An Examination of Pedagogical Content Knowledge in Pre-Service Outdoor Education Teachers

Thomas Macqueen

University of Tasmania


Outdoor Education is a field which has contention in literature around whether it has the merit to be considered as a teaching discipline, with specific content to offer. One explanation for this contention is the complexities in teaching Outdoor Education are easily overlooked, and in the eyes of curriculum developers and some teachers, it is not perceived as academically rigorous. In light of this, a framework has been developed which examines the complexities of Outdoor Education through the pedagogical content knowledge required to teach it. Pedagogical content knowledge is a form of knowledge which blends together a persons’ knowledge of content with their knowledge of delivering the content. It is a knowledge base which is well researched in fields such as mathematics, science, and drama. Through an honours research project, this framework was trialled with 6 graduating Outdoor Education students against the TASC 3 Outdoor Leadership course. This framework, along with some of the findings from the research are introduced in this session.


Thomas Macqueen is an Outdoor Education teacher here in Tasmania, having graduated from the University of Tasmania with Honours in 2017. He has a passion for building community through using outdoor experiences to develop relationship and leadership skills. Thomas works across a number of different schools in Tasmania.

Women’s Learning Experiences in White Water Kayaking Environments

Ms Ella Carmichael1, Ms Kathleen Pleasants1

1La Trobe University

White water kayaking is an outdoor adventure activity used in various outdoor education settings. The white water environment may be perceived as male-dominated, and this, along with other factors, has been identified as having an effect on women’s willingness to engage in learning the skills of kayaking and pursuing the activity. This paper will report on a qualitative research project guided by the authors’ interests in women’s lived experiences in the outdoors. The study sought to explore what helps and hinders the learning process for women in this particular environment through narrative inquiry. Four novice kayakers and three experienced kayak instructors were purposefully sampled and invited to participate in semi-structured interviews. This process of interviewing provided in-depth and rich descriptions of their experiences and perceptions of what helped and hindered the learning process. The research highlights the complex and messy nature of learning, and the varied ways in which a woman’s confidence, sense of competence and actual competence can affect learning and participation in dynamic environments. We suggest that teachers of kayaking in white water environments may need to carefully reconsider their pedagogy in order for women to begin to participate and progress in their learning of kayaking.


Kathleen works in the Department of Outdoor & Environmental Education at La Trobe University, Bendigo, Australia. Her research and teaching foci are primarily outdoor environmental education curriculum and pedagogy.

Outdoor Gear – Innovations in Materials & Designs

Mr Mark Oates1

1The Hutchins School

Would you or your students like to carry lighter loads? Are you interested in new technologies? Have you gotten to an age where you now value your knees or need to protect them? What developments have taken place in gear design that you could incorporate into either your programs or your personal trips? Do you want to run trips that are a little bit different in order to engage your students in new ways?

Join Mark for a very brief overview of some of the options now available. Options such as ski-shoes and lightweight snowshoes, ultralight packs and shelters, group and emergency shelters, communication devices, quilts, etc. Likewise if you have something to share that you would like to show the group, please bring it along.


Mark Oates is a passionate outdoor educator and adventurer who moved to Tasmania 8 years ago from Victoria to explore its remote rivers and mountains. Mark works at The Hutchins School in Hobart and is heavily involved in teaching the Power of 9 Program and the TASC Outdoor Education course to senior students. He has been teaching outdoor education in secondary schools for 20 years.

Weaving evidenced based positive psychology interventions into our Outdoor Education programs

Mr Shane Mcaloon1

1The Hutchins School

Education is a dynamic environment.  Full of promise and potential, with an equal dose of pressures and pitfalls.

Students and teachers of today need to navigate their way through this environment, with its ever increasing; focus on academic success, aversion to risk taking, fear of failure, and influence social media, causing rising levels of anxiety and depression.

Outdoor Education teachers know that spending time in the outdoors in engaging and meaningful ways can be an antidote to these ills, and there is a growing body of evidence to support this. There is also good evidence supporting the use of positive psychology interventions in education to combat the pressures of life.In a perfect world, every student in every school would have access to a stimulating, well-planned, and well-resourced Outdoor Education program across the course of their educational journey.

In a perfect world, every student in every school would participate in evidence based, well-resourced, and professionally delivered social and emotional learning programs. Alas, we don’t all live in a perfect world.We battle against crowded curriculums, time and budget constraints, and competition for priority within our schools. What if we could ‘super charge’ our antidote to the ills of our modern world?

Weaving evidenced based positive psychology interventions into our Outdoor Education programs can deliver a wealth of benefits for our students and add strength and increased relevance to our curriculums. More than ever, students need connection with the natural world and skills to deal with life.  Outdoor Education can deliver!


Shane is a lead teacher in the areas of wellbeing and positive psychology.  He has degrees in HPE and Wellbeing and recently attended courses at the University of California and the The Fifth World Congress on Positive Psychology in Canada. Following an enriching sabbatical, Shane has begun implementing many of his recent learnings into his teaching, and supporting others to do so.

Old Wisdom, Wellbeing, and Outdoor Ed. How does the Timbertop Programme boost wellbeing and what can we learn from this?

Miss Catherine Lamb1,2

1The Institute Of Positive Education, 2Timbertop, Geelong Grammar School

The Timbertop campus of Geelong Grammar School has grown fairly organically since 1952. It is a unique, year-long residential outdoor educational experience. The ‘wisdom of the past’ was that time in the outdoors, working hard with friends and overcoming physical challenge were beneficial to a person’s character and happiness.

The 2014 Geelong Grammar School Research Report, compiled by Melbourne University, investigated the wellbeing boost which students attained from attending Timbertop. Satisfaction with Life and Mental Wellbeing increased for the Timbertop students and decreased for the control over the time period. Conversely, Depression, Anxiety and Stress all increased for the control group and decreased for the Timbertop Students. The links between Positive Education and Outdoor Education are closely entwined, and this presentation will examine some elements of the program which may have caused these changes.


Cat is an experienced Outdoor Educator, currently completing a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology and working as a trainer in Positive Education. She is passionate about exploring links between the science of wellbeing and outdoor education, which she thinks of as the practice of wellbeing. She has lectured and lead trips at both LaTrobe and Federation Universities.

Rites of Passage and mentoring in experiential learning. Exploring and celebrating seven years of the Hutchins P9 program

Mr Ken Kingston1

1Hutchins School

Rites of Passage and mentoring young people is becoming increasingly important and along with concepts of positive psychology, is contributing as key components of experiential and outdoor education programs.  Although not a new concept, Rites of passage and celebrating these have changed over time.  In line with the conference theme, I intend to discuss ways in which mentors can design programs and facilitate discussion with young people about the journey to adulthood.  Using the Hutchins Power of 9 program as context I will share our journey from the past as well as what it looks look moving toward the future.


Ken has been an educator and psychologist in schools for 25 years.  For the past 8 years, Ken has been the key architect in designing and implementing The Hutchins School Power of 9 program, a term long program all year 9 students participate in.  Prior to this Ken was the Head of Middle School.

The Clouds that Store and Rain: Digital Technology in Outdoor Education

Mr David Hills1,2, Dr Glyn Thomas2

1Brisbane Grammar School, 2The University of the Sunshine Coast

Digital technology has become an integrated part of the modern day educational experience and it has never been more important to encourage students to develop a range of skills beyond the classroom (Dewey 1897; Hahn, 1957; Mortlock, 1987). The digital technology options available to outdoor educators has significantly increased with a variety of hardwear and software choices. This technology can either enhance or impede learning and its application needs careful consideration (Thomas & Munge, 2017). When does digital technology actually help outdoor educators achieve their learning outcomes or does it simply place additional barriers in front of the environment they are trying to connect their students to? This presentation will review the literature on this debate as well as a look at which digital technologies are being widely used by the sector. Examples of effective uses of technology will be discussed alongside some approaches to guide you on when and how to use these new digital tools.  Finally, with augmented reality, drones and the explosion of artificial intelligence, we will touch upon what the future holds for our sector. Which of the large dark ‘clouds’ should be embraced, and which should be avoided?


Dave is a full-time teacher of Outdoor Education at Brisbane Grammar School and is also researching for a PhD in Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Dave qualified in North Wales in the UK before completing his Masters in Education whilst working at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Scotland. Dave has taught Outdoor Education in the UAE, Canada, America, New Zealand and Greece but is now settled in Queensland with his family. He sits on the Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation’s board as the vice chair and was previously the Chair of the Institute for Outdoor Learning Scotland and the CEO of Queensland Canoeing. He is currently researching the relationship between outdoor education and technology and hope to ensure that the importance of taking people outdoors is still recognised as valuable in 2050.

Celebrating our Past, Harnessing our Future as a Collective Voice: Exploring feminism for men and women in Outdoor Education

A/Prof. Tonia Gray1, Sandy Allen-Craig2, Dr Cathryn Carpenter3, Dr Val Nicholls4

1Western Sydney University, 2Australian Catholic University, 3Independent Scholar, 4Independent Scholar and Practitioner

The purpose/aim/research question of the presentation

At the 17th NOEC in 2016 Sandy, Cathryn and Tonia challenged the long held assumption that the OE profession was a level playing field in a presentation entitled: Selective Hearing: The Unrecognized Contribution of Women to the Outdoor Profession.

The audience indicated a strong desire for further opportunities to explore contribute and reflect on the issue in greater depth.

Using a number of creative approaches, we will enable a reflective, restorative and story gathering opportunity for the voices of the men and women.  In short, we aim to ensure the Outdoor Education (OE) profession continues to have a healthy dialogue in this space, whilst also working towards pathways for gender parity.

This workshop will be using creative approaches to eliciting personal narratives in response to the stimulus questions:

  • What was a defining moment in your life, related to gender?
  • What does gender in OE mean to practitioners in the field?
  • When was the first time you understood how your gender would affect your career longevity in OE?

If possible we ask participants to bring four photos to the session that captures the essence of our stimulus questions. The presenters will have alternate creative stimulus available for those in the audience who don’t have photos.

Following up on that lively discussion and the ensuring the field continues to have a healthy dialogue in this space, we suggest to progress the OE profession in a number of key ways.

Undoubtedly, men need to be part of this discussion and help shape future directions. We are mindful of this impending challenge and will create a ‘safe space’ for both genders to participate freely and openly.

  • The issue or problem under consideration

As a direct outcome of the challenge that; the OE profession was not as inclusive, democratic and egalitarian as it appears; Gray (2016) created a tangible list of threats that women face in OE profession and proposed that Feminism is not just a woman’s issue. We will highlight the willingness of men in OE profession to engage and respond to this contemporary debate as well as address positive outcomes already emerging from the identification of threats and misconceptions within this space.

The contemporary landscape: What have we done and written about in the time that has elapsed between 17th and 18th NOEC?

In short, a tsunami has been happening behind the scenes and we wish to harness our momentum with like-minded professionals, both men and women.

Gray, T. (2016). The ‘F’ word: Feminism in outdoor education. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 19(2), 25-41.

Mitten, D., Gray, T., Allen-Craig, S., Loeffler, T.A., & Carpenter, C. (in press). The invisibility cloak: Women’s contribution to outdoor and environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education.

Gray, T., Mitten, D., Loeffler, T.A., Allen-Craig, S., & Carpenter, C. (accepted 2018).  Defining Moments: An examination of the gender divide in women’s contribution to outdoor education. Research in Outdoor Education, Special Edition

Gray, T., & Mitten, D. (in press). The Palgrave Macmillan International handbook of women in outdoor learning. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gray, T., Allen-Craig, S., & Carpenter, C. (2017). Selective hearing: The unrecognised contribution of women to the outdoor profession. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education. 20(1). 25-34.

Gray, T., Mitten, D., Loeffler, T. A., Allen-Craig, S., & Carpenter, C. (2016). Defining moments: Women’s contribution to outdoor education leadership and an examination of the gender divide. Paper presented at The 7th International, Outdoor Education Research Conference, Nova Scotia, Canada, 4-8 July (pp. 45-46).

  • The implications

Exploring Ways forward:

Alignment of past experiences of all workshop presenters helps shape the female narratives to be presented in this workshop. Social inequalities and blind-spots still abound in the profession and we will attempt to illuminate the ongoing issues. The task of the presentation is to elevate our contributions as well as galvanize the work that needs to be done to make these spaces inclusive.

We anticipate that creative strategies will generate insightful reflection from both male and female participants and foster consideration of topics such as gendered language on OE, potential bias and impacts within curriculum v pedagogy; quantitative v qualitative research approaches.


Tonia Gray Ph. D. is a Senior Researcher at Centre for Educational Research WSU and Chair of the Australian Tertiary Educator Network (ATOEN). She has been involved in OE for 35+ years as a practitioner, researcher and curriculum developer. In 2014 she received the prestigious Australian Award for Excellence in
University Teaching for her work in OE. Tonia is an associate editor for JOEE, past editor of the AJOE and
on the review panel for JEE and JAEOL.

Sandy Allen-Craig is the National Coordinator for the Outdoor Leadership and Outdoor Education and is responsible for the curriculum development and program delivery of Outdoor Leadership units across the multi campuses of the Australian Catholic University. She has been awarded an Australian Learning and Teaching Council citation, for outstanding contribution to student learning.

Cathryn Carpenter Ph.D. is currently an independent scholar and past senior lecturer in youth studies at Victoria
University. Cathryn has also contributed to the outdoor profession for 30+ years as an instructor, a teacher and curriculum developer in both secondary and tertiary institutions, and through research. For the past ten years she has been actively involved in the development and articulation of Adventure Therapy nationally and internationally.

The impact of outdoor education on the body image and self-efficacy of adolescent girls

Ms Joelle Breault-hood1

1Western Sydney University

We live in a visual culture that inundates us with images of an idealised body based on dominant Western societal and media influences. The body has become an object, a site of production and commerce.  For many, having negative thoughts about our bodies has become normal. Poor body image can contribute to low self-esteem, low self-confidence and never feeling that one’s body is adequate.

My research explores the possibility of an outdoor education program as an effective tool to curb the normalcy of poor body image. To do so, the impacts of outdoor education programs on the self-efficacy and body image of adolescent girls will be addressed. Through a feminist theoretical lens and mixed methods inquiry, quantitative and qualitative data will be collected in the form of pre, post, and six month follow up outdoor education program questionnaires based on the General Self-Efficacy Scale and the Objectified Body Consciousness Youth Scale and focus group interviews. Participants are 13-15 year adolescent girls who participate in outdoor education programs offered through the co-curricular component of their school.

The presentation will showcase the research background and any preliminary findings in the first round of research.

Research is limited in the Australian context on the relationship between outdoor education, adolescent girls and body image. The anticipated research outcomes include:

  • Gaining a better understanding of the role of outdoor education in affecting body image and self-efficacy of adolescent girls,
  • Providing robust evidence-based research in Australian outdoor education.


Joelle Breault-Hood (PhD Candidate) is currently working as the Communications Officer for Outdoors NSW. She is also involved with a running Tween Empowerment programs for girls. She teaches Outdoor Education and Experiential Education at the tertiary level in NSW.   She has been involved in OE for 20+ years as a facilitator, curriculum developer, program planner and OE instructor. She is currently working on her PhD investigating the impacts of outdoor education programs on adolescent girl’s self-efficacy and body image.

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