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Future focus in the social sciences

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Secondary teacher Richard Brudvik-Lindner explains how he uses a future focus to help students think about their learning in a different way, resulting in improvements in achievement and engagement.

Professional learning conversations

These questions and suggested actions encourage you to reflect on your own school context.

Future focus

"Future focus is about supporting learners to recognise that they have a stake in the future, and a role and responsibility as citizens to take action to help shape that future."

The New Zealand Curriculum Principles: Foundations for Curriculum Decision-Making – future focus (ERO Report, July 2012)

  • In what ways are you enabling your learners to take action to help shape the future?
  • This story is told from a social sciences perspective. How do you encourage your students to have a future focus in all learning areas?
  • What steps could be taken at your school to weave inspiration, sustainability, enterprise, globalisation, and citizenship into your teaching and learning programmes?

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Future focus
This section of NZC Online draws together research, digital resources, and examples to support teachers as they consider the future focus principle.


For me, the way I think about it is, it’s like platform diving. I’m trying to get the kids to think about climbing up into the future, and then when they use the future as a platform to dive into a pool of topics and skills that I’m really interested in having them engage with and learn. That’s really how I’m thinking about my starting place for all of this.

So the lessons that we’re taught, we can use these to think about the problems that we might face in the future and how we’ve dealt with them in the past so therefore how we’ll be able to deal with them.

One example right now is I have a group of year nine students and I wanted them to sort of think in more complex socio-cultural kinds of ways. I wanted them to consider economic and political realities and most importantly, more important really even than all of that was focusing on thinking skills, a range of different thinking skills. Creative skills and critical thinking skills both. So I had them work with the concept of the aging population in Japan and what that’s likely to portend in the future and how might people have to deal with that. What problems and what possibilities might that create? We join that with looking at robots, because Japan has decided that robots are going to be part of their economic future and also part of their future to replacing an aging workforce. Because it takes something engaging like robots but marries it with something like aging in Japan, I’m not so sure that’s really interesting to me (that’s what a 13 year old is probably thinking.) By marrying the two things together it gets them very interested in the topic because suddenly, when they're seeing what robots might do (we use a lot of videos and other things to show them the possibilities) they start engaging in how they might create their own solutions based on the use of the technology. As they immerse themselves in understanding the problems that Japan faces, they have some basis for making those kinds of decisions. Ultimately they design their own robots to address some of these issues.

So, first of all, high levels of engagement. We focus on group skills as well and so this really gives a great forum for the students to interact with each other on because everybody has very different ideas - this is the kind of topic that’s wide open enough that there are many different ideas, and so engagement is very high.

Achievement is very high, as measured by a range of different tools that we use to measure that. Everything from critical writing assignments to creative problem solving kinds of activities and then the group work activities which is also measured. So really every metric that we have, has shown a high level of achievement and engagement.

It makes me more able to have different solutions than I would have had in the past and this makes me have better results.

I think the thing is pick something that you can identify with to start with. Something that you can identify with as an interesting future topic. If you can start from that place (because there’s a fair amount of research that you want to do to really pull this off) if you can start from that place then everything you’re doing is kind of enriching and feeding you - which in turn you’re going to feed the kids and make them see what’s exciting about it. So I’d say start with something that you find interesting and go from there. 

Published on: 10 May 2013