Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Australian Outdoor (and) Environmental Education Research: Senses of "Place" in Two Constituencies

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

Australian Outdoor (and) Environmental Education Research: Senses of "Place" in Two Constituencies

Article excerpt


In an editorial introducing the first issue of Australian Journal of Outdoor Education (AJOE) under its new name, Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education (JOEE), John Quay (2016, p. 1) notes that the "change acknowledges engagement with the international community of academics and others for whom the discourses of outdoor and environmental education are central." He adds:

Outdoor education, as theorised and practised in Australia, is well known for its concern with environmental issues. However, while it could be argued that Australians were amongst the earliest to press this point, the scope of this interest has never been Australian alone. The change in name signals this fact, but it doesn't mean a major change in direction for the journal. There is no hard line drawn between various expressions of outdoor education, which is a broad church. In all of its guises, the influence of the "environment" in outdoor education is tangible, no matter how this term may be defined (nature, ecosystem, biosphere, wilderness, habitat, world, context, milieu, situation, location, etc.). (Quay, 2016, p. 1)

The deliberations about the future of publishing in outdoor education that led to the change of title, raise a question about the relationships of outdoor and environmental education clearly articulated by Andrew Brookes (1989) in AJEE more than a decade ago: Is outdoor education "environmental education re-invented, or environmental education reconceived?" Brookes (1989, p. 15) elaborates: "Outdoor education has been distinguished from physical education by its focus on environmental education ... But is the environmental education which occurs in outdoor education distinguished by anything other than an association with adventure activities? After all, field trips are not a new idea." I initially addressed Brookes' question by reviewing histories of the changing relationships between outdoor and environmental education research in Australia and speculating on their possible future trajectories. I began by appraising selected manifestations of these relationships produced by contributors to two key journals: Australian Journal of Outdoor Education and Australian Journal of Environmental Education (AJEE). In 2014, AJEE celebrated 30 years of publication (see CutterMackenzie, A. Gough, N. Gough, & Whitehouse, 2014). Although AJOE has a shorter history (1995-2016), they share a tendency towards an increasing emphasis on research as they have matured (see N. Gough, 2014; Thomas, Potter, & Allison, 2009). Brookes (1989, p. 15) argues that "the distinctiveness of outdoor education as a form of environmental education is derived from its physical and conceptual isolation from schooling" and my starting point for examining his proposition was to appraise examples of research literature drawn from the two overlapping constituencies these journals represent, with particular reference to research that attends to the curricular, extra-curricular and school-isolated manifestations of outdoor and environmental education. I do not restrict my appraisal to research literature published only in these two journals, because many of the authors whose works appear in them have also published elsewhere.

Environmental education: Indoors and/or outdoors?

In the Foreword to a recent edited collection of essays on experiencing the outdoors, Pete Hay (2015, p. vii; italics, capitals, and punctuation in original), writes:

Outdoors. Not, Therefore, Indoors Here is one of the great binaries of lived experience, and it is a binary replete with portent. Step outside and you cross one of the great divides of daily existence ... Phenomenologically speaking--experientially--the contrast between the being of outdoors and the being of indoors could hardly be more pronounced ... This being so, it is puzzling why the multi-faceted nature of the "outdoors" should have been so little explicated in the literature extant. …

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