University outdoor education graduates: What do they know? What can they do

Glyn Thomas, Scott Polley, Sandy Allen-Craig, Heather Grenon, Marcus Morse, Anthony Mangelsdorf

In the outdoor education profession in Australia, there are multiple pathways for employees to demonstrate they have the knowledge and skills to work in the field with students. Graduates from the VET sector can refer to the National Outdoor Recreation Training Package to articulate and verify their competencies to prospective employers, land managers, and insurers. Graduates from universities have their transcript with a list of courses they have passed but typically this will less effectively communicate their knowledge and skills because of variations in terminology and exit standards between institutions. Polley and Thomas (2017) have identified the possibility that threshold concepts could be used to address this problem. The Delphi method is an iterative process that collects and distills the anonymous judgments of experts using several rounds of input and feedback to provide clarity around a problem or phenomenon (Skulmoski, Hartman & Krahn, 2007). This presentation reports on the Delphi research process used to develop the first draft of threshold concepts for two distinct roles commonly filled by university graduates: outdoor activity leader and outdoor education practitioner. It is hoped that these threshold concepts will provide a common language that will provide clarity regarding university outdoor education graduates’ skills and knowledge across Australia. The first draft of threshold concepts will be released in this session for discussion and feedback from those in attendance. The next steps in the process of providing better clarity for university graduates will also be discussed.

Polley, S., & Thomas, G. J. (2017). What are the capabilities of graduates who study outdoor education in Australian universities? The case for a threshold concepts framework. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 20(1), 55-63.

Skulmoski, G. J., Hartman, F. T., & Krahn, J. (2007) The Delphi method for graduate research. Journal of Information Technology Education, 6, 1-21.


The team of presenters has a fair bit of experience in tertiary outdoor education as evidenced by either grey hair or the lack of any hair. Collectively, we work in five different universities in Australia.

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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