Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412939584 | Print ISBN: 9780761930877 | Online ISBN: 9781412939584| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Jackie M. Blount
Chaos theory, a mathematical notion describing underlying order that exists in some seemingly random events, has been employed by scholars of educational leadership as a metaphor or model for understanding the social conditions of schools. Sometimes also called “deterministic chaos,” chaos theory explores how apparently simple phenomena, describable with differential equations, can generate complex, unpredictable behavior. Put another way, some phenomena that are well understood and can be described mathematically still can produce apparently random effects. These “chaotic” processes essentially defy conventional mechanistic understandings of the universe that assume randomness exists only where humans do not possess full knowledge of factors at work. Instead, chaos theory holds that phenomena can be fully described by mathematical expressions and still exhibit random behavior in the sense that it cannot be known in advance. The French mathematician, Henri Poincaré, developed the theoretical underpinnings for chaos theory in the late 1800s as he attempted ...