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ERIC Number: EJ1083922
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 21
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-1710-5668
When Time Makes a Difference: Addressing Ergodicity and Complexity in Education
Koopmans, Matthijs
Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, v13 n2 p5-25 2015
The detection of complexity in behavioral outcomes often requires an estimation of their variability over a prolonged time spectrum to assess processes of stability and transformation. Conventional scholarship typically relies on time-independent measures, "snapshots", to analyze those outcomes, assuming that group means and their associated standard deviations, computed across individuals, are sufficient to characterize the educational outcomes that inform policy, and that time does not matter in this context. In its statistically abstract form, the assumption that you can rely on snapshots is referred to as the ergodic assumption. This paper argues that ergodicity cannot be taken for granted in educational data. The first section discusses artificially generated time series trajectories to illustrate ergodicity (white noise) and three types of non-ergodicity: short-term correlations between observations, long-term correlations (pink noise) and infinite correlations (Brownian motion). A second section presents daily attendance data observed in two urban high schools over a seven year period to show that these data are non-ergodic and suggest complexity. These findings offer a counter-example to the efficacy of using snapshots to measure educational outcomes.
University of Alberta. 347 Education South, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2G5, Canada. e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A