Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Moving on an Effortless Journey: Paddling, River-Places and Outdoor Education

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Moving on an Effortless Journey: Paddling, River-Places and Outdoor Education

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper presents findings from a phenomenological study into the lived experiences of river-places of undergraduate outdoor education students (Wattchow, 2006). As outlined in an earlier paper in the Australian Journal of Outdoor Education titled Playing with an unstoppable force: Paddling, river-places and outdoor education (Wattchow, 2007) the research involved collecting written and oral data from 64 participants, 21 of whom were interviewed. Collectively the written statements and transcriptions of interviews totalled over half a million words of data. Managing large volumes of data remains one of the classic challenges of social research. This research proceeded by reducing this data to 21 case histories, one for each of the interviewees (each three to five thousand words in length), which provided a representation of their recollections of their undergraduate river paddling experiences. Key quotations from these representations were thematised and idiomatic phrases (van Manen, 1997) were highlighted. The quotations that constituted a theme for each participant were matched with place notes of the physical setting and a hermeneutic description (based upon my initial interpretation as researcher) of the structure and essence (van Manen, 1997) of that aspect of the participant's experience.

The final stage of the research involved combining the case histories in a search for common major and minor themes. Each of these themes was then developed as a narrative and concluded with a statement of plausible insights (van Manen, 1997) in terms of its implications for the possibilities of a place responsive pedagogy for outdoor education (refer to Table 1: Summary of Findings). Van Manen (1997) suggests that;

 
Table 1: Summary of findings. 
 
MAJOR THEMES 
 
INQUIRY THEMES    STRUCTURE OF      MEANING -         CONSEQUENCES FOR 
                  LIVED             ESSENCE OF LIVED  A RESPONSIVENESS 
                  EXPERIENCES       EXPERIENCES       TO 'PLACE' 
 
1. Rivercraft     Participants'     A TECHNICAL       The participants' 
                  experiences were  LIFEWORLD.        lived experiences 
                  structured                          of the river 
                  exclusively                         became 'captured' 
                  around 'the                         by the 
                  rapid', with                        specificity of 
                  three levels of                     the paddling 
                  competence. Each                    technologies, the 
                  reveals how the                     continual 
                  'space' of the                      emphasis on 
                  rapid is                            training and 
                  apprehended and                     technique, and 
                  colonised by the                    the demands of 
                  paddler:                            'the rapid'. 
 
Participant       1(i). Novice      The 'rapid'       The river, 
responses         paddler (where    became a site of  through the 
primarily based   the rapid, and    technologically   intensified 
upon moving       the river, was    mediated          encounter with 
water programs    viewed and        embodied          the rapid, is 
where the major   encountered as a  performance.      lived as a 
aims were         blur).            Particular        challenging arena 
technical skill,                    paddling          of performance. 
leadership                          technologies      It is, at various 
development and                     (kayak, canoe,    times, 
expedition                          raft, paddle,     constructed as a 
travel.                             PFD) 'framed'     monster, an 
                                    almost all        adversary, and an 
                                    aspects of the    opportunity. … 
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