Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Slow Pedagogy and Placing Education in Post-Traditional Outdoor Education

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Slow Pedagogy and Placing Education in Post-Traditional Outdoor Education

Article excerpt

Time, and our experiences of it, warrants attention in 'place' pedagogies in outdoor education. Place typically involves the experience of a geographical location, a locale for interacting socially and/or with nature, and the subjective meanings we attach over time to the experience. Place, however, cannot be severed from the concept and practice of time, as seems to be occurring in the discourse of outdoor education. The way outdoor educators carefully conceive of, plan for, manage and pedagogically practice time may, in our view, positively facilitate an introductory 'sense' of place. We illustrate the under-theorised relationship of time and place in outdoor and experiential education via a case study of a semester-long undergraduate unit, Experiencing the Australian Landscape. It reflexively describes how two post-traditional outdoor educators working in the higher education sector have assisted pre-service experiential and outdoor educators to sense, explore, conceptualise and examine how 'slow' time is important in 'placing' education in nature.

  Look up at the mountain I have to climb,
  Oh yeah, to reach there ...
  I creep through the valleys,
  And I grope through the woods,
  Cause I know when I find it ...,
  Miles from nowhere, guess I'll take my time,
  oh, yeah, to reach there.

Cat Stevens, from Tea for the Tillerman, Island Records, 1970

It's time?

The recent interest in the term 'place' in outdoor education is welcome because it potentially marks an important shift in the nature and scope of outdoor education and refocussing of its pedagogical efforts in experiential education. Place, however, is an increasingly popular concept whose ambiguous use in outdoor, environmental and experiential education is exacerbated by a silence about the equally important question of time, and its connections with the concepts of place and space. At best, time in the discourse of outdoor education is only implied; its invisibility in relation to the possibility of place needs to be rectified. Hence, a 'slow pedagogy' in 'placing' education.

Traditionally, mainstream or modern outdoor education has focussed on certain outdoor activities and pursuits, preoccupied itself with notions of adventure and challenge, touched on the paradox of risk and safety, and emphasised the human, or anthropocentric, benefits of personal and social development by being immersed in the outdoors. Outdoor educators have made numerous claims, often anecdotal, about

the value, attractiveness or efficacy of trips, journeys and, even, expeditions, all of which are versions of experiential learning 'in the bush,' 'on the river,' 'down the slope,' or 'up the face.' Suggested by this type of phrasing are geographies of activities that may, or may not, have some sense of place. Time is only hinted at and, typically, according to the linear and progressive duration of the activity or experience and, if so, jeopardizes the pedagogical possibilities of place or, more modestly, a sense of place or, more grandly, place attachment. For example, the pursuit of a successful climb or river paddle often involves the achieving of numerical grades that quantify 'nature.' The successful completion of a bushwalk is often couched in terms of number of days and kilometres walked, with elevation gained and lost. Or, in many activities, completing a trip ranked as 'novice' or 'advanced' against which competence, skill and standards are qualitatively measured. There is an ethos and culture of most outdoor activities (Payne, 1994).

Pedagogies of outdoor leadership and instruction normally introduce and emphasise particular technical skills (moves, holds, strokes, balance, strength, dexterity, placement and equipment selection, rope handling and safety skills, to name a few). In turn this type of technical construction of the outdoor experience needs sticky shoes, for example, as advanced skills are pursued, attained and the challenge/risk demands of nature, increasingly objectified and instrumentalized, are confronted. …

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