Comments about Change and Psychological Aspects of Outdoor Education


James T. Neill

University of New Hampshire, 2002


During the course of a graduate class titled “Psychological Aspects of Outdoor Education”, students participated in a listserv-style discussion about course content.  Discussion often emerged with a focus on elements of ‘personal change’ in the context of outdoor education.  Common points of debate included whether the capacity for outdoor education to cause personal change was underestimated or overestimated, the responsibility and skills of instructors in facilitating personal change, and whether or not outdoor education should seek to change participants.  Whilst I applaud the questions about whether change is possible and whether outdoor education should seek to change participants, I also wished to point out to the students that such questions should function as gateways, and not end points, given that the course’s aim was to explore psychological aspects of outdoor education.  In fact, I proposed, as we move beyond the paradoxical and complex nature of questions about change, more demanding and practical questions open up, centered around the theme: “In what ways might we apply theories and methods developed in psychology to the field of outdoor education?”.  This question includes, but is not limited to, discussion about change.

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