Predictions: for Outdoor Education, Theory, & Research
in 2003 & the Decade Ahead
Increasing disconnection between what academics interested in OE want to
spend their time doing and what people and organizations in the field want
from academics. Basically, academics want to study process, people in
the field want evaluation outcomes.
Increasingly quiet OUTRES listserv because the new generation of content is
emerging in web-form. Basically, websites such as Active
Reviewing, OutdoorEd.com, and the Outdoor Education Research & Evaluation
Center are collectively serving hundreds of hits for research info each day,
seemingly reducing traffic on listservs.
significant changes in the quality or quantity of research and knowledge
generation in traditional publication forms. Basically, it appears
that there are no current major initiatives in building substantial new
research programs or generation of new theory, etc. that are likely to bear
significant fruition in the coming year. If I could pick one
exception, it would be Keith Russell's work on AT research at the Wilderness
Research Center, Uni of Idaho. Don't get me wrong - there is other
good work around - but there is little work that is appearing as part of a
long-term knowledge-building strategy. One study proves nothing - a
series of cumulative studies can.
Increase in 'research at the fringes'. OE methodology remains
compelling and needed; it will continue to attract increasing attention from
alternative-thinking psychologists, social workers, educators, etc. and this
will continue to foster a bubbling of 'research at the fringes'.
Whilst tantalizing and interesting, such research is never going to go deep
within OE to build a new platform of knowledge.
Domination of US-based research will begin to wane. In the beginning
decades of OE since World War II, the UK generated the little research and
theory-building that was conducted, then the US dominated in terms of
programming, theory-building and research from the 1960s-1990s. This
domination may have peaked. Little new seems to be emerging from the
US, and there is too much focus on safety, liability, risk management, etc.
issues. On the other hand there are positive signs of
knowledge-building growth from the UK and Europe. A good example is
the strong emergence of the refocused Journal of Adventure Education &
Outdoor Leadership. In the longer-term, future decades could see the
significant emergence of OE knowledge-building from Asia. The
situation in Australia / New Zealand seems to be, like the US, somewhat
stable or in possible decline.
Adventure Therapy - the one to watch. I have always felt optimism and
excitement that within the practice and theory of adventure therapy, gems of
knowledge can be discovered and polished which will shed new light on the
way in which OE operates. With the upcoming 3rd International
Adventure Therapy conference being held in North America, and the ongoing
challenges of people coping with Western society, adventure therapy may
emerge during the coming decade as a significant hothouse for the
development of OE-related theory.
Graduate Training will be sought. As organizations mature and become
increasingly sophisticated, they will have an increasing need to have
managerial and director-level staff who have received post-graduate
training. At the same time, universities are increasingly under the
pump to bring in dollars, but most of this comes from undergraduate
education. Thus, there will be a widening gap in the current decade
between the needs and provision of graduate training in outdoor education.
big and small OE organizations are endangered. The big
organizations such as Scouts and Guides, Outward Bound, Project Adventure,
and NOLS all faced a very tough decade in the 1990s. The big movers
now are the medium-sized, specialist organizations. Small operators
are going to continue to suffer greatly with all the increasing
administrative challenges of running programs. But it is the very
success of the big organizations which has spawned this new generation, and
they will not become extinct because they have some sound ideas - they will
simply continue to adapt and fractionate.
possible connections between outdoor education and other fields will become
more apparent. In the global, multiple age, a key strength to
survival and evolution is investing in connections. Thus, connections
between OE and other fields will emerge as increasingly important in the
role and purpose of nature in outdoor education will become more apparent.
As society becomes more disconnected from natural environments, the primary
importance of human experience in nature becomes more highly valued and
studied. Whilst the US-dominance of outdoor education during the
1960's-1990's lead to adventure programming approaches which place little
emphasis on human relationship with nature, it is predicted that the role of
nature will emerge during the next decade as being more critical in OE
theory and research.
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Trends in outdoor
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on Outdoor Recreation And Education (pp.
35-39), October 24-31, Charleston, SC.
Carlson, R. E. (1980).
Innovations for the future: Where have we come from and where are we going?
The Bradford Papers 1980.
Ewert, A. W. (1987). Outdoor adventure recreation: A trend
analysis. Journal of Leisure
Research, 5(2), 56-67.
Heimlich, J. E. (2007). Research trends in the United States: EE
Journal of Education for Sustainable Development, 1, 219-227.
Priest, S., & Gass, M. (2001).
The future of adventure programming. Adventure Safety International.
Southern Connecticut State University (n. d.)
Future role of recreation and leisure studies.
Watters, R. (1997).
Changing Times in Outdoor
Education: An Essay. In Proceedings of the 1997
International Conference on Outdoor Recreation and Education, Rob Jones and
Brian Wilkinson (ed.) Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education, Boulder,
1998, pp. 228-230.