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.

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