Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

John's Story: Teaching Victorian Certificate of Education Outdoor and Environmental Studies

Academic journal article Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education

John's Story: Teaching Victorian Certificate of Education Outdoor and Environmental Studies

Article excerpt


In 1998, the Board of Studies in Victoria, Australia announced the introduction of a new study called Outdoor and Environmental Education (OES). OES was to begin in 2001 and would replace the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) study Outdoor Education (OE) and Environmental Studies (ES). Since the inception of OES, there has been much debate in relevant education journals regarding the change, and in particular there have been frustrations shown by teachers in having to teach a more academically rigorous subject. My Masters degree research paper sought to answer two questions, firstly: What are some of the educational themes in the VCE study OES? And how do these themes differ from the old VCE study OE? Secondly, what types of pedagogical strategies are useful in delivering the VCE study OES?

I employed narrative methodology in an attempt to provide meaning to my research questions and I have constructed a story based on a the personal experience of a teacher who has taught both the VCE OE and OES studies. John Geary, who teaches at Bendigo Senior Secondary College, agreed to be interviewed, and agreed to have his story used as part of my research. Furthermore, 'John's Story' was to be (and has been) published in outdoor education journals in order for other teachers to understand some of the educational themes and pedagogical strategies of the study OES.

The key findings of my research showed that the VCE study OES has shifted away from the VCE OE studys themes of risk, adventure, outdoor living and travel skills to educational themes of human nature relationships and their impact on nature. It also recommended three pedagogical strategies. These included, ensuring that classroom time before practicals are more academically focused, ensuring that practicals are lead by the teacher and not necessarily a tool for students to develop leadership skills, and the need to include a journal and journal writing on practical trips.


Since the 1998 announcement of OES as a new subject in the VCE in 2001, and the publication of the Study Design (Board of Studies, 2000), there has been much written about the difficulties of teaching the new subject content (Brookes 1998; Gleeson 2000; Lugg 2000; Lugg and Martin 2001; Payne 2001) and much frustration shown by teachers who taught the old VCE study Outdoor Education (Bennetts 2001; Gleeson 1999). Moreover, there seems to be a distinct lack of suitably trained teachers for a subject such as VCE OES, and a lack of appropriate and adequate professional development for existing teachers. As a consequence, many teachers feel they are not adequately prepared to teach the VCE study OES.

After a review of the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) in 1998, the Board of Studies1 (BoS) determined that Environmental Studies would cease to exist as such. There would be a new subject, Environmental Science, in the Science Key Learning Area, and a new subject combining Environmental Studies and Outdoor Education in the Health and Physical Education Key Learning Area (Gleeson, 2000, p. 7).

This marriage between Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies came to be known as Outdoor and Environmental Studies (OES). It is reported by Gleeson (2000), a member of the BoS reaccreditation Panel for Outdoor and Environmental Studies, that:

The merger of Outdoor Education and Environmental Studies was designed to retain the important principles of each study, while positioning the new study in a way that would offer a unique course, which did not overlap with the Vocational Education and Training System (VET) or VCE Environmental Science, Geography or Biology. (p. 7)

Since 1998 much discussion has occurred amongst teachers and academics about the merit of changing VCE Outdoor Education to include more of an environmental focus (Brookes, 1998; Bennetts, 2001; Gleeson, 2000; Lugg, 2000; Martin & Lugg, 2001; Martin & Thomas, 2000; Payne, 2001). …

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