About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 4197-4202
Publication year: 2018
ISBN: 978-84-09-05948-5
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2018.1925

Conference name: 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 12-14 November, 2018
Location: Seville, Spain

ENGAGING WITH THE PRESENT BY EXPLORING THE FUTURE: CRITICAL POTENTIAL OF SCIENCE FICTION IN EDUCATION

B. Tomin

York University (CANADA)
Given the current challenges facing democracy and democratic practices globally, imagining different possibilities for the future is a crucial project for education in the present. In The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr. (2008) argues that: “[...] sf [science fiction] has come to be seen as an essential mode of imaging the horizons of possibility” (p. 1). In this study, conducted in two grade 12 English classrooms (N=52) in Toronto, Canada in the Fall of 2016, I take up Csicsery-Ronay Jr.’s assertion and explore how SF can be used as a pedagogical tool to help secondary students explore fictional futures, with an emphasis on developing critical thinking skills through comparing science fictional futures to the present. I used Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler, critical theory, genre-based analysis, and inquiry-based learning to collaboratively create a novel study unit with the participating classroom teacher, designed to encourage students to explore contemporary issues through the lens of imagined futures. I will be presenting on the results of students’ engagement with these designed curricular resources.

In this study I employed a generic qualitative research approach as a teacher-researcher. Data collected includes an initial questionnaire, field notes, students’ discussion contributions, a written assessment, and individual post-study interviews with students. Data was analyzed using deductive thematic analysis and within-method triangulation to track student experience throughout the study. While initial research questions were designed to explore how SF could be used to meet provincial critical thinking and critical literacy expectations, this paper addresses a broader question that guided research: How does the use of SF and related reading strategies impact students’ learning experiences? Put another way, how effective is SF as a vehicle for helping students to imagine myriad futures, and to think about problems facing the present as active citizens and agents of change?

This study reveals that analysis of SF is a rewarding way for students to critically interrogate important issues. By analyzing how SF texts are constructed, students are able to adopt science fictional ways of thinking and apply this to contemporary issues. Not only were students eager to engage with SF texts in school, but analysis of data also suggests that students felt that what they were learning actually had relevance beyond the classroom, and helped them refine what it means to think critically. These findings suggest that genre-focused teaching of SF supports the development of students’ critical thinking skills in ways that transcend school contexts. This study also addressed a gap in research on the use of SF in public education, and affirms that SF needs to be re-envisioned as a literature that has a place alongside canonized texts in English classes beyond arguably outdated science fictional work. Due to the speed of innovation in the 21st century, SF is an important conceptual tool educators can use to assist students in developing critical thinking skills that will help them respond to change, and contribute to the revitalization of democratic societal processes.

References:
[1] Csiscery-Ronay Jr., I. (2008). The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.
@InProceedings{TOMIN2018ENG,
author = {Tomin, B.},
title = {ENGAGING WITH THE PRESENT BY EXPLORING THE FUTURE: CRITICAL POTENTIAL OF SCIENCE FICTION IN EDUCATION},
series = {11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation},
booktitle = {ICERI2018 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-09-05948-5},
issn = {2340-1095},
doi = {10.21125/iceri.2018.1925},
url = {http://dx.doi.org/10.21125/iceri.2018.1925},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Seville, Spain},
month = {12-14 November, 2018},
year = {2018},
pages = {4197-4202}}
TY - CONF
AU - B. Tomin
TI - ENGAGING WITH THE PRESENT BY EXPLORING THE FUTURE: CRITICAL POTENTIAL OF SCIENCE FICTION IN EDUCATION
SN - 978-84-09-05948-5/2340-1095
DO - 10.21125/iceri.2018.1925
PY - 2018
Y1 - 12-14 November, 2018
CI - Seville, Spain
JO - 11th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
JA - ICERI2018 Proceedings
SP - 4197
EP - 4202
ER -
B. Tomin (2018) ENGAGING WITH THE PRESENT BY EXPLORING THE FUTURE: CRITICAL POTENTIAL OF SCIENCE FICTION IN EDUCATION, ICERI2018 Proceedings, pp. 4197-4202.
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