The influence of perceived risk in outdoor education among pre-teen age schoolchildren: Perspectives from EOTC teachers, Boards of Trustee Parents, and Outdoor Education Providers Research Completed

Title

The influence of perceived risk in outdoor education among pre-teen age schoolchildren: Perspectives from EOTC teachers, Boards of Trustee Parents, and Outdoor Education Providers

Lead Author

Mark Orams

Organisation(s)

AUT, New Zealand Tourism Research Institute (NZTRI)

Publication Year

2011

Publisher

AUT, NZTRI

Contacts

NZTRI

Mark Orams:

mark.orams@aut.ac.nz

 

Abstract

Anecdotal evidence and several high-profile fatalities associated with outdoor recreation have led some to believe that New Zealand parents and teachers are becoming more risk averse. Outdoor education is, however, a formal part of the school curriculum under the auspices of Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC). Furthermore, prior research has shown that active participation in outdoor pursuits has significant benefits for participants. Consequently, it is important to understand how risk is perceived by parents and teachers and what influence it may be having on participation rates and programming.

The exploratory study presented here utilised online, self-reply questionnaires to solicit views from teachers with responsibilities related to EOTC (n=276) and parents from primary and intermediate school Boards of Trustees (BoT) (n=534). In addition, 11 semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with key informants from outdoor education providers.

Data from these instruments showed that BoT parents are more accepting of outdoor education activities than might be presumed and do not have perceptions of risk that appear elevated. EOTC teachers, on the other hand, have higher levels of perceived risk. This is likely related to their professional roles and the fact that they have responsibility for the safety of the children in their school when they are undertaking outdoor education activities. As might be expected, BoT parents and EOTC teachers in rural areas have lower levels of concern about risk for their children than do their urban counterparts. Accidents and fatalities widely reported in the media were found to have limited effects on participation. However, the data did suggest parental anxiety increased after such incidents, but the research also showed that very few BoT parents respond by preventing their children from participating. Schools are more likely to reduce programmes and the data showed a small proportion of schools have responded to incidents in this way. Outdoor education professionals will be reassured that BoT parents appear to respond to publicised tragedy in the outdoors with a good deal of common sense. There is no doubt that there are isolated cases of individual BoT parents and, sometimes, whole schools cancelling outdoor education trips for children. These are seized on by the media as documented proof of “wrapping children in cotton wool”, “paranoid parenting”, and other phenomena implying parents or teachers are risk averse to an unhealthy degree. This study provides empirical data showing that most BoT parents and EOTC teachers do not respond in this way.

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Added

December 5, 2012

Last Modified

December 5, 2012

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