Agency and Transformative Potential of Technology in Students' Images of the Future: Futures Thinking as Critical Scientific Literacy

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Various current trends in education highlight the importance of pedagogies that address societal and environmental questions while preparing and inspiring students to take action. Meanwhile, how we view the future influences how we act, and how we act influences the future. Research on young people’s images of the future has shown how technology plays a central role in how we imagine the future and the changes that shape it. This suggests a need to address the role of perceptions of future sociotechnical change and agency in students’ thinking, as it may instruct the development of action-oriented critical scientific literacy. Thus, in this study, we examine how images of the future reflect students’ perceptions of sociotechnical change. Employing abductive qualitative content analysis on 58 upper secondary school students’ essays describing “a typical day” in the future, we focused on how students’ depictions of future sociotechnical change vary along three dimensions: from static futures to radical transformation, from nonproblematic change to issues deeply relevant to societal deliberation, and various framings of who, if anyone, has agency. We found that students’ images of the future contained wide variation in the discussed range of sociotechnical change, while technology was discussed typically in nonproblematic and sometimes in more critical, problematised ways. Indications of agency were mostly vague, but students occasionally attributed agency over sociotechnical change to the general public, specialised experts and themselves. We conclude by discussing the potential implications of the results in regard to recent definitions of scientific literacy as well as future-oriented pedagogies in science education.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience & Education
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 516 Educational sciences
  • Science-education
  • Young-people
  • Framework

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