Thursday, April 7, 2011

Place-Based Curriculum and Instruction: Outdoor and Environmental Education Approaches. ERIC Digest.

Place-based education is a relatively new term, appearing only recently in the education literature. However, progressive educators have promoted the concept for more than 100 years. For example, in "The School and Society," John Dewey advocated an experiential approach to student learning in the local environment: "Experience [outside the school] has its geographical aspect, its artistic and its literary, its scientific and its historical sides. All studies arise from aspects of the one earth and the one life lived upon it" (1915, p. 91). Place-based education usually includes conventional outdoor education methodologies as advocated by John Dewey to help students connect with their particular corners of the world. Proponents of place-based education often envision a role for it in achieving local ecological and cultural sustainability (1). This Digest reviews placebased curriculum and instruction, especially as it relates to outdoor and environmental education, and provides examples of K-12 resources and programs.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


The main purpose of "outdoor education" is to provide meaningful contextual experiences--in both natural and constructed environments--that complement and expand classroom instruction, which tends to be dominated by print and electronic media (Knapp, 1996, p. ix). It is a broader term than "environmental education," which can be described as instruction directed toward developing a citizenry prepared to live well in a place without destroying it (Orr, 1994, p. 14). Environmental education can occur both inside and outside the classroom.

Understanding the relationships among place-based education, outdoor education, and environmental education is worthwhile because each concept has been developed somewhat separately by educators who have produced curriculum materials and instructional practices that could be useful within the other concept areas. Further complicating this potential exchange is the variety of labels that have been applied to each of these approaches. For example, as the field of outdoor education matured, it was labeled school camping, camping education, and eventually, outdoor education. Likewise, place-based education has been referred to as "community-oriented schooling," "ecological education," and "bioregional education."

Paul Theobald refers to "place-conscious" elementary and secondary classrooms in his book, "Teaching The Commons" (1997, pp. 132-159). He advocates using the immediate locale as "the lens for disciplinary engagement in all schools across the country" (p. 137). In a later article, Theobald and Curtiss (2000) describe the field as "community-oriented schooling."

Smith and Williams (1999) describe this approach as "ecological education." They write, "The practice of ecological education requires viewing human beings as one part of the natural world and human cultures as an outgrowth of interactions between species and particular places" (p. 3). The authors outline seven principles, two of which directly reflect outdoor education: (1) practical experiences outdoors through the application of an ethic of care, and (2) grounding learning in a sense of place through investigation of surrounding natural and human communities.

Traina and Darley-Hill (1995) extend "locale" to include "bioregional education," encouraging students and teachers to know their place and to consider the impact of lifestyles on the resources of that bioregion. Similarly, Orr's (1994) call for "ecoliteracy" presents principles for rethinking education that clearly relate place-based education to outdoor education: (1) students should understand the effects of this knowledge on real people and their communities; and (2) learning though direct experiences outside the classroom is as important as the content of particular courses.

Thomashow (1995) writes about the goal of achieving "ecological identity" through the examination of four basic questions: What do I know about the place where I live? Where do things come from? How do I connect to the earth? What is my purpose as a human being? He integrates these questions into activities by incorporating reflective learning in the school, home, community, and the workplace (p. xvii). These questions focus curriculum and instruction on understanding and appreciating students' immediate surroundings.

Haymes (1995) speaks directly to a "pedagogy of place" and addresses issues of race and class as they are made manifest in the construction of urban environments and in the power and politics that emerge from those constructs. His work takes a cultural studies perspective and contributes a much-needed complement to more conventional outdoor/environmental curriculum and instruction.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Seven Principles For Good Practice in Undergraduate


by Arthur W. Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson

Arthur Chickering is Distinguished Professor of Higher Education at Memphis State University. On leave from the Directorship of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Memphis State, he is Visiting Professor at George Mason University. Zelda Gamson is a sociologist who holds appointments at the John W. McCormack Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan. Apathetic students, illiterate graduates, incompetent teaching, impersonal campuses-so rolls the drum-fire of criticism of higher education. More than two years of reports have spelled out the problems. States have been quick to respond by holding out carrots and beating with sticks.

There are neither enough carrots nor enough sticks to improve undergraduate education without the commitment and action of students and faculty members. They are the precious resources on whom the improvement of undergraduate education depends. But how can students and faculty members improve undergraduate education? Many campuses around the country are asking this question. To provide a focus for their work, we offer seven principles based on research on good teaching and learning in colleges and universities.

Good practice in undergraduate education:

1. Encourages contact between students and faculty

2. Develops reciprocity and cooperation among students.

3. Encourages active learning.

4. Gives prompt feedback.

5. Emphasizes time on task.

6. Communicates high expectations.

7. Respects diverse talents and ways of learning.