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Delectus - Scientific Journal, Inicc-Perú - [ISSN: 2663-1148]




Vol. 6 No. 2 (2023): July-December [Edit closure: 31/07/2023]

RECEIVED: 15/03/2023 | ACCEPTED: 28/06/2023 | PUBLISHED: 31/07/2023

Suggested quote (APA, seventh edition)

Acosta Faneite, S. F., & Barreto-Rodríguez, A. (2023). Educational management from the epistemological perspective of complexity in the management of the 21st century, 6(2), 1-12.

Educational management from the epistemological perspective of complexity in the management of the 21st century

Savier Fernando Acosta Faneite

Chool of Education, Faculty of Humanities and Education, University of Zulia, Maracaibo, Venezuela

Arnold Barreto-RodrÍguez

Secretary of Education of the Department of Magdalena, "Víctor Camargo Álvarez" Departmental Educational Institution, Colombia


The purpose of this article was to analyze educational management from the epistemological perspective of the complexity of management in the 21st century. The study was based on the qualitative paradigm, combining the documentary method with the phenomenological method. A review of documents related to the topic studied was carried out to observe the phenomenon; the results emerged from the contrast between the documentary review and the experiences of 15 managers of various educational institutions in Magdalena, Colombia. As a conclusion, it was determined that, in the 21st century, managerial processes and the vision of school managers are still rooted in traditional practices, where work is done manually. However, principals and coordinators are aware that institutions must develop creative processes that provide new opportunities to strengthen the application of complex thinking and reactivate knowledge in this era of globalization, which demands an interdisciplinary readjustment in postmodernity.

Keywords: complexity; epistemology of complexity; educational management; epistemological perspective; postmodernity

The social dynamism currently found in the field of management aims to create educational links that correspond to the social responses of the educational field in the 21st century; hence, educational institutions must deploy procedures to articulate the systems models that have been influential since the end of the 20th century. Likewise, they must take into account the most relevant aspects and elements of globalization. In this sense, Balza (2020) points out that changes in modern societies have driven technological and scientific advances, this forces educational systems to strengthen knowledge, which merits an interdisciplinary renewal in postmodernity.

It should be noted that since the beginning of the study of this phenomenon, the theory of complex thinking has been reviewed and how it can influence the educational management process; due to the fact that leadership in institutions has proposed patterns of innovation, creation, commitment and responsibility that respond to the challenges of education and the level of demand that societies impose today, which allow facing these challenges. In this regard, it is necessary to focus on the ability of leaders to lead educational institutions, considering their importance, hierarchy, autonomy and the axiology of the leader's existence.

Therefore, it is necessary to take into account the requirements formulated from the principles established by Morin (2020) which contribute to understand the knowledge and comprehension of the complex object. Likewise, the author points out that the complexity of managerial behavior is considered interdisciplinary from the epistemological immediacy of the object (management), where social work is developed, oriented to achieve a great integration of the educational system and meet the general requirements of the sector. However, the effectiveness of implementing these interactive relationships is affected by certain deficiencies that exist between the groups and social areas that are part of the human nucleus of greater-known breadth, which is society.

When recalling, the management of educational leaders of the twentieth century and the new reality that is presented today in the classrooms of each educational institution, it has been possible to see accelerated changes that have occurred in the field of education during the last decades, which leaves behind reflective processes in a cultural, historical and social scenario, as administrative processes are directly observed in a complex manner and reflect non-educational groups that derive unidirectionally from national educational and social policies.

Being an urgency to reinvent the approaches to educational management and promote new paradigms that are easy to face based on social and cultural realities where the human factor is mainly considered; so, it is necessary to rethink the postmodern vision of educational leadership that meets the academic requirements and promotes pedagogical greatness. Regarding the postmodern element of educational technology, Reynoso (2015) exposes that the tools offered by markets today respond to the demands of globalization, which creates the need for educational institutions to adapt and reinvent themselves to enter the society of new technologies and the disciplinary diversity of knowledge.

Among all these challenges, Marrero & Ramirez (2022) express that connectivity, communication, soft skills, online resources and online transcendental existence contexts are the most valued in this postmodern era; that is, in the era of cloud computing and connections to social networks, it constitutes a change of current practices and relationships between individuals that occur in the business and institutional environment in all aspects, migrating from old practices to new paradigms. However, the most important support is represented by the relevance of the communicative process in the new current arrangements, which requires a constant field of action, such as adapting education and leadership performance within them.

In this sense, Blanco & Acosta (2023) express that the modern era is characterized by a constantly changing global environment that requires an in-depth analysis of the way in which information is disseminated and propagated in an accelerated manner. Hence, a new paradigm is needed that leads to a notion of complexity, which according to Peñaranda-Franco (2016) is one that is based on simplification, unification and instruction in an era where leaders are able to show through actions and technologies the changes happening in institutions. This includes changing a series of different requirements of the organization, which deserves to be addressed by the management of educational institutions; therefore, managers of the 21st century have the challenge of transforming themselves into good performance managers; which means modifying or changing paradigms and adopting new theories for knowledge management.

It should be noted that, according to Hernandez (2016), the perception of management has undergone modifications, where different approaches have been adopted over time, questioning different ways in which leadership has been applied. Likewise, leaders are called to possess a flexible profile to create new approaches in the organization and implement technologies in their management. Therefore, it is necessary to use hermeneutics to give explanations to issues related to management processes and their renewal in the 21st century, for which it is necessary to study the phenomena that encompass the complex paradigms proposed by Morin.

From this point of view, Paz (2020) expresses that educational management, according to Taylor's epistemology, is perceived as a way in which managers assume the role of inspector and are in charge of monitoring and coordinating certain methods. However, for a reflective study of educational leadership from a heuristic perspective, Belandria (2020) emphasizes that leadership is the execution of various actions and procedures to achieve quality education, thus helping to achieve the set goal that requires teamwork. In other words, the manager's role is that of an administrator who sets out to achieve the organization's objectives.

Regarding management, Vega (2020) points out that it is the process starting from an idea, which takes into account the resources available to achieve the objectives in order to achieve the axiom of effectiveness in one's activities, performing with assertiveness and efficiency the assigned tasks, paying attention to the process of planning, organization, management and control. In the definition of management, the author focuses on its basic occupations, such as planning, organizing, executing and controlling. From this, it follows that the manager's task is to carry out a series of actions in accordance with the plan, since it is the leader who must focus on embodying facts and achieving institutional goals and anticipating future events.

However, management practice includes other aspects, such as the management and continuous implementation of technologies, as well as the cognitive contribution of each member who participates in the educational environment, contributing to the realization of their institutional tasks. In the same line, it is worth remembering what was pointed out by Chirinos (2017) who expresses that the good exercise of educational institutions depends on consensus processes, which are also effective ways to achieve the objectives of pre-established organizations. However, being a leader goes a step further and implies directing efforts towards institutional objectives; furthermore, it cannot be denied that the entire team must be motivated, guided and oriented to achieve the desired objectives together. It should also be understood that the importance of management is no longer based on physical resources, but on human capital.

Likewise, it is pertinent to point out that the leaders of Colombian educational institutions are currently facing postmodernity with a multiplicity of challenges; in this sense, the new management requires flexibility, innovation, a creative and transforming leader; because it is an era in which educational actions are gestated and it is required that the director is not autocratic, that he/she understands the best way to orient and guide the human resources he/she has in the organization.

Likewise, Condor & Remache (2020) point out that educational leaders must inspire companionship, cordiality, dynamism and trust. The emergence of the traditional thinking of rationalism from the time of Descartes and the logic of existence allow thinking about social ideals, since the modern human being is a being involved in the social environment. At the same time, the stream of philosophical thought is a structure in which people do not have absolutism; therefore, as society changes, technology takes over the world language, due to the immediacy of information, it replaces the ontological context and moves towards the technology of science. There is no doubt that technology will set the guidelines for the changing world of the future, since the demands of telematic networks require connections that go beyond knowledge.

On the other hand, Balza (2020) points out that in the complexities of management in the educational environment in postmodern times, several epistemological mysteries concur in educational administration in postmodern times, since reality denotes that directors and managers have not been prepared and are not willing to face the transformations and incorporate technology in their practices. It is believed that the old patterns of management are still obsolete and not yet dead, and the new postmodern models are not yet born; there is resistance to change and it becomes a difficulty for the adoption of technological tools, because managers do not have the required skills to access the Internet and also present resistance to implement technology, because it is an unknown world for them.

Likewise, Barbecho and Gómez (2022) state that virtualization worsens administrative interpersonal relationships and even claim that the virtual world regulates administrative work in educational institutions. However, it is expected that the new academic managers must be available to all teachers and know how to use the communication tools that continue to emerge, although many managers are reluctant to use technology because they do not understand it and the fact that they are so attached to the current paradigms and continue to operate isolated in their environment is still a concern.

Educational administration must be restructured starting from axiology, where universal and genuine human values are instilled in families, schools, universities and society, because deep cracks are currently forming in human values, which are a great danger for future generations. The oblivion of the apparent human state is one of the many challenges that educational managers must change, as well as develop computational competencies that will allow them to have a quality management in the organization they manage.

It is relevant to understand, according to López & Rojas (2021) that in order to develop cognitive leadership, the most advanced technologies must be used for the benefit of all and in favor of universal human values. Likewise, it is necessary to promote holistic education and the application of technologies in the era of complexity and globalization of the 21st century, this is due to the competitiveness that will be created by the new model of managerial competence in the postmodern era.

Similarly, Vaillant & Rodriguez (2018) recognize that educational professionals must clarify their thinking and that their reflective actions must take place in a complex and unorthodox context. The role of formative leadership requires a new conception of thinking that goes beyond the scientific and technological level, aligning philosophically with cognitive connections.

In the common training method of the Colombian Ministry of National Education, a practical learning factor has been considered for young people, led by the director of a school whose epistemology is based on philosophical realism and Aristotelian realism, which forms a cognitive approach between being and doing, whose phenomenological structure allows to increase the understanding of other workers to solve problems as complex as practical.

Likewise, the teacher had to live the ups and downs that occurred during the pandemic (covid-19), where leaders imposed to follow the formulated plans, often not adapted to reality; however, there is no doubt that the complexity of education during that context changed the roles of the teacher, who, in the face of the health emergency, worked in tune with managers, parents and students so that they could continue without problems their academic processes.

In this aspect, Pulido (2018) explains the urgency of reforming management activities so that they become a factor of innovation and stimulation for teachers, educational leaders through the epithet of educational management and the iconography of managerial thinking, because current educational systems are trying to find quality levels, that is, the education that is urgently needed due to the changes created by the same society. Hence, a manager must be knowledgeable about what is happening in the institution and society, so that the actions he/she takes respond to meet the real needs of his/her environment and the students themselves, without overlooking the commitment he/she has with the personnel he/she manages.

Finally, according to Maldonado (2016), Morin himself indicates that the concept of complexity is not the only way to solve knowledge problems, therefore, it is necessary to equip oneself with all those tools that simplify the work and streamline management processes. In view of the above, this paper aims to analyze educational management from the epistemological perspective of the complexity of management in the 21st century.

This study followed the procedures of a qualitative paradigm, which, according to Acosta (2023) points out that material objects and human activities have meaning and, therefore, is concerned with knowing the space in which two or more subjects interact to describe and explain the experiences of people, their perspectives and life histories that allow revealing a phenomenon. In order to establish lines of action in this study, in the first instance, a bibliographic review was carried out, so that the researchers could form an idea of the reality observed in areas other than the one studied.

It is of great relevance to state that the methodological contribution of this research consisted in studying hermeneutically and phenomenologically the process of educational management, since the leader must possess the ability to manage an educational institution. Therefore, it was studied from the epistemological, axiological and ontological dimensions. According to Balza (2020) the XXI century is marked by the theory of complexity proposed by Morin, who considers that in this so-called postmodern century it is urgent to implement new technological guidelines that should be oriented to rethink the gradual transition from modernity to postmodernity.

Therefore, the study combines the documentary method with the phenomenological one, since it makes a documentary review of texts allusive to the thematic studied. In addition, a survey was conducted among the managers of the educational institutions under study. In this sense, Cerda (2021) considers that all research starts from a literary foundation and the analysis of information provided by previous studies, this is known as documentary studies. While Maldonado (2018) considers that documentary studies point to the ability to interpret and understand the texts of a theoretical discipline and approach the researcher to the understanding expressed or limited by other authors. Under cover of exploration, approaches are needed that gather historical information that allows the splicing between the context, the phenomenon and the researcher with its basic or complex source information.

In this sense, Hernández et al. (2018) expose that, according to phenomenology, nature is exhibited according to the specificity of the object of study. Likewise, Flick (2018) expresses that, according to the epistemological, paradigmatic alignment and the selected research typology, it is necessary to elaborate a preliminary draft or preliminary plan, which this author calls research method. This consists of continuous stages: problematization, analysis-interpretation, conclusion and prediction, which are used at three levels of knowledge: experiential-experiential, empirical-observational and theoretical-documental.

Likewise, Bautista (2022) points out that phenomenological studies are rooted in the experience of those subjects who have a direct relationship with the object of study. Therefore, hermeneutics or interpretation contextualizes the intertextual space with syntactic representation and merits several stages to interpret the phenomenon. Hence, the researchers delved into the reality of the educational institutions under study, alluding to the managerial processes and forms.

The data were processed using the Atlas.ti program, taking into consideration the observations and conversations with some teachers and managers, in contrast with the theories, mainly Morin's theory. From this process, the following results were obtained:

Figure 1. Educational management from the epistemological perspective of the complexity of management.

Considering the comments of the interviewees and the confirmation with the theories, it can be observed that in the 20th century managers were presented as bureaucratic and totalitarian leaders who exercised their power from behind a desk or a hierarchical position. Attention was focused on the execution of actions prescribed by educational regions, ministries and governmental entities in educational matters, limiting themselves to observing the reality of educational institutions. Moreover, at present it seems that academic organizations continue to use old and obsolete management models that are not compatible with the socio-academic transformations and advances of these new societies nor with the positions used in postmodern management.

This is of concern to the managers of educational institutions, as the context is alarming. As individuals, it is necessary to recognize social transformations in order to adapt to the new reality. Educational changes cannot be made with old theories or assumptions of past times. Leaders must respond to the current demands imposed by globalization, educate, explore new theories and be open to the possibilities of renewing approaches to solve problems in education.

In this sense, Morín (2010) expresses that it is extremely relevant to understand what it means to be a leader, since the best leaders are not those who spend all day sitting at a desk or who believe they have all the authority, which generally creates a communication barrier with teachers. Nor are the best leaders those who yell, shout, impose their authority and ideas. On the contrary, a postmodern manager is open to the transformations of societies and the needs of their employees, delegates functions, is not rooted in bureaucracy, communicates effectively with employees, values human capital, is particularly holistic, leads and plans solutions to break down systems and barriers that do not lead to prosperity. For this reason, Acosta & Finol (2015) point out that it is very important for managers to have communicative, technological and social skills, as well as to be updated in management practices and not to neglect the personal bond with the members of the institution.

The demands of today's societies require that training and management models adapt to the training and quality needs in this postmodern era, with the key being the technology used by managers. In this sense, Acosta (2022) points out that learning must adapt to become a great enabler in the 21st century. However, in postmodernity, teachers should stop considering technologies as an adverse tool, but rather as an ally that allows expanding and socializing knowledge.

On the other hand, it is interesting to emphasize that it is necessary to rethink the ontogenetic relationships existing in management systems, organizations and societies, but from a complex and unstructured perspective. This starts from the initial empirical assumption that the management model used in organizations still presents linear, rigid and reductionist structures that rarely support a reflexive interpretation and evaluation of the human condition in these institutions. Hence, Balza (2010) points out that postmodern approaches transform the culture of organizations and open the doors to new civilizations that legitimize paradigms built to reflect on the present. In this sense, the managerial paradigm is nothing more than a contemporary model that allows thinking and managing educational organizations adequately.

Therefore, it is necessary to apply a managerial paradigm that, according to Valdez (2019), comprises the knowledge, skills and activities used to implement social policy through the management and coordination of projects and programs aimed at fostering human development through the effective and rational use of resources, which are often scarce. This reference on the management of educational organizations includes not only the complexities present in management, organization and social systems, but also the particular connotation of institutions as living systems. This is because the approach involves using the knowledge, talents and skills available in organizations to solve problems related to people's needs to meet them and achieve a better level of human development.

Therefore, managing educational organizations implies having a shared responsibility that arises from relationships with work teams to manage a socially productive organization from an unstructured vision that allows evaluating the condition of people and managing an open and complex system to effectively respond to service needs, satisfy people and promote their well-being.

This implies betting on a management approach that focuses on the ontology of people, the hidden talents of individuals, the events that define them as beings in the process of formation, their unpredictability and their freedom to learn, think and express themselves at all times. Therefore, a new vision of educational management implies promoting a new ethic of knowledge that allows valuing the qualities of people in institutions and using this knowledge to provide good service. This goes beyond prescriptive projects and routine operations, so it must infiltrate a complex, interdisciplinary and postmodern management logic that values the human condition present in educational organizations, where there are systemic relational complexities in the context of management.

Figure 2.  The social-institutional context and managerial functions

In its origin, educational leadership presents stereotypes of innovation that respond to the demands and requirements of global markets. Therefore, managers have the responsibility to assume a perspective and competence of life and meaning to lead the institutions they lead, framed in the primordial freedom of the axiology of being a leader and manager (Mendoza, 2018). It is important to understand the social realities from the theory of complexity, since management cannot be fragmented by areas or disassociated from pedagogical processes. It is clear that transdisciplinarity needs to be implemented in the epistemological approach to institutional life and underlying communities, which creates a great integration of social activity in the educational system and responds to the general demand of the educational sector.

In this sense, Morin (2020) points out that the reality of the context is what the human being sees every day. The understanding of his being and his internal questions leads to complexity, which is general, social and multidimensional. Complexity is present everywhere and one does not need to be a scientist to realize it. Therefore, managers must recognize the critical nodes it represents and adapt processes to the requirements and demands of the new societies. The author calls the exhaustion of modern resources an essential element in the transformations of the 20th century, which required scientific investment and even pseudo-scientific development. From there, the axiological representation of education is confirmed, which must rise from the ashes of the culture of a modern management in crisis.

For his part, Borrero (2019) states that social values, which represent essential aspects in the development of human resources, must be strengthened, since they favor the development of competencies and skills required to face the new millennium. Likewise, Kuhn (2019) highlights the importance of the paradigm shift and the complex component of the discourse to promote social transformation that allows the development of cognitive bases committed by a complex postmodernity promoted by axiology.

When referring to the phenomenon of management and linking it to the theory of complex thinking in postmodernity, Morin (2015) clearly stated the idea that no component of the world is isolated, as it is part of a complex system. From a pedagogical perspective, knowledge becomes a complex and interdisciplinary phenomenon. Therefore, it is necessary to study the basic principles of complex thinking and try to create a clear rationale for organizational management, in order to establish order in processes and administrative management. It is essential to remember that teaching is a human condition linked to and dependent on reasoning, since people are capable of reflection.

On the other hand, the paradigm shifts at the end of the last century and the beginning of the 21st century have caused a great rupture in the concepts that until then were considered true, reliable and verifiable, especially in relation to the ways of thinking, knowing and doing science. In this area of human evolution and knowledge production, complex thinking is emerging as a new epistemology that aims to guide the process of knowledge construction from the understanding of information and explanatory ethics. Therefore, the educational manager must approach the organization from the approach of complex thinking, which considers human ethics, understanding, freedom, axiology, personal relationships and adaptation to change. According to Balza (2020), this approach is based on cognition and values that consider individuals and societies as a single unit that shares and fosters values, and respects diversity. In this way, human beings are seen as a community of connections that possess knowledge and share it with others for the sake of their well-being.

Finally, it reflects the need to transform the managerial mentality in educational organizations in Colombia so that they are related to the identity of the personnel and the complex organizations of global order. Therefore, management must value the coexistence of humanity in a new modern order, which in the future will be able to connect with all parts of the world. These interconnections require people with values to promote mutual solidarity, since in many cases they have the same problems and challenges. Therefore, the educational manager must be trained and assume leadership of an educational organization from an unstructured and complex perspective. This vision entails overcoming rigid and normative agendas, and most importantly, dispelling myths. In addition, single thinking is disappearing due to the development and evolution of organizations as open systems in environments that can become entangled and unpredictable. Therefore, situations must be approached from the multiple aspects of complex and unstructured management, from a new managerial ethic.

After analyzing the information, it can be inferred that an important factor in postmodern management is the culture of the leaders, especially in the educational field. It was observed that current managers lack vocation, are indifferent to what is happening around them and have focused their efforts on the administration and disposition of resources, without showing much interest in following the guidelines of the Ministry of National Education. In addition, they limit themselves to actions within the educational institution and do not project themselves beyond it. They are more focused on making profits than on improving the quality of education. In addition, educational management is assigned through political positions, which means that it is not always the best or the most academically prepared who assumes a managerial position, but the one who is aligned with a certain ideology.

It was also observed that they have no knowledge of educational organization and have not completed master's or doctoral studies in management. This generates complex improvisations in the educational environment and does not promote the necessary transformations to prioritize learning needs, which is not appropriate for formal academic education. Ultimately, managers must be able to adapt and work according to postmodern social demands, and this study focuses on theorizing about epistemic foundations to improve this situation.

Furthermore, considering that educational management is a process through which the academic and administrative work and the relations of the school with its environment are directed and administered, it is the responsibility of all members of educational organizations to achieve institutional objectives. These objectives must satisfy the requirements of society, not only in terms of knowledge and skills, but also in the formation of values and personal relationships. Therefore, it is necessary to incorporate tools offered by postmodern markets, such as technologies, since new contexts require adaptation to change so that the task of teaching and learning is an activity that constantly motivates constructive education. In Colombia, educational institutions have guild institutions as auxiliary units, but now, with changes in state policy, decisions are made exclusively by the principal.

Therefore, educational management in an organization must break with the components of linear managerial thinking and the traditional academic logic, since this type of managerial rationality is obsolete and does not favor quality management. A new vision of management must be applied in the context of the educational organization, where a new paradigm of managerial thinking that includes the participation and commitment of people, that humanizes administrative processes and promotes equity, empathy, productivity and, most importantly, endoquality, must begin to be implemented.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that management should promote the human condition and take into account that it is created and restored in the wonderful space of free coexistence, through which services are provided to others in a different and transcendental way. This represents a commitment to oneself, to strengthening the interaction of organizations with society and, ultimately, to a more vibrant world. According to these approaches, the main challenges facing the management of educational organizations in the postmodern era lie in focusing on a holistic understanding and a new human ethic to create new organizations and personal values.


Limitations: Among the main limitations of the present research, it stands out that, although the qualitative approach used in the study allows for an in-depth understanding of the experiences of the managers, it also has limitations in terms of generalization of the results. The findings may be specific to the educational institutions and participants involved in the study, and not relevant to other sociocultural contexts.

Contribution to scientific knowledge: The study highlights the persistence of traditional management practices in 21st century educational institutions. By highlighting this gap between current practices and the needs of postmodern society, the study contributes to raising awareness of the importance of updating and adopting more creative and complex approaches to educational management. Similarly, it highlights the need to develop creative processes in educational institutions to strengthen the application of complex thinking. Finally, it stresses the importance of transforming the managerial mentality in educational organizations to adapt to the demands of postmodern society.

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Conflicts of interest: The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Authors' contribution:
Acosta Faneite: S. F: Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Data curation, Methodology, Research, Supervision, Writing - original draft, Writing: revising and editing; Barreto-Rodríguez, A: Conceptualization, Formal analysis, Methodology, Research, Supervision, Writing - original draft, Writing: revising and editing.

Informed consent: Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data availability statement: Not applicable