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Place responsive and culturally responsive outdoor education in secondary schools: Examining teachers' perspectives and experiences

Sustainability, place and human connectedness have increasingly become the focus of research and professional dialogue in school-based outdoor education in Aotearoa New Zealand. These developments challenge traditional practices that privilege adventure and individualistic outcomes in outdoor education. At the same time, the implementation of culturally responsive practices within many secondary schools has further challenged teachers of outdoor education to ensure that pedagogical approaches and outcomes meet the needs of their diverse student population. An increasing number of educators appear to have adopted place responsive and culturally responsive pedagogies within their outdoor education programmes or units of work at the senior school level, yet there is limited research examining teachers’ perceptions and experiences in doing so. Adopting an interpretive framework, and using qualitative research methods, this research focuses on the challenges faced and opportunities presented when secondary school teachers in Aotearoa New Zealand adopt place and culturally responsive pedagogies in outdoor education. Six teachers of senior level outdoor education from schools spread throughout Aotearoa New Zealand shared their stories. An inductive analysis of the interviews identified these teachers faced ongoing challenges with adopting new pedagogies in outdoor education, which was in part because many colleagues held perceptions that outdoor education was less important than other subjects and was primarily about having fun. In addition, the complexities of assessment at the senior level meant that teachers often faced challenges in formally assessing student learning. Teachers also found that undertaking change required shifts in mind-set which were further supported by targeted professional development, engagement in post-graduate study and talking with like-minded teachers. However, teachers’ adoption of place and culturally responsive approaches generated notable opportunities to align to the front end of the New Zealand curriculum, promote the holistic development of students and nurture cultural diversity. This study highlights that undertaking curriculum and pedagogical change in outdoor education in secondary schools is a complex process, which is greatly influenced by the attitudes and perceptions of others. The potential alignment of place responsive and culturally responsive pedagogies became apparent, as did the need for more targeted professional development for teachers of outdoor education. Teachers’ adoption of these pedagogies also highlighted a greater capacity for authentic outdoor education experiences for students that also strengthened a commitment to their bicultural partnerships in schools. As the nature of education changes in schools, contemporary pedagogies in outdoor education have the potential to enhance the capacity of schools to facilitate learning that will meet the diverse needs of learners in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Type of thesis
Skipworth, A. J. (2017). Place responsive and culturally responsive outdoor education in secondary schools: Examining teachers’ perspectives and experiences (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11179
University of Waikato
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