Graduate Futures Studies

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Strategic Foresight in School Leadership (2020 – 2021)

In July and August of 2020, two pilots of an innovative graduate course, Strategic Foresight in School Leadership, focused on futures literacy and leadership in education were undertaken at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Toronto, and the University of Alberta, Edmonton. School leaders, teachers and others connected to the education sector, engaged in an intense, one-week workshop environment both synchronously and asynchronously. In all, thirty-five students completed the course in the two institutions, twelve in Toronto and twenty-three at the University of Alberta, Edmonton. 

In January 2021 a new course focused on the Futures of the Professions – Global Forces Reshaping the Integrity of Teaching and School Leadership was offered at the University of Alberta to a small group of enthusiastic students. This course features experts from Australia, New Zealand, California, Norway, and Iceland. Informed by case studies of the precarity of professions globally, the final assignment involves the practical application of strategic thinking to school and systems leadership. It is anticipated that this course will be part of a series leading to a Graduate Certificate in School Leadership or a course that can be accessed through Open Studies. For further information, contact [email protected] or [email protected]

UNESCO’s 2050 Learning to become initiative was used as a point of departure for the courses.  The aim was the engage practitioners in understanding the ways in which the transdisciplinary field of futures studies can build the capacity to democratize the global futures of education. Pivotal issues in education were addressed by considering the possible and probable futures of large-scale assessment, the mental health of students and practitioners, the role of technology in teaching and learning and the precarity of public education.

Students applied strategic foresight tools including scenario development, pattern analysis through the Futures Wheel, Causal layered Analysis and ‘The Thing from The Future’. The coursework in the e-class space included offering commentaries on the readings to stimulate peer-to-peer dialogue and foresight activities.

The final project embraced the invitation from Gergen (2015) “not to illuminate what is, but to create what is to become” (p. 294). This assignment included a Storyboarding activity and a paper, that had four purposes: (a) provide an opportunity to explore the futures of an issue that mattered in school-communities; (b) demonstrate their appropriate use of futures methods; (c) connect their thinking and work to UNESCO’s futures literacy work in education; and (d) identify the leadership implications of their work. Papers explored a range of topics from the future of public libraries, universal and indigenous ways of knowing, collective teacher efficacy, inclusion, rethinking the assessment of learning, outdoor education in China, international education, the place of nutrition of learning and the accreditation of programs in medical education.

New Graduate Courses in 2021

In addition to the course offered in the Winter Term at the University of Alberta, two additional courses will be offered in the summer of 2021:
July 5-9th at the University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Education (OISE): Designing School Futures for All – Leadership in Times of Recovery.
August 9-13th at the University of Alberta: The Futures of Assessment and Accountability in School Systems.
For more information about either course, please contact Stephen Murgatroyd ([email protected]) or J-C Couture ([email protected]

Student Work

Here we share some examples of student work from across these courses.

A graduate student and parent-advocate explores how current approaches to moral education can be enhanced by applying some of the tools and thinking from the field of futures studies. Using causal layer analysis, the paper looks at current versus future state of moral education in early childhood. Practical recommendations are made to advance moral education.

Asma Khan Final Paper for UNESCO Learning to become 2050

What is the future for large-scale assessments of learning, such as those administered by the OECD or the Educational Quality Accountability Office in Ontario? Is it possible to shift from “audit” to authentic assessments for learning? Using causal layer analysis, this paper offers  a preferred future which gives emphasis to conversation, collaboration and thoughtful, smarter assessment methods.

Large Scale Assessment Clark

How can schools in Ontario become regenerative learning spaces where mental health, holistic wellbeing and environmental stewardship are cultivated alongside other forms of learning? Using a Thing from the Future, this paper explores this question and its implications for teacher education and curriculum design, including indigenous ways of knowing as a cornerstone to an approach to thinking differently about school and learning.

Learning to Become DENICHAUD

Challenging human capital and neo-liberal frames for curriculum and assessment, this paper looks at how social and emotional learning (SEL) alongside the cognitive learning required in a curriculum can be achieved. Offering several rationales for the inclusion of SEL, the paper uses scenarios to explore how this may be achieved. It also uses case vignettes to bring to life the futures envisioned. The overall aim: developing a  generation of young people entering the work force who are better equipped to tackle the problems of climate change, poverty and social unrest that persist today.

SEL Futures N. St George

What is the future for large-scale assessments of learning in an era of AI? If we seek an inclusive and equitable future, as imagined in UNESCO’s 2050  Learning to Become, what needs to change in our use of analytics and informatics? Using causal layer analysis and a Thing from the Future, this paper explores these questions and anchors them in the story of two learners.

Mobilizing Artificial Intelligence to Re-imagine Large-Scale Assessments

How can we reimagine the school as a learning place where learners explore on their own and with their peers what they need to learn to strengthen their sense of belonging, affiliating and plurality? How do learners learn to become? Using a Thing from the Future, the paper explores the possibilities of the school as a meeting place.

School as a Meeting Place – SR

Using the strategic foresight tool “A Thing from the Future”, this paper attempts to push teacher mentorship into the digital age. To get a better understanding of the premise of the project an examination of why there is a need for mentorship and the benefits of such relationships is provided first. With a grasp of the importance of such programs and the challenges they face, such as restricted timelines and unequal mentoring experiences, the ‘big idea’ for A Thing From the Future, of an online peer-to-peer mentoring program emerges. This paper examines the arc, terrain, object, and mood of the online platform, suggests other challenges that could arise, and addresses how we could create the program. Furthermore, there is an examination of how this digital transformation of mentorship connects with UNESCO 2050’s goals and the OECD 2030 learning framework.

Rochelle French Paper

What is the place of the performing arts in Learning to Become? What role can ensemble dance play in developing a spirit of community, engagement and finding a passion for performance. Leveraging an African idea – “I am because we are” – this paper explores the need to develop a community of practice to develop dance education in Alberta. Using causal layer analysis, the paper explores this opportunity and makes five recommendations.

Dancing Futures PDF

Quality assurance through accreditation is intended to ensure that those who graduate from medical schools do so with the knowledge, skills and capabilities required for professional practice. At the heart of the work of accreditation is the issue of trust. This paper uses causal layer analysis to explore challenges with current accreditation practices and suggests specific ways to enhance trust within a program team and between the program team and the accreditation agency. The paper links strongly to UNESCO’s Learning to Become.

Laura Murgaski PDF

Large scale assessment is failing students, schools, school systems and governments. Yet it remains pervasive. What are some of the alternatives to current practice that may and need to emerge in Alberta over the coming decade. Using scenario analysis, this paper explores some options for the future and gives emphasis to the importance of assessment literacy.

Bennett PDF

Education does more than respond to a changing world, it transform it. To do so requires educators to adopt an inclusive pedagogy, one which embraces diverse ways of knowing.  Using the foresight tool “A Thing from the Future”, scenario analysis and a version of the Gartner hype-cycle, this paper explores the challenge of building inclusive learning in schools.

Carmen Woo PDF

Professional learning communities (PLC) are more than a support group for teachers – they enable new ways of working, knowing and understanding while at the same time strengthening competencies and capabilities. PLC’s are capacity building enablers of a different future. This paper uses scenarios and a “A Thing from the Future” to explore how PLC’s are and could be leveraged during and after the pandemic to support future-focused teaching and learning and better enable the achievement of the ambitions of UNESCO’s Learning to Become.

Kelsey Wasylenki PDF

As we explore the future of schools post-pandemic and the need to balance learning, wellbeing and social development what is the place of play? Not just for young children, but for all in school? If we are to imagine possible futures, where does “play” for in our narrative for Learning to Become? Using “A Thing from the Future” and scenarios, this paper explores the possibilities and the imperatives of seeing play at the heart of our work with students.

Kayla Lake PDF

Public libraries are institutions of knowledge and learning, making them key stakeholders and gateways in Learning to Become. Unfortunately, they have increasingly limited resources and face an uncertain future. This paper, also available as a choose-your-own-adventure experience, explores four possible futures of public libraries using scenario planning with COVID status and library purpose as the critical uncertainties.

Ali Herbert: Choose Your Own Library PDF

Focusing on a leaders’ psychological capital, as well as the skill and traits of leaders, the tool of scenario planning and analysis will be used to examine how leaders can be an agent of change and support for teachers’ mental well-being. Schools need to be equipped to build cultures on relationships and critical steps must be taken to cultivate leaders who can support healthy and engaged staff in trusted and a secure environment.  

Middle leadership – those in advising, consulting or supportive roles that work between schools – can have a real impact on the work of teachers and students. What challenges do they face and how as the pandemic showcased their contribution and its value? What is their future? In this paper Alyssa Dixon explored their future using a Thing from the Future and the Three Event Horizon tools to suggest a possible future.

Alyssa Kuszczak Dixon: Connecting Education Using Middle Leadership: Reimaging Middle Leadership in the Futures of Education

This paper explores the concept of a holistic two-way approach to school readiness in relation to the readiness of the child and the teacher. A Scenarios approach is used to explore the ways in which high-quality early childhood education programs can play an important role in working with Indigenous peoples to develop an Indigenous school readiness perspective and early childhood programs responsive to the diversity of all students.

Karen Duffy: The Promise of the Present Moment

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