The role of academic identity and the creation of outdoor fieldwork curriculum: A discussion of the initial findings from a cross-discipline research project

Mr Brendon Munge1, Dr Glyn Thomas1, Associate Professor Debbie Heck1
1University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia


Outdoor fieldwork (OFW) is considered a fundamental pedagogical method for connecting theory and practise amongst many disciplines including outdoor education, the geosciences, archaeology and environmental education. However, within universities, the choice to utilise OFW has come under pressure. These pressures include the reduction in funding for OFW activities; questions about the validity of educational outcomes; implications for the inclusion of non-traditional students; and academics’ ability to undertake OFW activities while also meeting their other obligations. However, OFW persists, for instance: academics continue to support and facilitate OFW; undergraduate courses still include a variety of OFW activities; employers seek evidence of OFW proficiency when employing graduates; disciplines recommend the use of OFW within degrees, and universities still promote their institutions and degrees via the OFW offered. How academics create, maintain, and facilitate an OFW curriculum within these constrains has had little attention thus far within the academic literature.

This presentation will discuss the role of individual academic identities and how they shape the creation of an OFW curriculum. The presentation will initially focus on the concepts of academic identity and how academic identities are developed and maintained at an individual, disciplinary and institutional level. The presentation will then focus on the initial findings from interviews with academics from across a range of disciplines that utilise OFW within their undergraduate programs. Key aspects of this discussion will be how the individual, discipline, and institutional environments enable or constrains the development of OFW curriculum.

This presentation will be beneficial for academics, teachers and disciplinary leaders as it will aid in understanding the different levels of constraints and opportunities that have implications for the creation of an OFW curriculum.

Brendon Munge is an associate lecturer in Outdoor and Environmental Studies in the School of Education at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. His teaching focuses on providing the foundational practical and theoretical experiences for new outdoor educators as they prepare to work in the profession. He is a current PhD candidate with a focus on outdoor fieldwork pedagogy in higher education.

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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