This essay brings together two lines of work—that of children’s cognition and that of complexity science. These two lines of work have been linked repeatedly in the past, including in the field of science education. Nevertheless, questions remain about how complexity constructs can be used to support children’s learning. This uncertainty is particularly troublesome given the ongoing controversy about how to promote children’s understanding of scientifically valid insights. We therefore seek to specify the knowledge–complexity link systematically. Our approach started with a preliminary step—namely, to consider issues of knowledge formation separately from issues of complexity. To this end, we defined central characteristics of knowledge formation (without considerations of complexity), and we defined central characteristics of complex systems (without considerations of cognition). This preliminary step allowed us to systematically explore the degree of alignment between these two lists of characteristics. The outcome of this analysis revealed a close correspondence between knowledge truisms and complexity constructs, though to various degrees. Equipped with this insight, we derive complexity answers to open questions relevant to science learning.
Part of the book: Theory of Complexity