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PHSE558 Teaching and Learning in the Outdoors

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An exploration of how people learn through direct experiences in outdoor situations and how natural environments are utilised as learning contexts. These theories will be applied in a residential camp setting.

This paper examines the theory and practice of outdoor teaching and learning, with particular reference to the Aotearoa New Zealand context. Building on the knowledge introduced within PHSE 101 Sociocultural Foundations of Physical Education and PHSE 104 Applied Physical Experiences, this paper explores the philosophical, cultural and pedagogical concepts that influence how outdoor education is practised today. Where possible, theoretical discussion is grounded in examples from the New Zealand primary, secondary and tertiary outdoor education sector.
The second half of the programme is built around small groups of students developing teaching, learning and safety management plans that are implemented during a two-day camp at Karitane. This paper is part of an excellent foundation for those considering further research and/or a career as an educator, instructor, guide or facilitator in an outdoor context.

Paper title Teaching and Learning in the Outdoors
Paper code PHSE558
Subject Physical Education
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Second Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,590.98
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $5,357.07

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Pre or Corequisite
PHSE 231 and PHSE 327
PHSE 328
Limited to
BPhEd(Hons), PGDipOE, PGDipPE, MDanceSt, MPhEd
Students with equivalent prior outdoor education experience may be admitted with approval from the Dean of the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences.
Suitable for students interested in applying theoretical constructs of teaching and learning in a practical, outdoor context. Postgraduate students (domestic and international) enrolling should have a relevant undergraduate degree and/or significant outdoor education-related experience.
International students on exchange are welcome to apply for PHSE 328, but should NOT apply to PHSE 558. See details in PHSE 328.
Teaching staff
Course Co-ordinator: Geoff Ockwell
A number of experienced professionals from the wider outdoor teaching and learning sector will provide guest lectures.
Paper Structure
The paper covers:
  • The philosophical and cultural underpinnings of outdoor teaching and learning
  • Learning theory and models in outdoor learning
  • Planning for learning
  • Developing and implementing an outdoor learning session
  • Risk and safety in outdoor teaching and learning
  • Evaluating outdoor learning experiences
Teaching Arrangements
Experiential learning approaches are used where class size and particular paper content allow. PHSE 558 students will be expected to offer more critical analysis and discussion within each of the three assignments, and a further 500 words is expected within assignments 1 and 3.
Readings for the paper are available on course reserve (online). Copies of the recommended texts are kept on reserve at the Central Library.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Lifelong learning, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork, Interdisciplinary perspectives.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the paper students should be able to:
  • Discuss the historical, philosophical and social foundations of outdoor learning, with particular emphasis on the Aotearoa New Zealand context
  • Discuss experiential learning concepts that could be applied appropriately within an outdoor context
  • Plan, implement and evaluate an outdoor learning session for a small group
  • Discuss and begin to implement a number of safety management principles in outdoor learning contexts
  • Identify and account for a number of ethical, cultural and environmental considerations related to outdoor learning situations
  • Demonstrate cultural and environmental safety
  • Articulate a personal philosophy of outdoor teaching and learning based on theoretical analysis and informed practice and reflection

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Second Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Wednesday 15:00-16:50 28-34, 36-41