Learning Futures Collaboratives secure grants, develop white papers and publish research

Learning Futures Collaboratives
September 01, 2023

Since being launched last year, the Learning Futures Collaboratives (LFC) initiative at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College has resulted in secured grants, published research and strengthened knowledge networks to address some of the most pressing issues facing education.

The LFC members  which include faculty and doctoral students across the university, as well as external scholars, community members and practitioners —  met recently to report on their respective achievements across the six thematic collaboratives, and to consider ways to deepen coordination and research opportunities.

“As we move into our second year, members of the Learning Futures Collaboratives plan to expand their work and to work more closely with educator networks in ways that can help create bridges between research, solutions and policy,” says Punya Mishra, associate dean of Scholarship and Innovation at MLFTC.

The initiative is aligned with MLFTC’s core value of Principled Innovation ™, a university-wide framework defined as the ability to imagine new concepts, catalyze ideas and form new solutions, guided by principles that create positive change for humanity. Examples of work by each of the collaboratives are included below, and full summaries can be found on their web pages.

Education. sustainability and global futures 

Future-focused research question: What education policies, practices, research, and pedagogies are necessary to reverse the ecological catastrophe trajectory and begin rebuilding resilient and sustainable futures for all?

This collaborative’s members were involved in pursuing four research grant proposals and three conference proposals. Among the grants procured included an NSF-funded project called AccelNet-Design: Global Futures Oriented Research Collective on Education for Sustainability (G-FORCES). G-FORCES aims to bring together international sustainability-oriented research networks from the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities to rearticulate the role of education in advancing planetary sustainability in formal and non-formal lifelong learning settings. LFC members have also been involved in advancing initiatives through the Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development in the Phoenix area. The Center is part of a global RCE network recognized by UNESCO and the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability with goals of advancing policy, transforming learning environments, building capacities of educators, empowering and mobilizing youth and accelerating local level actions. 

Members of this collaborative also organized an Earth Month Speaker Series in April, featuring moderated discussions with authors and editors about their newly-released books that engaged with the political and pedagogical elements of sustainability education. Collaborative members are providing ongoing input into the development of sustainability-focused education programs from K–12 to higher education.

Learning and educating across refugee/(im)migrant networks

Future-focused research question: In what ways can we—as educators, learners, researchers, practitioners, and policymakers—best address the learning and teaching of refugees/(im)migrants?

In partnership with international organizations, such as the Center for Professional Learning/Childhood Education International, this collaborative developed a series of seven webinars and workshops to share knowledge and identify areas for further research in topics such as: 

  • Collaborative and ecosystem approaches to refugee education: Belonging for Refugee and Immigrant Students and Families
  • Social Emotional Learning and Wellbeing: Cornerstones of Refugee/(Im)migrant Education. 
  • Refugee/(Im)migrant Social Integration: Their Contributions to Host Communities and Education Systems

Guest speakers involved in the webinars, which can be accessed through this LFC’s web page, included scholars and representatives from Refugees and Immigrants Community for Empowerment; Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies; and the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. In addition to the webinars, the LFC members participated in podcasts, roundtables and created a list of resources for public use.

Futures of artificial intelligence in education and diversity, equity and inclusion

Future-focused research question: How can artificial intelligence in education (AIED) communities ensure that future technologies are human-centered and humanist in their design, implementation and interpretation?

The advent of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools, such as ChatGPT, expanded the role of this collaborative over the past year. Members have contributed to projects across the university that are helping to guide the use of generative AI for teaching and learning, and they have been involved in developing workshops for faculty, creating a list of AI educational resources and more. In addition, this collaborative’s output included the publication of seven journal articles, such as: 

This collaborative has been involved in 18 presentations and workshops and two focus groups with school leaders (in collaboration with the Center On Reinventing Public Education). 

Mapping the emerging AI landscape and implications for K12 students

Future-focused research question: How can systems leaders, policymakers, and educators best prepare students and themselves for a fast-approaching future that incorporates AI into enhanced student learning opportunities, reprioritized teacher working conditions, and new workforce expectations?

This collaborative (which was originally called Designing the New American High School) adapted its focus over the past year to explore the emerging artificial intelligence landscape and implications for K–12 students. The project, led by a team that is part of MLFTC’s Center on Reinventing Public Education, is studying how systems leaders, policymakers and educators can best prepare students and themselves for a fast-approaching future that incorporates artificial intelligence into enhanced student learning opportunities, reprioritized teacher working conditions and new workforce expectations. Completed projects included two surveys and results that were published in The74: One explored the lack of state guidance on use of AI in education, and the other on global adoption of artificial intelligence in education.

Imagination and Futures Thinking for K–12

Future-focused research question:How can we best prepare youth to think critically about and take agency for their futures?

This collaborative focused on creating connections with faculty and students from other colleges, and authoring white papers about imagination ecosystems for learning and teaching that are being considered for further research development. The white papers, which will be posted online at a future date, explored themes such as, “Teachers: The Role of Imagination in Teaching the Emerging Future”; “Youth: The Role of Imagination in Learning What Could Be”; and “Partners: The Role of Imagination in Unsilo-ing Futures.” Collaborative members submitted two grant proposals and conducted three pilot studies. This team has also submitted a proposal for an AERA workshop, and has collaborated closely with the Education, Sustainability and Global Futures LFC. 

This collaborative’s members also worked with a cohort of ten teachers participating in the Sonoran Desert Photovoltaics Laboratory, an NSF-funded summer research experiences program focused on creating a local network of agrivoltaics citizen scientists. The teachers pilot tested interactive games designed to help players understand the impact of environmental choices.

Project OASIS (Optimizing Access for Students in School)

Future-focused research question: How can we create a future educational model where special education and labeling disabilities are not necessary for all students to have the optimal experience?

Project OASIS is the newest collaborative, and it formally launched in August. The goals of this interdisciplinary collaborative are to: 

  • Create an interdisciplinary network of organizations and individuals dedicated to identifying areas for further research and analysis.
  • Identify opportunities to redesign special education that have the potential to be scaled.
  • Launch research projects that test, analyze and provide insight into possible solutions.

The first formal meeting brought together more than 60 educators, faculty and community members to lay the foundation for future plans that include school visits, webinars and reviewing data to identify high-performing school models. This collaborative also will explore topics such as team-based teaching that align with the focus of MLFTC's Next Education Workforce initiative involving schools nationwide.