Outdoor and adventure activities as a part of physical education
This paper aims to examine the attitudes and confidence of primary teachers to deliver the Outdoor and Adventure Activities strand of the Physical Education curriculum. In contemporary outdoor and adventure activities, many complexities and challenges are involved, and hence, extensive research can mitigate those challenges. A Quantitative research methodology was used, and teachers’ responses were collected using an online questionnaire. The findings from the study are that teachers enjoy OAA both personally and professionally and believe children also enjoy the strand. Barriers to teaching the strand that respondents reported were a lack of confidence, competence and difficulties in planning and resourcing the subject. The injury involved in OAA activities was one of the major risks for teachers and students. It is recommended that further scientific and more effective research will contribute to OAA programmes in the future.
Introduction & Lit Review
This assignment explores primary teachers’ attitudes towards the Outdoor and Adventure (OAA) strand of the Physical Education (PE) curriculum using quantitative methods, namely an online questionnaire. In this paper, background knowledge will be discussed through a literature review. Finally, the findings from the research will be presented, and the researcher will present suggestion based on these findings in the discussion section of the paper.
In the view of Selhub & Logan (2012), most of the researches have presented the positive impact of immersion in nature on well being, creativity, brain function and mood, highlighting the potential of outdoor education for children. Outdoor and adventure activities were introduced as a strand in the 1999 Physical Education (PE) curriculum. However, it was not implemented until 2006. On the other hand, the report from the Government of Ireland (1999) indicates that the Irish PE curriculum aims to ‘promote the enjoyment of and positive attitudes towards physical activity and its contribution to lifelong health-related fitness, thus developing the passion of children to outdoor activity. Within this strand, they develop skills required to engage in walking, cycling, camping, orienteering and water-based activities, and promoting the understanding and appreciation of the strand by children and accepting outdoor challenges. Furthermore, it aims at introducing adventure to children and building trust, co-operation and problem-solving skills. Therefore, from the above evidence, it can be demanded that outdoor and adventure activities motivate children and, on the other hand, make them fit physically for any type of outdoor adventure.
Marron, Coulter & Murphy (2011) presented the perceived benefits of OAA, such as the belief that OAA holds the most potential for learning in the affective, social and cognitive domains. Additionally, Pickup & Price (2007) have remarked that the goal of children’s fitness is not only to make them fit as a mover who can perform effectively but also to inform them why they are doing these activities. Stiehl & Parker’s (2010) viewed that natural settings are the key backdrop to children for identifying and resolving real-life problems and acquiring knowledge and skills that can be applied within outdoor pursuits. This was emphasised by Darmody, Smyth and Doherty’s (2010) through a longitudinal study that revealed that children identified outdoor areas as their favourite space within their school, and it was also highlighted that children were most positive to perform more outdoor activities. However, from the view of the above author, it can be demanded that children enjoy OAA, and the children can be able to understand the actual reason for OAA activities.
Several studies illuminate the marginalised position of OAA at the international level (Brown, 2006; Coulter, 2012; Ofsted, 2009; Woods et al., 2018). For example, according to Woods et al. (2018), OAA was only present in 20% of PE curriculums being delivered and that there is still an over-reliance on the games strand of PE. On the contrary, Marron, Murphy & Coulter (2011) highlighted some barriers to teaching the strand: poor weather conditions, lack of resources/facilities, time constraints, time allocation for physical education at pre-service level, low levels of teacher confidence and competence and others. Further, a more recent study carried out by Bilton (2020) also listed similar barriers whilst also highlighting the importance of teachers values and attitudes towards the OAA. As a result, Brown (2006) has demonstrated that there is no plethora of large scale, robust data available regarding OAA and the barriers to its teaching. Therefore, from the above discussion, it can be deduced more data on the barriers to OAA will have to be explored, and the common barriers to OAA are required to be mitigated for flexible OAA to children.
For this research, a collaborative group was formed by researchers with a shared interest in the area of OAA. Researchers then developed their research question. The research was exploratory and aimed to collect the attitudes towards and confidence in teaching the OAA strand of PE. Therefore, the Quantitative method was most appropriate, as they allow the researcher to collect data from a wide sample from their chosen population of Irish primary school teachers and then establish statistically significant conclusions from our sample (Cresswell, 2003). Furthermore, the exploratory research design has helped the researcher have background knowledge in a broader way to meet the research objectives. In this way, the exploratory research design has helped the researcher bridge the gaps in his or her study. To collect data, an online survey was arranged. The survey was conducted to collect current data on the research because only secondary data would not be able to provide us with such current data on outdoor and adventure activities.
The instrument used to compile the data set was an online questionnaire as it is quick, convenient and inexpensive (Jones & Rattray, 2010). The questionnaire consisted of 28 questions. A variety of closed question types were employed. They included; demographic, rank order and rating questions in the form of Likert Scales. The exploratory research has also helped explore attitudes, knowledge and experiences of the participants to answer the questions (Parahoo, 2006). The research group was acutely aware and mindful of teachers’ workload and that a questionnaire was consistent with the respondent’s life (Cohen et al., 2011). Therefore, it can be believed that closed questions would increase our response rate and make it more straightforward and quicker for us to code than word-based data (Bailey, 1994).
Due to the nature of our research, our population was pre-determined as primary school teachers. Therefore, the total sample size of the population was 480 participants. To gain access to our population sample, Snowball sampling was used. Each researcher contacted twenty teachers, asking them to complete the survey and pass the survey on to one other primary school teacher. This strategy was chosen as questionnaires traditionally tend to have a low response rate (Parahoo, 2006).
It was necessary to gain ethical approval from Dublin City University (DCU) to carry out the research. To gain this approval, an ethics approval form was used. This outlined the research aims, the form it would take, steps taken to ensure anonymity and any potential risks to the participants. Approval was granted on the 13th of April 2021.No identifying details were asked for in the survey to ensure each participant’s anonymity. Once potential participants agreed to participate in the survey, they were sent an electronic link for the plain language statement and the questionnaire itself. Ong & Puteh (2017) have demonstrated data analysis in quantitative research in social science. The collected data have been analysed quantitatively through SPSS tools with graphs, and numerical figures and graphs and numerical figures have been effective for the easy understanding of the readers. The researcher has explained the results and findings through those numerical figures and graphs in an easier way than in a qualitative way.
Within this section of the assignment, the findings from the study have been analysed using valid percentages relevant to each of the findings reported. Out of a total of 480 potential respondents, we had 389 (n=389) complete the survey, making our response rate 71%, a good indicator of the validity of responses. In addition, our sample percentage in terms of DEIS (17%) and Non- DEIS (83%) teachers was close to the population percentage of 21% and 79%, respectively, indicating a reliable sample.
Respondent demographics and school profiles
|Class level taught||Infants
Support/ Special/ Multi-grade
2- 5 years
6- 9 years
Personal and professional attitudes towards Outdoor and Adventure
In the following questions, the researchers wanted to gain an insight into teachers’ attitudes towards Outdoor and Adventure, both personally and professionally. Whilst also gauging their perceptions of pupil’s enjoyment of the strand. The findings suggest that the attitudes of teachers are exceptionally high, both personally and professionally. Teachers also perceived children’s attitude towards the strand to be exceptionally high, with 97.9% agreeing or strongly agreeing that children enjoyed the strand.
Figure2: Time spent teaching Outdoor and Adventure Activities strand
Analysis: The majority of teachers (86%) from within this research spent less than the suggested six hours per year suggested in the 1999 curriculum.
Figure 3: Respondents ranked strands in order of importance within their practice
Analysis: Teachers were asked whether particular strands were prioritised within their practice. Those who answered yes (n=175) were asked to rank the strands in order of importance. Findings showed an over-emphasis on games, with 65.7% ranking it first in terms of importance within their practice. OAA cumulative percentage from 1st to 3rd was 22.3% compared to 77.6% from 4th– 6th.
Figure4: Teacher’s opinions of OAA
Analysis: Table four represents teachers (n=290) opinions on the planning, organisation and delivery of OAA. The sample population reported lacking confidence in their abilities to plan, organise and deliver practical OAA lessons. Finally, 67% of teachers stated that they were unaware of where they could access supports to develop their abilities to deliver the strand. Therefore, support to teachers is necessary for an effective OAA program.
Figure 5: Resources available to deliver OAA lessons
Analysis: Respondents(n=285) reported their school environment to facilitate the teaching of OAA, and just over half of the respondents (n=285) felt their locality also supported the teaching of OAA. However, 84.8% of respondents (n=285) felt their schools were not adequately resourced or simply did not know if they were or not.
Table 2: Teachers awareness of resources within their school for the teaching of OAA (n=326)
|Resources Available||Percentage %|
|I don’t know
Figure 6: Barriers associated with OAA
Analysis: In the above graph, respondents reported that overwhelmingly weather was a major barrier and severe risks. When asked what risks were associated with OAA, respondents gave the answers listed in table 2.
Table 3: Risks associated with OAA
|Risk Associated with OAA||Percentage %|
Pupil/ Teacher Ratio
Analysis: In the above table, 30% of the respondents have responded that injury is the most severe risk in QAA. 29% have indicated pupil-teacher ratio as the most severe risk, 21% have indicated the environmental factors, 18% have shown the risks associated with insurance and the rest 2% have indicated the other risks. Therefore, risks in OAA are to be mitigated to get the best results from OAA.
From our results, it is clear that teachers themselves enjoy OAA and teach the strand from the PE curriculum, a finding that correlates with Biltons’s(2020) study. Similarly to Darmody et al.’s (2010) findings, respondents believed children also enjoy the strand. However, teachers within this sample reported having an environment available that facilitates the teaching of the OAA strand. However, the findings can be supported by another study by Woods et al. (2018). Therefore, environmental barriers are one of the major barriers to OAA, which is to be mitigated.
The study’s findings also demonstrated that only a small majority of teachers felt unconfident in teaching the strand. According to Christie et al. (2014), a lack of confidence can lead to teaching OAA. Marron et al. (2012) cited the crucial importance of supporting the continued professional development (CPD) of teachers in the area of OAA. Similar findings reported in Coulter’s (2012) study showed that teachers were encouraged and more confident to teach when they had the appropriate resources. Self-confidence is necessary for own success, and effective teaching for students is necessary. Therefore, the teachers should gain confidence through their continuous cognitive and practical experience for effective OAA.
Whilst feeling their skills were inadequate to deliver lessons, teachers from within this sample also felt that their schools did not have the resources required to deliver the strand, and the planning of its lessons was difficult. Similar to what was found by Marron et al. (2012), whose research pointed out that teachers found the PSSI (2006) lesson plans difficult to follow without assistance. Teachers’ plans will have to be emphasised, and adequate resource is also necessary to support them. The findings from the survey have proved that the school environment is necessary for OAA, and sports has been proved to be the most accepted of all OAA related activities. Clapham et al. (2014) have also suggested in their study that physical activities in the natural environment can be regarded as a therapeutic tool to support children’s physical activities.
On the contrary, the weather has been a major barrier in the activities in OAA activities. Further, injury is the most severe risk that can also act as a barrier in OAA activities. Senthilkumaran & Pratim (2017), in a study, have viewed that injury is very common to any adventure activities and the operator of each adventure activity is responsible for identifying the related risks and also mitigating them. Therefore, every school authority must be aware of OAA-related injuries and other related risks and mitigate them to make OAA an essential part of physical education.
In conclusion, it is clear from this research that teachers enjoy and place value in OAA. However, there are several barriers to its successful implementation that need to be addressed before Irish primary schools experience the much-publicised much-publicised benefits of OAA. Overall, this research suggests that generalist primary teachers lack the subject knowledge and resulting confidence and competence to deliver quality OAA programmes. In addition, the lack of training during ITE is almost nonexistent for fully qualified teachers. It is clear both from this research and the small number of other studies that teachers would greatly benefit from continued professional development in this area.
Injury during performing the OAA activities has been proved major risks, and the school authorities are required to take responsibilities to mitigate injury and other risks. Perhaps a more realistic and effective measure can benefit both the teacher and the students and online classes and materials. As suggested by Cohen, Manion & Morrison (2011), this study would greatly benefit from a follow up using qualitative research methods ‘go deeper into respondents’ motivations and their reasons for responding as they did. However, gaining consent from the respondents was the major limitation in the primary research. Further, the researcher faced challenges while searching the secondary data from the online sources for literature review. Nevertheless, the research will contribute to further development in outdoor and adventure activities through physical education. A further future study will explore more data that will help the teachers on an international basis to conduct effective OAA programmes.
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