A Definition of Outdoor Education

Outdoor Education & School Curriculum Distinctiveness: More than Content, More than Process.

For many years, those of us engaged with outdoor education curriculum development in Australia have been debating questions which orbit around the issue of defining outdoor education.

John Quay, Associate Professor, Health and Physical Education and Outdoor and Environmental Education at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne explores this conundrum in the latest issue (October 2016) of the Australian Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education (JOEE). John overviews his inspiration for researching this issue on the video and below.



A Definition of Outdoor Education

“As we seek to define outdoor education we seek to clarify what we are pursuing educationally, our purpose, not only for ourselves but for others, so that we can legitimately stake out our position, our own little piece of educational turf, amongst the other subjects in the school curriculum,” said John.

“However, this debate has never been easy and any attempts to bring it to a resolution inevitably, it seems, settle some issues while heightening tensions in other areas.

“In my paper I explore two of the more recent approaches to the question of outdoor education’s positioning in the school curriculum: the question of distinctiveness and the question of indispensability.

“Then, through an historical excursion involving Australian and US curriculum history, I highlight some of the difficulties created by shifts in language use.

“Finally I argue, using definitions of outdoor education that emerged in the United States in the 1950s, that the distinctiveness of outdoor education lies in neither a body of knowledge (content) nor skills and practices (process) but in a deeper level of educational understanding which emphasizes ways of being.”