Challenging assumptions in outdoor education through authentic learning in higher education

Mr Geoff Adams1, Ms Heather Grenon1

1Federation University Australia

A key concept of outdoor and environmental education is the notion of changing the learner’s context; taking participants to the ‘bush’ to enable them to ‘look back’ and reflect (Martin, 2008).  This reflection on practice explores university students’ understanding and assumptions of outdoor education by changing the cultural context, enabling them to ‘look back’ at outdoor education in Australia and allowing them to challenge those assumptions and re-imagine the possibilities.  By examining another culture’s relationships with the outdoors – both in outdoor education and daily interactions – students begin to question what might be considered nature and natural and how connections to nature might be made in this environment.  Using innovative techniques, students engage in this re-imagining of OE through authentic learning and assessment.  Iterative written and verbal feedback, ongoing development of assessment, and publishing of work online contribute to a deeper learning and understanding.  This presentation follows the journey of a group of Australian university outdoor education students in Singapore, and outlines the challenges and benefits of the experience and assessment for students, staff and the university.

Martin, P. (2008).  Outdoor education in senior schooling:  Clarifying the body of knowledge.  Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 12(1), pp. 13-23.


Geoff loves learning and helping others become critical thinkers. Working with other learners and thinkers in Outdoor Environmental Education (OEE) at Federation University Australia enables him to explore concepts and processes of learning. In his daily work as Program Coordinator and lecturer in OEE, he attempts to bring the outdoors, indoors, using a range of educational settings to encourage people to think differently.

Heather Grenon is a lecturer in Outdoor and Environmental Education at Federation University. Originally from Canada, she has worked in outdoor education in both Canada and Australia and has also taken students overseas for practicum components of their outdoor education degrees. Heather is excited about the possibilities that travelling and working can have for an individual, but also for the learning that individual can bring back to Australia to critically examine outdoor education curriculum, pedagogy and programming here.

About the Association

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA) was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

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