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Encountering risk: 'everyday' experiences of outdoor adventure education instructors

posted on 16.02.2017, 03:05 by Funnell, Aaron Brook
This thesis is a qualitative study of the lived experience of risk in outdoor adventure education and was guided by the following research question: How do outdoor adventure education instructors experience everyday risks and make decisions in their work? Existing research and professional literature on this topic is largely quantitative based and has tended to focus on accident trends and patterns. As such this study contributes to the current body of knowledge by expanding this topic through the use of qualitative methods. Specifically this thesis departs from the prevailing positivist and post-positivist approaches, and employs a phenomenological orientation to take a constructionist approach to risk in which the everyday experiences of outdoor adventure education (OAE) instructors are given a voice. The insights found in their stories enrich the current body of knowledge about risk and decisionmaking in OAE. A unique aspect of the study involved a critical review of a wide range of risk research and literature that was sourced from both inside and outside of OAE. This was done in an attempt to ascertain where common and taken-for-granted ideas, concepts and practices relating to risk in OAE have their origins and, in some cases, raised questions about their suitability for use in OAE. This critical review also prepared the researcher for the datagathering phase of the research. In the study phase of the research a series of three in depth 'phenomenological interviews' (Seidman, 1998) were completed with each of three participants who had an extensive employment history as instructors in OAE in Asia. These nine interviews in total resulted in a considerable amount of 'experiential data' (van Manen, 1990) which was coded, analysed and thematised to produce research texts (van Manen, 1990) about the phenomenon under investigation. An investigation into the lived experience of risk is enlightening as OAE instructors usually take a duel approach to risk. Risks to program participants are both managed for safety, but are also intentionally used as a form of pedagogy. As the research was conducted in Asia this thesis also contributes to the body of OAE knowledge from this region as it explores a phenomenon (OAE) which has both international and local dimensions. Four themes emerged from this study. The most significant of these is the use of folk models of risk and decision-making by OAE instructors when engaged in their daily practice. The other themes identified were the role of human subjectivity in the lived experience of risk; experience, risk and judgment; and, finally that of risk as a form of pedagogy.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Brian Wattchow

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Monash University. Faculty of Education. Education


Faculty of Education