Teaching the future: tips to give students skills to co-construct tourism futures

The use of ‘future’ in the English language dates to the 14th century. It derives from the Latin futurus, meaning ‘about to be’ which became assimilated to French as ‘futuer’. Broadly speaking, future and its translation refer to the time that is to be or come hereafter. The future is full of complexities, uncertainties, a focus on time and plurality. Given these variables and understanding what does this mean to the students of the future?

In my teaching at Victoria University of Wellington, I teach three futures based papers to tourism students across a number of degree programmes.

Factors influencing tourism

TOUR104 is a first-year introductory module addressing how the drivers and trends in the macro environment influence tourism from political, economic, social, technology and environment perspectives. The approach to learning uses the principles of scaffolding. Each lecture is linked to a learning question that addresses a feature of the lecture or guided readings. The purpose of adopting this approach to learning has the following benefits for students:

  • Allows the student to scaffold their learning and weekly activities.
  • Develops an integrated approach to learning, lecturers, tutorials and assessment as they are all linked via a portfolio that then becomes a revision aid.
  • Adopts a systematic approach to learning across the module.

Key competencies for the future

TOUR301 is a third-year module on the Bachelor of Tourism Management degree. It aims to help students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to understand and critically analyse tourism public policy, planning and processes within New Zealand and a wider context.  Senior leaders from New Zealand’s tourism industry participate in the process through guest lecturers where they convey their ideas for the future.

The future in practice

TOUR413 is a scenario planning paper, applied in a tourism context and taught to students as part of the Masters in Tourism Management. The learning strategy puts the students at the centre of the learning process through an action research method. Students engage with key stakeholders, leaders and experts to construct a range of scenarios about the future. The problems are of important to New Zealand stakeholders and the Business School’s proximity to government and industry allows the students to gain access in real time with senior leaders. Examples of projects include:

  • 2030: The Future of i-Sites
  • 2030: The Future of Regional Tourism Organisations
  • 2050: The Future of Wellington on a Plate – An International Comparative Analysis.

Preparing your students for the challenges of tomorrow

My idea is to place students at the centre of the learning process with an emphasis on authenticity and problem-based learning so that students feel empowered, relevance and can manage complexity. No employer will ask students to write an essay, but they will expect them to solve problems and make decisions, hence the importance of problem-based learning. Furthermore, I use innovative learning strategies to allow students to engage with stakeholders and communities about real and relevant problems thus contributing to potential solutions. As if learning has a sense of realism, it is a more valuable experience to students. The future is complex and daunting to students, so it is necessary to guide them with scaffolding. All mountains can be conquered in little steps.

For further details on my teaching philosophy, see Teaching the future: learning strategies and student challenges recently published in the Journal of Tourism Futures.