Learning for complex futures

Learning for Complex Futures is an interdisciplinary theme that focuses on decision-making, judgement, expertise and accountability in increasingly complex, often highly-technological and rapidly changing local and international environments.

Our work spans contexts from schools and universities, through work/workplaces, to informal learning. It is characterized by a combination of significant theoretical development and community-engaged empirical research that innovates digital and blended research methods.

The philosophy of technology is a key focus as are the pedagogies of technology. Current projects address issues such as the ethical and political agency of digital systems and their impact on professional work; how to make Open Data a common good; new digital fluencies that impact professionalism; the development of complex professional competences such as professionalism and critical thinking; and the development of capacity and agency in response to environmental issues such as waste and climate change.

Our researchers

This group includes colleagues from Education and from across the University, reflecting our interdisciplinary focus:


Data Commons Scotland, EPSRC, 2019-2021

There is widespread recognition that moves to make more data open are to be welcomed. Public access to data can impact issues of trust and governance, offer new opportunities for business innovation, and increase public awareness and understanding relating to some of the most pressing challenges we currently face.

But for data to be truly open, it needs to be more than just accessible: it needs to be made available in forms and through interfaces that facilitate its use in creative (and critical!) ways – that is, both data and the platforms that mediate them need to be learnable.

Data Commons Scotland is developing ways to design such learnable systems, using Scotland’s waste and recycling data as a case study. Website: 

Water and Fire, GCRF, 2019-2022

The Water and Fire project aims to directly address the disaster risk challenges of three environmental hazards of water and fire in marginalised South African communities by testing new methods of complementary democratic and creative engagement to advocate community-driven solutions and resilience actions to reduce disasters, thereby closing knowledge gaps.

Co-design of a carer support app: Connecting carer to help prevent infection and improve resilience, Chief Scientist Office – Scotland, 2020

This rapid-response project focused on co-designing a new app (Caring Together) with and for carers. After deploying the app, we studied how it helped carers of people with life-limiting conditions: (1) look after people during COVID; and (2) reduce the risk of infection by providing support via an app rather than face-to-face methods.

The use of the app allowed for a mix of information provision and peer support and engagement, both of which are essential elements for building online communities and facilitating everyday learning. Not only relevant due to pandemic restrictions, the app has the potential to become part of a mix of carer learning practices.

Stirling projects to safeguard wellbeing of carers during pandemic


This group also works closely with two of the University of Stirling’s 12 distinct research programs: Digital Society & Culture (Dr Terrie Lynn Thompson, lead) and Being Connected (Dr Sandy Brownlee, lead).

Find out more about ProPEL.

Doctoral supervisions

Doctoral students including:

  • Aileen Ireland (PhD completed)
  • Jenny Scolles (PhD completed)
  • Sarah Grayston (EdD candidate)
  • Jacqueline Hepburn (EdD candidate)
  • Assel Maimakova (EdD candidate)
  • Deborah O’Neill (PhD candidate)
  • Arda Oosterhoff (PhD candidate: University of Gronigen)
  • Christophe Schinckus (PhD candidate)

Recent publications (since 2018)

Thompson, T. L., & Graham, B. (forthcoming). A more-than-human approach to researching AI at work: Alternative narratives for AI and networked learning. In Conceptualizing and innovating education and work with networked learning. Springer.

Wilson, A., Howitt, S., Holloway, A., Williams, A.M. and Higgins, D., 2021. Factors affecting paramedicine students’ learning about evidence‐based practice: a phenomenographic study. BMC Medical Education, 21(1), pp.1-12.

Wilson, A.N., 2020. Learning to see with Deleuze: understanding affective responses in image-viewer research assemblages. Qualitative Research, p.1468794120946979.

Wilson, A.N., 2020. Pedagogies of Difference and Desire in Professional Learning: Plugging in to Shared Images. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Ireland, A., 2020. A posthuman ecology of simulated human patients: Eidolons, empathy and fidelity in the uncanny embodiment of nursing practice. Explorations in Media Ecology, 19(3).

Thompson, T. L. (2020). Data-bodies and data activism: Presencing women in digital heritage research. Big Data & Society, 7(2), 1-.

Thompson, T. L., & Adams, C. (2020). Accountabilities of posthuman research. Explorations in Media Ecology, 19(3), 337-349.

Wilson, A. and De Paoli, S., 2019. On the ethical and political agency of online reputation systems. First Monday, 24(2).

Wilson, A., De Paoli, S., Forbes, P. and Sachy, M., 2018. Creating personas for political and social consciousness in HCI design. Persona Studies, 4(2), pp.25-46.

Howitt, S.M. and Wilson, A.N., 2018. Reflecting on the use and abuse of scientific data facilitates students’ ethical and epistemological development. Science Education, 102(3), pp.571-592.

Wilson, A.N. and Howitt, S.M., 2018. Developing critical being in an undergraduate science course. Studies in Higher Education, 43(7), pp.1160-1171.