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Mistakes, risk, and learning in outdoor education

Abstract

Within many contemporary social, workplace and sporting contexts, mistakes are often perceived to be negative, resulting in underperformance and something to be avoided. Within education, in contrast, prominent educational researcher Hattie (2012) suggests “mistakes are the essence of learning” (p. 26). For Hattie, the role of mistakes within the learning process needs to be seen as positive. Creating opportunities for students to learn from mistakes through effective feedback is key to raising achievement. Yet in traditional outdoor education, where risky activities are often a central feature, the role of mistakes in the teaching and learning process has seldom been examined. This paper, therefore, explores how secondary outdoor education teachers perceive the notion that mistakes are the essence of learning, and how they view the role that mistakes have in the learning processes in their outdoor education programs. Employing a qualitative approach, the findings of this study emphasise teachers’ beliefs that mistakes are indeed important in the learning process. The inclusion of mistakes and feedback in outdoor education programs is, however, less than clear. Many teachers spoke of constraints such as short duration programs, not knowing students, and risky activities which made it unlikely for mistakes to be welcomed. In contrast one teacher with a yearlong program sought opportunities for students to make mistakes and learn from these through feedback.

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Correspondence to Allen Hill.

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Cure, S., Hill, A. & Cruickshank, V. Mistakes, risk, and learning in outdoor education. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education 21, 153–171 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42322-018-0012-y

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Keywords

  • Outdoor learning
  • Outdoor education
  • Pedagogy
  • Learning
  • Risk
  • Feedback
  • Mistakes