Outdoor fieldwork in higher education: Learning from multi-disciplinary experience

Mr Brendon Munge1, Dr Glyn Thomas1, Associate Professor Deborah Heck1

1University Of The Sunshine Coast

Background

Many disciplines utilise outdoor fieldwork (OFW) as an experiential learning method in higher education. Although there has been an increase in research into the pedagogical approaches of OFW, the use of OFW is contested.

Purpose

The purpose of the study was to synthesise the literature across a range of disciplines to identify common strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). Each aspect of the SWOT was then examined at the micro, meso and macro levels to identify implications for how OFW is used as an experiential learning pedagogy in higher education.

Methodology/Approach

A descriptive literature review, using the SWOT and micro, meso and macro frameworks, was undertaken drawing from disciplines using OFW including biology, outdoor and environmental education, archaeology and the associated geo-sciences.

Findings/Conclusions

Strengths of OFW include engagement, outreach, and professional competencies while weaknesses exist in the areas of equity, logistics, and standards. Opportunities centre on improving pedagogical practices, diversity, and collaboration while threats applicable to OFW were costs, funding, outdated practices, and governance.

Implications

Academics from a range of disciplines using OFW have similar experiences. Therefore, exploring ways to collaborate or learn from each other will further develop OFW as an experiential learning strategy in higher education.


Biographies:

Brendon Munge is an Associate Lecturer in Outdoor and Environmental Studies in the School of Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. His teaching focuses on providing the foundational practical and theoretical experiences for new outdoor educators as they prepare to work in the profession. He is a current PhD candidate with a focus on fieldwork in higher education.

Glyn Thomas is a Senior Lecturer at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. He is the coordinator of a new Bachelor of Recreation and Outdoor Environmental Studies that started in 2016. He has worked in outdoor experiential education programmes in school and higher education contexts for more than 30 years and enjoys conducting research in the areas of facilitation, facilitator education, and fieldwork pedagogies.

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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