Walking in wilderness: reflections for personal and professional growth

TitillWalking in wilderness: reflections for personal and professional growth
Form útgáfuTímaritsgrein
HöfundarHervör Alma Árnadóttir, Jakob Frímann Þorsteinsson, Karen Rut Gísladóttir
TímaritPathways: The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education
Lykilorðhigher eduaction, Outdoor education, personal growth, professional growth, Teaching Methods

Taking students into nature for the purpose of creating opportunities for professional and personal development is not traditionally accepted in Icelandic universities. However, for the last few years, there has been a growing demand for teachers to apply a wide range of teaching approaches, taking into account teacher and student co-learning. This requirement has opened possibilities for unconventional ways of teaching at the university level. Research indicates that being in the wilderness provides both personal and professional affordances unavailable in other settings (Árnadóttir, Þorsteinsson & Gísladóttir, 2017; Jakube, Jasiene, Taylor and Vandenbussche, 2016). The aim here is to point out what kind of knowledge, reflective practice and emotional competence educators who work in natural surroundings need, so that they can support students when unpredictable circumstances arise during the program. This paper is based on one journey that took place during an outdoors course (which has been systematically developing at the University of Iceland for the past number of years).

We describe four days of a journey and refer to reflective journals from educators and students. Participants were three educators and 25 students from the fields of Leisure Studies, Social Studies, Tourism Studies, and Geography. The data was encoded and themed. Results indicate that being outside in nature for some time has a strong impact on students, personally and professionally, regardless of the discipline they come from. Also, the results indicate that knowledge and experience of the teachers who work within nature is crucial when unexpected circumstances arise. Their experience and ability to stay in the moment and to handle new and challenging situations in a creative way is essential in order to hold on to the learning process, despite changes in the program. The authors believe it is important to train students to experience nature in a variety of ways, through education and work.

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