What's Happening to Our Curricula in Recreation, Park Resources, and Leisure Services?

By Bialeschki, M. Deborah | Parks & Recreation, May 1994 | Go to article overview

What's Happening to Our Curricula in Recreation, Park Resources, and Leisure Services?


Bialeschki, M. Deborah, Parks & Recreation


In the early 1980s educators and practitioners became alarmed at the apparent decline in the number of students majoring in recreation, park resources, and leisure services (Gitelson & Henkel, 1983; Gitelson, 1985; Gitelson, 1987). By the end of the 1980s, however, this trend seemed to have reversed, and enrollments once again were on the rise (Bialeschki & McAllister, 1990).

Frustration and alarm emerged once again earlier this decade, but the reason for concern was different. This time the target was drastic change in--and, in some cases, the elimination of--recreation and park curricula (Bialeschki & Henderson, 1993). There is no one reason for these changes; but they must be examined carefully if park and recreation educators and practitioner are to keep the field viable into the 21st century.

Some of what has happened in park and recreation curricula is due to societal forces that have impacted campus life nationwide. The idea of the collegiate environment as "home" or "family" has been replaced by a notion of the campus as efficient machine designed to motivate performance and enable financial success in the post-college world.

The economic conditions of the federal and state governments also have affected college campuses. The first signs of economic limits began to appear in the late 1970s. And over the years, the impact on some campuses has been dramatic: academic cutbacks, increased student tuitions, elimination and downsizing of departments, and increased pressure on faculty to generate revenue.

Develop a Relevant Image

Sessoms and Health (1993) studied the role of recreation in college curricula and found that the more a leisure studies program was in tune with the institution's mission, the more support it received from the administration. To see that our profession receives support consistently from college and university administrators--instead of on a hit or miss basis, we need to develop and nurture an image of the profession as a relevant and worthy component of the educational institution as well as society (Bialeschki & Henderson, 1993).

The 1992 SPRE survey asked departmental administrators their opinions on areas of concern relating to program viability, focusing on areas of concern identified from previous research: faculty issues, departmental concerns, student/alumni concerns, and general issues.

The first area of concern focused on faculty issues, including faculty productivity, cohesion, credible faculty, the need for a strong chairperson, and faculty as "team players." The strongest concern addressed faculty productivity (primarily focused on publication rates, credit hour production, and acquisition of grants) with 80% of the respondents indicating that as an essential component (x = 2.8). The need for a strong chair and credible faculty also were noted as essential (x = 2.6 each). Educators in accredited programs felt the need for faculty to be team players more than those in non-accredited programs.

Departmentally, the main concerns were about upper administrative support (x = 2.7) and the need for the program to fit well with the university mission (x = 2.6) and for the department to be responsive to current professional needs and social issues (x = 2.5). The need for strong ties and collaboration with other colleagues and departments was of least importance to associate degree programs while being responsive to needs was of least concern to Ph.D. degree programs.

The need for a strong state and national reputation was more important to schools with graduate programs than schools who offered an associate or bachelor's degree. Accredited programs differed from non-accredited programs on their feelings about the need for administrative support, the need for a strong national and state reputation, and the importance of accreditation.

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