Alan Ovens

Principal Lecturer

School of Curriculum and Pedagogy
Private Bag 92601
Symonds Street
The University of Auckland
Auckland 1050
New Zealand

Complexity Statement

There is nothing particularly new in suggesting educational phenomena are complex. The issue is not that educational phenomena are complex, but about the appropriateness of the frameworks we use to make sense of the ‘messiness’ that is inherent in complex educational settings. I find that complexity offers the opportunity to question how we frame the issues central to curriculum, pedagogy and research. The idea of frame draws attention to the process involved in making sense of the world. Frames are tacit perceptual mechanisms that transform the unfamiliar into meaningful and normative categories that are, in turn, central to the construction of shared meanings typifying particular discursive fields (Bernstein, 2000). My hope in supporting the possibility of reframing is not one linked to a representational epistemology of changing perspective to gain a more accurate understanding of reality. Rather, the meaning of the term ‘reframe’ I aim to invoke in my work is linked to a quest of finding more complex and creative ways of interacting with our reality, with which we can then use to interact in yet more complex and creative ways (Osberg, Biesta, & Cilliers, 2008). From a complexity perspective, reframing implies there are no final solutions, only new ways to interact that lead to new emergent possibilities. This sort of project is anything but straightforward, particularly given the lack clarity around the concept and the relative ‘newness’ that complexity has in the education literature. But it is one in which we individually and collectively hope to ‘expand the space of the possible’ (Davis & Sumara, 1997).


Pedagogies for teacher education;
Future oriented teaching and learning;
Educational sociology and complexity;
Physical Education and human movement;
Professional learning networks, environments and systems;


Pedagogies for teacher education (which includes using mobile technologies to make student learning visible)

MY Google+ site:

Special Interest Network in Complexity (SINC)


Cassidy, T., & Ovens, A. (2009) Curriculum acoustics: analysing the changing voice of the New Zealand Physical Education Curriculum', In: Maree DinanThompson(ed.), Health and Physical Education and Curriculum Study: contemporary critical issues in Australia and New Zealand., Melbourne, Oxford University Press
Ovens, A. Hopper, T., & Butler, J. (2013). Complexity Thinking in Physical Education: Reframing Curriculum, Pedagogy and Research, London: Routledge.
Ovens, A., Hopper, T., & Butler, J. (2013). Reframing pedagogy, curriculum and research. In A. Ovens, T. Hopper & J. Butler (Eds.), Complexity in Physical Education. London: Routledge.
Ovens, A., & Godber, K. (2013). Affordance networks and the complexity of learning. In A. Ovens, T. Hopper & J. Butler (Eds.), Complexity in Physical Education. London: Routledge.
Ovens, A. (2010). The New Zealand Curriculum: emergent insights and complex renderings. Asia-Pacific Journal of Health, Sport and Physical Education, 1(1) 27-32
Ovens, A. (2009) Personal politics and identity in student teachers’ stories of learning to teach. In Mattos, A. (Ed) Narratives on Teaching and Teacher Education: An International Perspective, Palgrave McMillan
Ovens, A., & Tinning, R. (2009) Reflection as situated practice: A memory-work study of lived experience in teacher education', Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(8), 1125-1131
Ovens, A. & Powell, D. (2011) Minding the body in physical education, In:Brown, S. (ed.), Issues and Controversies in Physical Education: Policy, Power and Pedagogy, Auckland; Pearson
Ovens, A. & Smith, W. (2006). Skill: Making sense of a complex concept. Journal of Physical Education New Zealand. 39(1), pp 72-82


Ovens, A. (2012) Game Changers: Considering the innovations shaping TGfU 3.0. Invited presentation given to the Teaching and Coaching Games successfully- Everybody wins: The 5th International Teaching Games for Understanding Conference, Loughborough University, England 12-14 July, 2012
Ovens, A. (2012) Disturbing Practice. Invited ‘think piece’ presented to the Criticality in Helath and Physical Education Hui. A symposium hosted by the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, The University of Auckland. June 27-29 2012
Ovens, A. (2010) ‘Teams, learning communities or social networks: Understanding the social collective in complexity research’ An invited presentation given as part of the Complex Learning Systems and Physical Education Expert Panel at the 2010 International Conference of Physical Education and Sports Science (ICPESS), National Institute of Education, Singapore, 25-28 May, 2010
Ovens, A. (2008). 'Thinking bodies, moving minds', Climbing Trees: A keynote presentation given to The place, purpose and potential of Physical Education conference, Whangarei, 19-20 September, 2008

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