Understanding the Facilitator’s Role in Outdoor and Environmental Education: An Autoethnographic Study
Mellsop, Hanne Jade
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This research examines the role of the facilitator in achieving environmental sustainability outcomes in outdoor education. The current literature base and the researcher’s experiences as a facilitator are analysed to understand how to more effectively educate for the environment. Climate change and the adventure and risk-based nature of outdoor education emphasise the importance of this research in encouraging a shift in the objectives of outdoor education. Applying an autoethnographic lens has allowed the researcher to embody a personal journey of discovery through self-reflection and self- observation. Qualitative data was collected in the form of reflective journal entries kept over the past year which were explored alongside an extensive literature review. This literature covered outdoor education, experiential learning, environmental sustainability, the action competence model, place- responsive learning, programme length, and effective facilitation. Key findings highlighted the themes of being caught ‘on the hop’, the importance of consistency and repetitive experiences, the difference between knowing and understanding, and that children should be taught how to think, not what to think. Childhood experiences have been raised as an indicator of pro- environmental behaviours and having a connection to nature is found to be influential in developing a meaningful relationship with nature. The importance of having local knowledge, especially in a place- responsive programme, was brought to attention, alongside being intentional and creative as a facilitator, which can significantly improve the engagement and value of a session. Furthermore, having knowledge of core values and principles allows facilitators to maintain effectiveness in challenging situations. This study was important for challenging the role outdoor education has in educating for the environment and understanding how this can be achieved. Recommendations have been made to outdoor centres and facilitators to consider how they can demonstrate and effectively facilitate environmental sustainability outcomes. Specifically, recommendations have been made for outdoor centres to support political action focused on positive environmental sustainability changes, and to incorporate more sustainable actions such as riparian planting and community engagement events. Additionally, offering more staff development opportunities as facilitators are critical to the delivery of programmes. For outdoor facilitators, recommendations have been made to engage in self-reflection by keeping a logbook of how each session went and how they could improve next time, as well as seeking resources and workshops that support their personal development.