Outdoor Education: Opportunities, Challenges & Teacher Competencies – A Perspective on how to Teach in Nature

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för biologi och miljö (BOM)

Abstract: For the last forty years outdoor education has been investigated all around the globe. Despite intense research initiative, studies have been lacking regarding what teacher competencies are beneficial for successful outdoor education. The aim of this study is to investigate opportunities and challenges that are unique to outdoor education and teacher competencies beneficial for successful outdoor education. This was done by interviewing 5 certified biology teachers. Teachers were chosen from three different educational levels – university, senior high and high school –with the purpose to obtain a more complete perspective since they can provide different views about the research matter. Teachers from higher education has shown to focus more on the theoretical background while teachers from senior high and high school tends to focus more on the practical implementation. Thematic analysis was used to examine the interview material. The results showed that the teachers focus primarily on outdoor education’s educational opportunities and logistical challenges. To a large extent teachers emphasized learning by senses, outdoor environment enriching learning about ecology and species, and how framework factors limit outdoor education from being practiced. Secondary, it was argued by the teachers there are social opportunities and challenges with outdoor education in the form of benefiting and unfavourable for students’ wellbeing and the class’s group dynamics. Furthermore, teachers believed that a teacher’s academic and didactic competencies are the most valuable for successful outdoor education. Other competencies were also outlined by the analytic analysis how the teachers prepare and practice outdoor education. Their work practices emphasized management, relational and collegial competencies. To a large extent no noteworthy variations were found between teachers from different education levels. Potentially, teachers’ view of outdoor and indoor education as more similar than different. For further research it is recommended to investigate how teachers practice outdoor education to further build upon what types of opportunities, challenges and teacher competencies can be beneficial to consider for successful outdoor education.

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