Reflections on Transformation: How New Zealand Outdoor Educators Construct Programmes to Address (Non-religious) Spiritual Growth
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The aim of this thesis is to understand how outdoor education programmes in New Zealand address spirituality. Spirituality is about seeking and experiencing that which is sacred. Spirituality can be theistic (God/s attributed) or non-theistic (not attributed to God/s). Spirituality is transformational. It results in a person having a greater sense of who they are and what they are capable of. It results in stronger connections to others and a deeper connection to that which is not-human. In non-theistic spirituality, this is most often a connection to nature. There is very little literature that examines spirituality in New Zealand outdoor education programmes, or the thoughts of New Zealand outdoor educators. These shortcomings are addressed by this thesis. It asks whether outdoor educators recognize spiritual transformation in their students. It asks if there are components of programmes that influence this transformation. It does so in order to understand how a programme structure might be aligned more closely to this purpose, and what such a structure might look like. A post qualitative approach was taken. This enabled a bricolage of methods, whereby interview excerpts and journal writing were woven with autobiography and the philosophy of Deleuze. Interviews with nine experienced practitioners showed that their programmes were secular. While a Māori world view was acknowledged, it was the values espoused in Māori lore that resonated. The interviews showed that non-theistic spiritual transformation in students was able to be recognized during a programme and afterwards. The interviews suggested that a programme contributed to this by having components that actively ‘do’ things, components that strengthen a sense of place, and components that encourage the inner development of the student. A key part of a programme was having multi-skilled staff whose values and philosophy aligned with programme purpose. Deleuzean concepts revealed how staff developed their philosophy. The journey to becoming-outdoor educator was replete with significant moments called thresholds, whereby not only their life direction but their sense of self was altered. When they had influence over an outdoor programme, the staff sought to replicate these significant moments for their students. This thesis suggests that a programme aligned towards spirituality, has thresholds that are purposeful, numerous, and recurring. They occur when students interact with other people and with nature, and with the encouragement to examine the self. The student repeatedly goes away from themselves into these other domains, but always comes back to re-examine their self, each time being changed a little. Such a programme is spirographic in movement rather than linear. Spirographing enhances the possibility of spiritual transformation. Moreover, such a programme has a feel of happiness to it, created by the alignment of values, pedagogy, programming, people and place. The significance of this study is that it is a new way of thinking about programming. It releases New Zealand outdoor educators from discourses that have dominated. It raises the possibility of crafting transformational experiences. It archives the insights and experiences of some of the shape makers of New Zealand outdoor education.