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Outdoor adventure education in schools: curriculum or pedagogy? Considerations for teacher preparation and program implementation

Resource type
Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Although outdoor education has a rich history of providing key transformative moments and personal growth for students, its incorporation into public school education has been weak at best. With such an established role of providing effective learning environments, this naturally raises the question: What has prevented the greater inclusion of outdoor education in our public school system? This research addresses this question by demonstrating that the role of outdoor education in public schools can be framed as either pedagogy or curriculum. The relationship between pedagogy and curriculum is revealed to create difficulties for outdoor education’s incorporation into schools because the public education system has the ability to use it selectively in a piecemeal fashion. This research demonstrates that the current lack of articulation of this duality has enabled those opposed to its inclusion in schools to create false arguments against its use, while those in favor of incorporation face challenges by not understanding outdoor education in this way. The importance of framing outdoor education’s role for schools in this manner is shown to affect two areas: developing integrated school programs and its incorporation into teacher training programs. In order to adequately explore the above problem this dissertation divides and separately considers three frames of reference for outdoor education programming relative to schools: supplementary, curricula-based, and integrated. Curricula-based outdoor programs are shown to emphasize outdoor education as curriculum for schools (as a body of knowledge), while integrated outdoor programs largely focus on outdoor education as pedagogy (as experiential education). Primary research investigated Canadian integrated outdoor programs through surveys of veteran outdoor education teachers operating such programs in our schools. This research identified two key roles for outdoor program inclusion: an experiential learning framework, and personal life skills development. By redefining the roles of outdoor education in schools in this way we now understand that previous reference to education about the natural heritage refers to curriculum initiatives while education through the natural heritage refers to pedagogical aims. In addition, the roles of the institution and the educator are examined in relation to the compatibility of outdoor education in public schools.
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Scholarly level
Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Blenkinsop, Sean
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