Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Thriving in the Outdoor Education Profession: Learning from Australian Practitioners

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Thriving in the Outdoor Education Profession: Learning from Australian Practitioners

Article excerpt

Abstract

Work related stress, and in particular burnout, is not a homogenous phenomenon with a common set of symptoms, causes, and recommended treatments. Burnout is a multi-dimensional problem caused by a mismatch between jobs and employees. This study used a mail survey (225) and mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods to explore the issue of work related stress and its management in the outdoor education profession. The results and discussion focussed on demographics, conditions of employment, work related stress and coping strategies, and career planning. The diversity of factors contributing to work related stress identified by respondents supports the view that the causes of work related stress are multi-dimensional and individualistic. However, long work hours, time away from home, and difficulties maintaining relationships were commonly experienced problems for many respondents. A link between general working conditions employees experience and the type of employing organisation is proposed. As a general rule, employees of schools experienced higher salaries and more recreation leave than non school employees. The strategies most used by respondents to restore their passion for work included, spending time with family and friends; participating in an outdoor recreation; diverse outside interests; and spending time in nature alone or with friends. Possible implications for employers and employees are provided.

Introduction

The perceptions of human resource management issues within the outdoor education profession vary widely. Consider these comments from some outdoor education practitioners:

I feel very undervalued when people (teachers) ask me how the
"holiday" was! (Respondent #66)

With the high contact with students I need space to be alone. As an
introvert I feel drained by long periods of "people" time. [From]
Mon-Fri it is hard to get that space. (Respondent #120)

I have chosen to leave the field for these reasons: low remuneration,
long hours, disruption to family life, insecure work situation,
potential poor health (nutrition, sleep etc). (Respondent #133)

There seems to be little consensus on exactly what makes working in the outdoor education profession stressful or on how these problems can be best managed by employers and employees. This paper provides a review of the current literature and presents the results of a study that focussed on work related stress and its management in the outdoor education profession in Australia. The study, conducted late in 2000, had two distinct parts. The first part of the project involved interviews with ten managers from a range of outdoor organisations and the findings are presented in a paper entitled "Work related stress in the outdoor education profession: a management perspective" (Thomas, in press). The second part of the research project, and the focus of this paper, involved a mail survey to which 225 OE practitioners responded. However, before discussing the survey, a brief review of the literature on work related stress will be provided to help readers understand current perspectives on the issue. (In this paper the term "outdoor education" is used generically and includes various forms of outdoor education, outdoor recreation, adventure education, adventure therapy, and corporate experiential training).

Literature On Work Related Stress

Considerable interest has been shown in the phenomenon of work related stress, and in particular, burnout, since the mid 1970s. The research to date has primarily focussed on nurses, dentists, physicians, social workers, counsellors, psychologists and teachers (Abel & Sewell 1999; Cherness, 1995; Dinham, 1997; Farber, 2000; Friedman, 2000; Huberman & Vandenberg he, 1999; Lambert, 1994; Maslach & Leiter, 1997; Maslach & Leiter, 1999; Potter, 1987). Not surprisingly, given the relatively smaller size and stature of the OE profession compared to the above professions, there has been very little published research on work related stress for OE practitioners. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.