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Futures methods for education research


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A talk I gave at the third seminar in the ESRC-sponsored series Educational Futures (

  • Loved your talk onn the day.... would have liked to discuss more around it.... have sent a 'perturbation' to the website for the day and am in contact with Mike Sharples about ACTION to follow this up... am concerned that there was a lot of describing the problem....and not really getting to strategies.... (see my slideshare PP on 'Leading and Learning for Independence' John Pearce
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Futures methods for education research

  1. 1. Methods for Educational Futures Research<br />5.7.02010<br />Richard Sandford<br />LSRI, Nottingham UK<br />
  2. 2. Outline<br />Why methods?<br />Summary of common techniques<br />Alternative methodological frameworks<br />Educational research perspective<br />Perrotta, Hague & Williamson (2010) “Maintaining Futures Expertise”<br /><br />
  3. 3. Backcastingenvironment scanningforecasting scenariostrend analysiscausal layered analysismetascanningcross-impact matricestime capsulesfutures wheeltime linesMICMACmorphological analysishorizon scanningfutures triangleweak signalssystems dynamicscausal loop diagramsDELPHIvisualisation7 questions5th scenarioeconometricswargamingmodelling<br />
  4. 4. Why methods?<br />Enable confidence in claims about future states<br />Enable comparisons within futures work & establish common professional standards<br />Transparency, legitimacy, trust<br />
  5. 5. Why not methods?<br />“Tool trap” (Graham Leicester, IFF)<br />Using futures techniques to avoid hard questions<br />“People want the tool, not the struggle” (BCH/MFE)<br />Can be misapplied<br />Spurious credibility& legitimacy<br />FS fundamentally interdisciplinary – no one set of ‘approved’ methods<br />
  6. 6. Futures as a process<br />Futures work not a single event<br />Different techniques appropriate at different stages<br />Ideally a continuous cycle<br />Often limited by real-world constraints<br />
  7. 7. Foresight UK<br /><br />
  8. 8. Foresight UK<br />
  9. 9. RAHS (Singapore)<br />
  10. 10. Hines & Bishop (2007)<br />Framing<br />Scanning<br />Forecasting<br />Visioning<br />Planning<br />Acting<br />
  11. 11. Top-level process<br />General framework<br />Not definitive – enabling loose groupings of different methods to support today’s discussion<br />Looking at different ways of organising methods later on<br />
  12. 12. Top-level process<br />Finding a question<br />Learning about the world<br />Describing the present world<br />Constructing futures<br />Responding to futures narratives<br />
  13. 13. Finding a question<br />Stakeholder analysis<br />Issue analysis<br />Futures wheel<br />
  14. 14. Learning about the world<br />Weak signals<br />Horizon scanning <br />Shaping Tomorrow, Sigma scan<br />Trend extrapolation<br />Gathering opinions + beliefs about possible futures<br />DELPHI, 7 questions<br />‘crowdsourcing’, sentiment analysis<br />
  15. 15. Describing the present world<br />Systems dynamics<br />Causal loop diagrams<br />Morphological analysis<br />Driver analysis<br />Modelling<br />Gaming<br />
  16. 16. Causal loop diagrams<br /><br />
  17. 17. Causal loop diagrams<br /><br />
  18. 18. Morphological analysis<br />
  19. 19. Constructing futures<br />Scenarios<br />Multiple methods: different purposes<br />Instances of outputs from models<br />2 x 2 grid<br />Causal layered analysis<br />Timelines<br />Connecting present to future<br />
  20. 20. Responding to futures narratives<br />5th scenario<br />Backcasting<br />Visioning<br />Windtunnelling<br />Roadmaps<br />
  21. 21. The unexpected<br />“Black swans” (Taleb) <br />unpredictability of high-impact events<br />“Dragon kings” (Sornette) <br />statistical outliers indicative of major system change<br />Discontinuties, wild cards, shocks<br />“unknown unknowns”<br />Tipping points, phase transitions <br />“social analogues” (Sornette)<br />
  22. 22. The unexpected<br />Hard to reflect in scenario-based approaches<br />Not detectable through trend extrapolation<br />Emergent products of complexity<br />Unlikely? Or unpalatable?<br />
  23. 23. Sorting methodological approaches<br />
  24. 24. Who’s doing it?<br />Governments & agencies<br />STEEP/STEM, persuasion<br />Private companies<br />Technologists, planners, designers<br />Activists<br />Academics<br />
  25. 25. How long does it take?<br />3 years? 3 hours?<br />Different methods require lengths of time<br />Engagement time & preparation time different<br />Dependencies on other methods & research<br />Supports an open-ended and continuous process?<br />Or moves towards a final destination?<br />
  26. 26. FS traditions<br />Empirical/analytic<br />“data-driven, positivistic, often corporate”/RAND<br />Critical/comparative<br />Perhaps closest to education research?<br />Activist/participatory<br />Links with women’s, peace & environmental groups<br />Multicultural/global<br />(Slaughter, Futures Beyond Dystopia ch. 3)<br />
  27. 27. 6 concepts 6 pillars<br />Used futures<br />Disowned futures<br />Alternative futures<br />Alignment<br />Models of social change<br />Uses of the future<br />Inayatullah (2008)<br />Mapping<br />Anticipation<br />Timing<br />Deepening<br />Creating alternatives<br />Transforming<br />
  28. 28. Other categorisations<br />Masini (1999)<br />Descriptive<br />Normative<br />Objective<br />Subjective<br />Systemic<br />Slaughter (1999)<br />Input methods<br />Analytic methods<br />Paradigmatic methods<br />Iterative & exploratory methods<br />Gordon (1992)<br />Exploratory<br />Normative<br />
  29. 29. Activities that...<br />Address facts about the world<br />Empirical, data-based<br />Address beliefs about the world<br />Social sci techniques<br />Encourage conversation and dialogue<br />Workshop approaches<br />Describe relations between things<br />Systems thinking<br />Speak to the heart & imagination<br />Time capsules, visualisation<br />Value human existence & experience<br />Ethnographic & participatory<br />
  30. 30. Education research & futures<br />Already encountered, and addressed, many epistemic and methodological difficulties FS beginning to recognise<br />Already able to differentiate appropriate & valid methods – same criteria as other academic domains<br />
  31. 31. No best answers<br />Multiple perspectives and traditions within FS and broader futures work<br />Multiple perspectives and traditions within education research as well<br />Not appropriate to prescribe some methods over others<br />So how to choose for a particular project?<br />
  32. 32. Matching scope<br />What’s the unit of analysis?<br />Nation state, organisation, individual?<br />Where does the influence of a technique or methodological perspective start and finish?<br />End with policymakers? Only concerned with canvassing beliefs?<br />What tasks is it designed to accomplish?<br />Generating or communicating futures?<br />
  33. 33. Matching worldviews<br />How does a particular technique assume change happens in the world?<br />What models of cause and effect are in play?<br />‘trends’ colliding & interacting sits uneasily with some social science perspectives<br />‘levers of change’ can seem simplistic<br />Who are the actors in the futures generated?<br />
  34. 34. Matching values<br />How does a particular technique talk about people?<br />Is it concerned with meeting the same ends? Does it help education meet ethical responsibility to promote action?<br />Does it give any role to the people affected by the futures it contributes to?<br />
  35. 35. Possible challenges<br />Links between FS and education research clear<br />Hard to sign up to the sort of social interventions FS can ask for<br />Perceived danger of sounding naive<br />Education research practice situated within the contexts that FS aims to challenge<br />
  36. 36. Other fields<br />Many other academic & professional disciplines with a temporal orientation<br />Many other domains concerned with changing behaviour<br />FS & education research both used to looking to other disciplines<br />Geography, architecture, design, medicine...<br />
  37. 37. Psychiatry<br />Increasing attention given to mental health challenges raised by negative futures <br />living in them and thinking about them<br />“Solastalgia” – Glenn Albrecht<br />Homesickness while in a (changed) home<br />Notions of ‘resilience’ more prominent<br />“Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems: The Role of Learning and Education” Krasnyet al. (Dec 10)<br />C4 Education ‘Super Me’<br />
  38. 38. Religion<br />Existing cultural languages of deep time and consequence<br />Useful as provocation or alternative view in supporting futures conversation<br />Reaffirming (e.g. Inayatullah)’s insistence on recognising global diversity of worldviews<br />
  39. 39. Fundamental question<br />Does your chosen approach reaffirm the status quo? <br />Or does it lead to questions you find uncomfortable?<br />
  40. 40. Thank you<br /><br />