Developing Students’ Futures Thinking in Science Education

Abstract

Futures thinking involves a structured exploration into how society and its physical and cultural environment could be shaped in the future. In science education, an exploration of socio-scientific issues offers significant scope for including such futures thinking. Arguments for doing so include increasing student engagement, developing students’ values discourse, fostering students’ analytical and critical thinking skills, and empowering individuals and communities to envisage, value, and work towards alternative futures. This paper develops a conceptual framework to support teachers’ planning and students’ futures thinking in the context of socio-scientific issues. The key components of the framework include understanding the current situation, analysing relevant trends, identifying drivers, exploring possible and probable futures, and selecting preferable futures. Each component is explored at a personal, local, national, and global level. The framework was implemented and evaluated in three classrooms across Years 4–12 (8 to 16-year olds) and findings suggest it has the potential to support teachers in designing engaging science programmes in which futures thinking skills can be developed.

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Acknowledgements

This work was part of a larger project (McKim et al. 2006) funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.

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Correspondence to Alister Jones.

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Jones, A., Buntting, C., Hipkins, R. et al. Developing Students’ Futures Thinking in Science Education. Res Sci Educ 42, 687–708 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-011-9214-9

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Keywords

  • Classroom research
  • Futures thinking
  • Primary
  • Secondary
  • Socio-scientific issues
  • Teacher professional learning