resulted in a highly creative learning environment with students acquiring strong social skills, such as problem solving, respect, critical thinking (in both social and academic situations), and the ability to participate in their The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 209 community. Somehow, the complex interplay among autonomy, responsibility, authority, and many other social concepts allowed for the self-organization of a dynamic, adaptive, living community. Extending the Literature This dissertation began with examples of typical public documents that promoted democratic values in our public schools. They addressed goals and mandates for learning in both individual and group contexts. They advocated the ideals of social responsibility, tolerance, respect, and individuality. These were recognized as sloganized terms designed for universal agreement but, upon scmtiny, were problematic in their practical application since they could be interpreted in very diverse ways. For instance, respect could mean students must respect their teachers' authority or it could refer to mutual respect which recognized students' autonomy. In light of the experiences and reflections that were the subject of this research, it is not the recommendation of this author to remove these terms from public conversation nor to claim a more accurate conception. Rather, it is recommended that these values be complexified, that is, appreciated for their multiple interpretations and their interrelated nature. They should become the subject of critical debate. An on-going investigation within educational practice should begin. Democracy is about debate and change, not merely resolution and agreement. Jacque Ellul, Jean Lave, Jerome Bruner, Gary Fenstermacher, and Thomas Sergiovanni presented persuasive arguments for an adjustment in our educational system toward the social aspects of schooling, away from the overwhelming technical side of the school system. In the process, a dualism was implied. Clearly these authors highlighted extreme elements in order to make a point. These artificial dualisms, though useful, were not intended to reflect actual practice. In fact, a complete analysis could not be provided without addressing the nature of their The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 210 interplay within the whole. Still the simplicity of the comparisons may have such appeal as to overwhelm the complexity of how the elements coexist in the actual classroom. Indeed, 1 was tempted by the same technique in examining autonomy and responsibility. I enlisted the writings of Bruner and Sergiovanni, joined by Herbert Kohl, R.F. Dearden, and Thomas Lickona. However, it was impossible to define these concepts separately. One required the other in the process of analysis. Further, they each evoked multiple meanings depending on context and perspective. They then led to important connections to additional social elements, such as authority. This further entwined the concepts. It was evident that separating elements of a social context has limited usefulness. Moving from the conceptual to the practical, successful applications of socially oriented education programs were examined. Ernest Boyer's Basic Schools provided a clear, coherent structure but did not overtly recognize the importance of authentic contributions from the students that could impact on this structure. On the other hand, Michael Apple and Jeremy Beane's Democratic Schools promoted the participation of all stake holders but, by definition, could not provide a clear, stable model with a predictable structure or curriculum. Neither structure successfully united the dualism that John Dewey pointed to between individuality and social control. The parallel of autonomy and responsibility was likewise unresolved in these structures. The enaction of a participatory democracy indicated a continuously changing, unpredictable, not completely definable structure. Clearly complexity would be a primary characteristic. Upon examination, social structures in general are complex adaptive systems. Many others attempt to explain societies by breaking them down into parts or by viewing aspects of them in isolation. They must always return to the whole with its complex patterns and interactions. To begin to understand a participatory democratic classroom, I extracted seven The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 211 overlapping features that Fritjof Capra described that pertain to adaptive systems. The complexity of a participatory democratic classroom was seen to be in disequilibrium, continually self-organizing. Neither rigidly ordered by social control nor chaotic from unbridled choice, participants negotiated a course based on an interplay between responsibility and autonomy. The community was ecological with students, teachers, parents, administrators, the classroom, and the changing environment co-evolving. Unique properties emerged. Consciousness and knowledge were shared. Humberto Maturana provided a biological metaphor in which the organism (or students and other community members) and the medium (or environment and technical supports) are in constant interplay, conserving the community and promoting change and growth. Brent Davis, Dennis Sumara, and Rebecca Luce-Kaplar (2000) considered these principles of complexity in providing an enactivist approach to learning in a classroom community. As the research project unfolded, so did our understanding and our application of complexity theory. That story was told here, not in terms of successes, achievements, resolutions, or products, although we can claim modest measures of these. Rather, it is one story that developed in a unique way from a certain small beginning, exploring democracy in a specific combined one-two primary classroom. Other participatory democracies will have similarities and differences but complexity theory can assist in beginning to understand the patterns and changes in each. At least three contributions can be offered by way of expanding the literature. Firstly, as mentioned, the use of complexity theory in understanding and describing a participatory democratic classroom in a public school serves as a very useful paradigm for teachers wishing for their students to learn through enacting democracy. One must keep in mind that this conception of participatory democracy is quite different to the common conception of popular political The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 212 democracy. Secondly, this project provides an example of very young children learning to participate democratically in the co-evolution of their own learning community. As such, active discourse suggests an authentic way for children to learn to contribute to community development and activity frames provide a flexible structure in which children can take ownership of their learning. A safe environment allows creativity and exploration within the sense of security that is so important for young children. Thirdly, we demonstrated that children could be included as research partners in a participatory collaborative research approach. Their roles as researchers co-evolved as their patterns of participation in the community co-evolved. We constantly had to reflect and act on power arrangements and appropriate discourse. Indeed it was an ethical obligation to reveal the research to students and to invite their participation. Ethics Revisited A substantial part of the discussion of the methodology used in this research project was concerned with ethics. The choice of participatory collaborative action research was made in an effort to accommodate a wish for ethical research, which, in my opinion, was very problematic with traditional methods. Working with fellow professionals and children required openness, respect, and care. Damage to reputations or the risk of emotional or physical harm could not be entertained. David Flinders provided a perspective for an ethical practice in research. Rather than merely making a promise not to harm anyone, that, in reality, could not be guaranteed, I recognized that ethical practice was an on-going aspect of the research in which the researchers continually examined relationships, language, and the common good of all involved. Flinders also spoke of the utilitarian approach to ethics. This approach is exemplified by the research plan's approval by the university's ethics review committee. It was clear that university ethical approval provided minimal assurance of actual ethical practice. It was also clear that without this The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 213 approval, there would be no research. A guarantee of anonymity of the children seemed to be an essential prerequisite and, therefore, anonymity of their teacher was also required to avoid identification of the children. This was of importance to the university and to the school's administration, not because this was effective protection for the children. Clearly it was not. It was a step taken to demonstrate in legal terms that we had taken the standard measures to protect them. In reality, we were protecting the university. Anxious to get approval and, perhaps ironically, not minking carefully about all the ethical consequences, a commitment to use pseudonyms for all participants (except me) was made. The research project was successful and to our knowledge no one was adversely affected. We made efforts to protect, include, and celebrate contributions. In fact, the ethical focus was quite similar to our daily professional approach to our interactions with children and colleagues. 1 enjoyed this time with the children and appreciated their perspectives and enlightenments. They were genuine research partners. The efforts and contributions of 'Donna Klause' to the research were profound. I miss our wonderfully edifying conversations. My appreciation for my research partners presents an ethical dilemma. It is doubtful that using the real names of my research partners would have resulted in any harm. On the other hand, I regret not giving them the credit that they deserve through open public acknowledgment, embodied in the work that they were instrumental in creating. Imagine... The following story is fiction. It is inspired by my newly formed understandings of Participatory Democracy and Complexity Theory. It describes potential events and experiences of a young primary classroom mat has embraced the principles of participation in the dynamic adaptive system of a classroom community. It serves as a summary of the findings of this The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 214 research, offered within the context of on-going school experience. In keeping with the idea of disquilibrium, this vignette marks, not so much the ending of this dissertation, but rather, indicates one possible direction of continuing experiences that may yet emerge from the small beginnings in Donna Klause's classroom. Ms. Dorthy gathered her new class of kindergarten and grade one students on the carpet to begin the class meeting. In spite of their ages and relative inexperience with school routines, class meeting expectations had quickly been established. Many of the children were already leading the meetings and organizing each other in terms of both procedure and behavior. Perhaps their lack of experience with extrinsically controlled structures, and the fact that they were given the opportunity to create some of their own structures for the classroom, actually resulted in a fairly orderly class meeting. Or perhaps it was just a feature of the personality of this particular group. Not that they were always orderly. In fact, at other times, people had commented on how "lively" the children were. They were very active. But Ms. Dorthy had almost immediately established several methods to gain the attention of the students and to settle the class. "Give me five" and rhythmic clapping were among her more effective methods. So the class could become active without danger of becoming chaotic. Kathy was leading the meeting today. As usual, the class began with smiles. Parminder started. "I liked it when Rachael shared her carrots with me at recess." "Thank you", replied Rachael with the customary response. But then Jeff started to complain that he didn't get any of Rachael's carrots. Jerold was sitting beside him and quickly reminded him that he had to raise his hand instead of calling out. The meeting continued in this way, not completely orderly but not The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 215 out of control either. Ms. Dorthy often redirected attention to the speaker, reminded children of appropriate behavior, encouraged the quieter ones to speak (sometimes interpretmg, sometimes guessing). She was always careful and thoughtful about when to intervene and when to let the students take charge. In this way, the class meeting self-organized. It also kept on changing and developing because of the freedom that students had to make reasonable suggestions about routines, rules, and preferences. After several smiles, Kathy turned to the agenda. "Ms. Dorthy has an item on the agenda. Would you like to talk about your issue, Ms. Dorthy?" "Thank you Kathy. My issue is about one of the IRPs. Who remembers what an IRP is?" "Its from your book from the government that gives us ideas about what to learn about," answered Alan. "Yes. Well one of the suggestions is that we learn about Air, Land, and Water. Any ideas?" "I've got a book about the ocean," offered Alyce. "At home, my brother showed me his video. It's about some people climbing up a mountain," added Jenny. Dylan seemed very excited but, since he didn't speak, it took some time and many guesses for the class to see from his awkward gesturing that he was trying to get everyone to look at the poster on the far wall that Will had drawn of a balloon carrying Piglet and Pooh up past the trees. Beginning with these and other resources suggested by the children, and supplemented by the teacher with some of the suggestions from the IRPs, several learning activities were initiated. There were more drawings of balloons, but also of planes and clouds and trees in the wind. One group performed a play about a boat on the ocean. Another created a model of an island in a lake. The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 216 Of course there were many stories written on the theme of Air, Land, and Water. But Kenneth seemed troubled even though he had constructed an imaginative amphibious vehicle out of Lego. "But these are just toys and drawings. They're not real." "Good point," said Ms. Dorthy. "How can we make it real?" "We have to go see the land and the water and feel the air," explained Kylie. "We can't really know about it if we don't go and be in it" "Where shall we go?" A flood of suggestions arose with such excitement that Rachael started clapping. Soon everyone was clapping in rhythm and the class settled. "Maybe we should raise hands and take turns," suggested Ms. Dorthy. They had already had several field trips so they were quite enthusiastic and had lots of ideas, including the beach, Grouse Mountain, Stanley Park, and the Moon (quickly dismissed by Jeff because "it has no air or water"). Ms. Dorthy noticed that Raj, one of the older children, hadn't said anylhing and asked for his input "Well, last year we went to Burn's Bog but it was kind of boring. We had to stay on the boardwalk and it was kind of dark and mucky everywhere." "Cool," exclaimed Kee-Ti. "Well there was lots of air and water and land. We just didn't get to touch it much. Our teacher told us what to look for and we had a checklist to do," added Raj. "We had a quiz about it when we got back and I got a C." "What does C mean?" asked little Arial. "I'm not sure. I think it meant I knew some things but not everything like Harold. He got anA." "The Bog sounds cool," insisted Kee-Ti, "But I don't like the idea of the checklist or the quiz." The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 217 "How about we make up our own checklist when we go there and quiz each other afterward?" suggested Ms. Dorthy. "Yay!" applauded the class. As the noise died down there was heard a tentative, quiet "Boo?" "You have a problem with that Emma?" asked Ms. Dorthy. "Well it still sounds like its a little mucky. "You won't get mucky if you stay on the boardwalk," argued Raj. After some debate, something of a consensus was reached, although Emma still looked a little worried. "Don't worry," said Rachael, "I'll stay with you on the boardwalk." This seemed to help. Two weeks later, five mini-vans arrived at the Bog with eighteen K-l students, several parent volunteers, a few baby brothers and sisters, the teacher, the classroom assistant, and the vice-principal (looking nervous, wondering if the break from school routines was worth the unpredictability of twenty-two children and several adults in an uncertain environment). Ms. Dorthy always encouraged parents and other school staff to join them on their field trips, not just for the help (to be honest, they were not always that helpful), but also to familiarize them with her teaching style and philosophy, and to hear their expectations and suggestions. Ms. Dorthy tended to do things a little differently, experimenting with different activities, and trying to respond to the unique challenges of individual students. She found it was helpful to have people around to discuss ideas, questions, and fears. She knew she didn't have all the answers, especially since they were often doing things that no one had tried before. She appreciated the unique perspectives that the parents, colleagues, and administrators had on individual students and on the larger school community. Indeed, this was a unique group of children. In spite of the ego-centricism of their youth, their natural interest in each other had been allowed to flourish in The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 218 this classroom. They were active, to be sure, but not mean-spirited. They were gaining social problem solving skills since they were usually given the opportunity to try to work things out on their own. If they couldn't, the class meeting was another forum where they could get help from their peers. Of course, Ms. Dorthy was a caring, nurturing teacher who provided a safe environment and a feeling of security. Although they at times argued among themselves and there were certain on=going rivalries, they were also inclusive. As Ms. Dorthy modeled, they allowed everyone to participate and encouraged those who were reticent. In addition, as a group, they had developed an interest in nature, the environment, and ecology. So it was not surprising that a field trip to Burn's Bog was an activity of interest. "Okay children," Ms. Dorthy addressed the class, "Listen please. Give me five. You too, Abdul. And Phil. Thank you." She waited just a moment until all were quiet and attentive. "Remember we're going to make up our own checklists, so try to be observant. Just to help you out a little, look to see how many different kinds of plants you can see. Notice the different firmnesses in the ground but try not to get too mucky. Why do you think the Bog is important? Can you see any ways in which human beings have affected the Bog?" "Ms. Dorthy," called Autumn, "I think we need to see what kind of animals live here too." "Oh good point, Autumn. Any other ideas?" "We need to see how long the boardwalk is." "I think the Bog smells different." "Why is it so dark over there?" "Ms. Dorthy, Emma looks afraid. I'll hold her hand and walk with her. We'll stay on the boardwalk." "Thank you Rachael." The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 219 Each child had a partner and each adult helper was in charge of keeping an eye on four children. Otherwise, the students were fairly independent. They explored the vegetation around the boardwalk. Some ventured into the brush, keeping within eyesight of an adult Some rushed far down the boardwalk. Invariably, they came running back excitedly to report a heron sighting or the discovery of a frog family. Occasionally they gathered in groups and made notes in their notepads, chattering the whole time. They made their way deep into the Bog. "Last year we had to stay in line," complained Raj. Not this year. Although there was a wide, sturdy boardwalk built through the Bog, this was merely a reference point for many children. In fact, one group found a clearing several yards from the path where they sat and talked and pointed and sang. They soon caught up to the rest by cutting through the bushes. Eventually they began to retreat back to the parking lot. Alan, Arial, Autumn, and Kathy emerged from the trees unexpectedly on the other side of the vans. They had found a different route back. Shortly, their adult helper, the vice principal, came up behind them looking disheveled and relieved to be back. "We saw three muskrats. We came that close," she said gesturing excitedly. She and her group did not even seem to notice that they had mud up to their knees. As they waited for the others, the children talked about what they had seen and written down. They argued over whether it was a mole or a rat that had scared them on the boardwalk. They sang the "Happy Wanderer". They began working on a poem about the Bog. Shannon and Sally said they saw a plastic Safeway bag caught in a tree. The rest of the children became quite angry about that. "Sometimes I think the Bog and people don't mix," shouted Raj. "I heard some people want to fill in the Bog and build houses and a golf course on it", said Parminder. "Ms. Dorthy, how can we stop them?" "Let's talk about what we can do as a class when we get back to school. Now where are The Complexity of a Participatory Democracy 220 the last four?" Just then they turned to see Alyce pushing Dylan toward them with mud caked on the wheels of his chair. "But where are Emma and Rachael?" worried one of the parents. "There they are," answered Jenny pointing to the side of the Bog far from the boardwalk. Rachael and Emma, still hand in hand, covered in muck, with huge smiles on their faces, came running to the group. "We saw geese! We saw geese!" The laughter of the class was spontaneous and continued for most of the ride back to school. Ms. Dorthy turned to the vice principal who was driving. "That Emma. She learned more from Rachael today than I could ever have even thought of teaching her. It's so amazing how quickly and easily they learn from each other. Wait till we get back and share our experiences. Each student will look at it from a different point of view and highlight different aspects. They learn so much from each other. Together we share a very rich body of knowledge." "I should say so", replied the vice principal, "But what about the curriculum? Are you covering those IRPs?" "Judging from the notes they took, I'd say they covered that and a lot more. The challenge will be in sorting it out in different ways. Checking off the IRP goals is no problem." "Ms Dorthy?" 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