Pedagogical content knowledge in the Tasmanian classroom: testing teacher PCK in the delivery of ‘Human–Nature Relationships’, a unit of the Tasmanian senior secondary subject Outdoor Leadership.

Ms Alison Savage1
1University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia


With the belief that all students deserved an exemplary education, I became actively involved in national and state-based working groups and committees that focus on curriculum development, policy and reform. In part it is these experiences that prompted me to return to academic studies to complete a Masters of Educational Leadership. My focus has been looking at Pedagogical Content Knowledge frameworks in Outdoor Education, particularly their role in teacher professional development and where OEPCK fits within a broader field of contemporary outdoor education research.

In a world marked by unrelenting change teachers must develop sound content and pedagogical understandings that ensure quality educational experiences for the students they teach. Teachers must “know their stuff and be confident in the ideas they want their students to learn about or engage with … they need to have knowledge and skills which they will employ in facilitating their students’ learning” (Bahr, 2016, p. 30). I argue that the teaching of outdoor education requires no less.

In response to such demands on today’s teachers Helen Chick and Dr Janet Dyment devised a Pedagogical Content Knowledge framework for teachers of outdoor education. Their belief was that such a framework could enrich discussions of what it looks like to teach outdoor education well, whilst also contribute to conversations around teacher knowledge, pedagogy, and curriculum. The framework was tested in two Honours dissertations (Macqueen, 2017; Walker, 2016), before being presented in a theoretical paper published in 2018. Whilst completing my Masters of Educational Leadership I sought to extend this initial research by testing the framework in terms of not solely what a teacher intends to do in the classroom, but what actually occurs during a lesson, and why certain pedagogical choices are made. This qualitative study involved semi-structured interviews as well as direct observation of two lessons.

My research focused on Outdoor Leadership (OXP315118) a Tasmanian senior secondary outdoor education subject, looking specifically at Unit 5: Human–Nature Relationships. As a topic that typically presents students with complex ideas not dealt with elsewhere in the Tasmanian curriculum, it lent itself to deep and rich analysis of teacher PCK. It is the findings of this research project that I would like present at the upcoming National Outdoor Education Conference.

I currently hold the position of Director of Curriculum at Guilford Young College, a senior secondary co-educational Catholic College in Hobart. Since completing a Graduate Diploma in Outdoor Education at La Trobe University Bendigo in 1996 I have been activity involved in the field of outdoor education. Whilst living in NSW I worked as an outdoor education instructor for a range of schools and commercial organisations before moving to Tasmania in 2003, at which point I taught and guided part time concentrating on my work as a print editor. For several years I conducted workshops in editing and web writing for Government, though it was not long before the pull of the classroom prompted me to return to student education. I taught across various disciplines including Outdoor Education, English and the Humanities.

About OEA and Outdoors NSW

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA)  was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

Outdoors NSW is the go-to place for all things outdoors in NSW.

The peak body for the outdoors in NSW, the organisation, (formerly known as ORIC), represents the outdoor community, advances outdoor standards, safety and practices, and fosters greater participation in the outdoors.

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