Promising Futures: An Integral Exploration of the Futures Thinking of High School Teachers

Promising Futures: An Integral Exploration of the Futures Thinking of High School Teachers

Roy A. Norris (Louis Riel School Division, Canada)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5873-6.ch010


Teachers spend their working days preparing young people for the times to come. Teachers also imagine a wide variety of ideas about possible, probable, and preferable futures. This chapter explores how teachers feel and think about the potential futures for themselves and their students, and how teacher perceptions of futures inform their teaching practices. The study sets integral theory as the basis for the methodological pluralism and analytical blending which are sustained throughout this trans-disciplinary study as a whole. The findings show that although high school teachers envision many possible futures, they are most likely to trust shorter term empiric predictions, and they rarely think about futures more than a few years away. Learning more about how often, how deeply, and how optimistically teachers envision possible futures matters because teachers are educating the people who will become adults in all versions of the near futures.
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This study explores the many ways that high school teachers imagine what many possible futures could be like, and how their perceptions of the futures are enacted in their lives and their teaching practices. High school teachers are the final teachers that children have before they become young adults, so knowing more about how these teachers think about possible futures and how they present those ideas to students is a research area worth exploring. Research into the ways that high school teachers think about possible futures could aid in understanding how schools adapt and change over time, and why those changes occur more easily for some teachers than for others.


In 1997 the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched the Schooling for Tomorrow project (SfT) within the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) (2010a). The project was launched due to a growing understanding in the late 1990s that the social and economic challenges facing OECD countries required a longer view into potential futures for education systems globally. The advent and uptake of the internet, growing world population and unprecedented social changes were moving at a faster pace than education reforms, and education systems were playing catch up. CERI has continued the work of the SfT project up to the present since the times are still changing at a much faster rate than are schools, and the gap between them is widening.

The site of the research was Riverview Collegiate (pseudonym), a technology-rich school where every student is required to bring a computer every day. This form of technology use is called 1-to-1 (as in, one computer per person), bring your own device (BYOD). 1-to-1 BYOD started at Riverview in 2010, and so far almost no research has been done at Riverview to see how teachers operate in a 1-to-1 BYOD school. My study on teacher perceptions of futures and how these perceptions are enacted within classes helps to provide groundwork for further study into the ways that 1-to-1 BYOD learning is changing teachers, how it is influencing Riverview Collegiate, and the Bison Crocus School Division as well.

Recently Riverview was recognized for the unique quality of the staff dynamic at Riverview Collegiate in the way that 1-to-1 BYOD has rolled out over the first four years. Riverview received a nationally recognized award from a Canadian educational organization in January 2015, which was covered by local media. Teachers at Riverview have accepted and included information technology use in their classes, and pedagogical changes connected to the use of technology have been incremental but steady. This study helps to explore of the habits of mind and perceptions of teachers that are allowing for the steady growth in uptake of technology use at the school.


The purpose of this study was to discover how teachers feel and think about the potential futures for themselves and their students, and to explore how teacher perceptions of futures inform and are enacted in their teaching practices.


Knowing more about what kinds of futures are perceived by teachers may aid in developing programs similar to Riverview’s in other contexts, and may also provide an original contribution to the fields of integral theory, change and change management in the educational sector, and futures research in a Canadian educational context. It may also open a wider discourse about the practicality, utility, and further development of integral methodological pluralism (IMP) as a guiding heuristic for multi-methods research. Martin (2008) has already begun the work of clarifying the role of IMP as a multi-method framework, and this study provides further research to compare with Martin (2008) and Esbjörn-Hargens (2008) who have previously employed the IMP approach in multi-method research studies.

Teachers spend the greatest amount of time with students in a school, and teachers’ perceptions of futures are continually enacted in their classroom practices. Understanding more about how teachers perceive futures, especially within a school that is known provincially for being forward-thinking and future oriented may help to open the field to further study about the futures for Canadian secondary students.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Integral Lines: Representative of all potential and known models of development, and are present within each of the four quadrants of integral theory.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): A policy decision whereby one must bring his or her own approved computer/tablet/ICT device to the school, as a condition set by the institution. Generally, BYOD leads to a shared-resource model where internet access and proprietary web content is provided by the institution employing a user-name and password, but access to these resources is through devices owned and maintained by the students.

Futures: The perceptions of the time that is to come that are created and expressed through the sets of values, beliefs, of individuals and of groups. Futures research emerged as an academic discipline beginning with the publication of On Thermonuclear War by Herman Kahn in 1960. Through the 1970s futurism was popularized by writers such as Alvin Toffler (1980) . From the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s as researchers such as Richard Slaughter (1998) , Francis P. Hutchinson (1996) AU17: The in-text citation "Hutchinson (1996)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. , and Wendell Bell (1997) AU18: The in-text citation "Wendell Bell (1997)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. brought a greater degree of synthesis and academic rigor to the field.

Lower Right Quadrant (LR): The plural/inter-objective domain, wherein the systems in which all things exist, the ways they interact and the complexities they face are made real. This is the realm of systems and complexity, and expands far beyond human control or knowledge.

Lower Left Quadrant (LL): The plural/intersubjective domain, wherein the collective understandings of people are explored, developed and understood. The realm of social and communal understandings.

Upper Right Quadrant (UR): The singular/objective domain, wherein the facts of the world that one inhabits are explored and discovered. The realm of science and empiricism.

Integral Theory: A holistic theory that draws together all known forms of knowledge discovery and knowledge creation in an attempt to provide coherence and synthesis across all understandings of the universe, both as it is known, and unknown. The major theorist is Ken Wilber, a living American philosopher.

Integral States: All potential human states, such as being awake, or being in deep sleep, in meditative states, the state of arousal, and all senses of emotional and psychological states. States are temporary, but if a state is sustained repeatedly or over a long duration of time then it ultimately impacts the person as a whole, altering one’s levels of consciousness.

1-to-1: An education technology practice and pedagogy that encourages a 1-to-1 ratio of computers to students in educational settings.

AQAL: Acronym for “all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states, all types.” This acronym aids by combining the five most essential components of integral theory into one word, and represents the holistic nature of integral theory, particularly as it is applied within any specific context or to any specific person.

Upper Left Quadrant (UL): The singular/subjective domain, wherein one ultimately experiences a reality and understanding that is completely unique and potentially indescribable to others, or which may sometimes be observed but not reliably interpreted by others. The realm of phenomenology and individual experience.

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