An ethnography of the outdoor classroom – how teachers manage risk in the outdoors

Stan, Ina and Humberstone, Barbara (2011) An ethnography of the outdoor classroom – how teachers manage risk in the outdoors. Ethnography & Education, 6 (2). pp. 213-228. ISSN 1745-7823

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This article explores the approaches to risk that some teachers adopt when they are involved in facilitating outdoor activities. The research was carried out at a residential outdoor centre as part of a PhD study and a follow-up pilot project. The participants were primary school pupils, their teachers and the centre staff. For the purpose of this article, the term ‘teacher’ is used to refer to both visiting teachers accompanying the school groups and the centre staff. This research was eclectic. It took an ethnographic approach using participant observation and semi-structured interviews to collect a variety of data. Ethnography was considered as the most appropriate for this research because it puts an emphasis on understanding the perceptions and cultures of the people and organisations studied. The findings of the research have shown that, on occasion, teachers take a controlling approach when facilitating outdoor activities in order to manage the perceived risk of being in the outdoors. This tended to result in the disempowerment of the children and put the teachers in a position of power, which had serious implications for the pupils’ learning experience. By giving the children specific instructions, and mainly focusing on maintaining discipline during the activities, teachers do not allow their pupils to workout how to deal with risk. The article argues that this had a negative impact on the educational process by taking away opportunities for learning from the children.

Item Type: Article
Depositing User: ULCC Admin
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2012 09:47
Last Modified: 04 Dec 2018 10:52

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