Beth Parker MSc Dissertation 2023

Project Title: Outdoor Education with Women: Bringing in more humanistic approaches to learning in nature.

This Dissertation was submitted by Beth Parker for her MSc Education for Sustainable Futures in Adult, Community & Youth Contexts at the University of Glasgow, The School of Education in August 2023.


This research is based on the outdoor experiences of woman in the Northeast of Glasgow. It was important to me to research the positives and negatives of outdoor education by using different theories and methods to underpin the work I was doing. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic there has been a significant rise in outdoor education within families, especially in urban areas. Biddle (2020) discusses the significant rise in outdoor physical activities during the pandemic. They talk about this increase being due to the fact families and individuals were stuck inside their homes during the lockdown. This made more people motivated to go outdoors and exercise, so they were not stuck at home. From a personal perspective this is what happened to myself as well, once restrictions on travelling out with your city were lifted, I couldn’t wait to go and explore Scotland. I found outdoor activities a way to release any stresses from my day-to-day life and it made me fall in love with the beauty of my country. Stolzenberg (2020) talked about the benefits of outdoor education and recreational activities in woman and how it helped grow self-esteem and body image in females. This resonated with me when exploring my findings within this piece of research. It really came down to how the woman were feeling at the beginning of this piece of work through to the end. This will be a topic I will cover when discussing the findings of this research. 

Outdoor education can be a powerful tool for experiential learning and personal growth. I wanted to take the focus on promoting women’s leadership, building self-confidence, and challenging stereotypes. Female participants can be encouraged to take on leadership roles in planning and implementing activities, fostering a sense of agency and self-efficacy. This was at the core of this research and women’s empowerment through fostering different humanist and community development theories. The ideology of bringing in community development theories was based on my undergraduate degree and my full-time job as a community worker and outdoor educator. This research will explore these theories and how they have underpinned this piece of work. 

Something that made this piece of work very authentic and important was the fact that women involved had no prior experience to taking part in outdoor education. In terms of authenticity the reason for no prior experience was to gauge a true reflection on progress. If someone came in who has done some of these activities before then it would be difficult to gauge their progression, especially within the case studies. Throughout this piece of work, I will speak about the following different aspects of outdoor activities;

Paddle sports using a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP)

Cold Water Therapy 

Outdoor Meditation 

Hiking in Lowland Terrain (lowland terrain being a walk which doesn’t have an incline and remains at the same level throughout) 

Hiking in Hills and Munros (Munro being the Scottish Term for a mountain) 

These are the main areas of activity in which I worked in with these women. Any areas I took them to were well researched by me taking each area in on a solo activity. This allowed me to take notes on any issues with land access and risk assessments in each area to suit the activity. This whole journey with the woman took place over June and July in 2023 in all weathers. The important thing out of all of this was about bringing women into outdoor spaces and bringing in the theories that shaped this piece of work. Not only was this an important factor but also the importance of connecting people and creating new safe spaces. Block (2008) focused on asset-based community development, and he discusses the importance of connecting people through safe spaces and the importance of empowering individuals and creating a space to open up new dialogue. I really resonated with this due to opening a safe space outside in which women could engage in the literature around outdoor education and the importance of nature when looking at our mental and physical wellbeing. Morton (2012) delves into the philosophy around connecting all people to the environment around us. My understanding of his work was how we as humans shape our relationships within outdoor spaces. It allowed me to engage in dialogue with the participants about our ecological responsibilities and how we might look to shape or even reimagine our connections deep within nature. 

Furthermore, in this research my understanding of how we engage in outdoor education really adapted. Upon undertaking this research and starting to understand the theories, I really thought I would use certain theories and could imagine how they would work. However, like all community workers and researchers we adapt our ideas and theories to suit how our groups or participants fit within that field. For me at first it was difficult to disengage from my professional career to a more researcher role in outdoor education. Working in the outdoors had never been a researching point of view and more of an exciting role within my life where I got to share my passions with others. I think it’s important to reflect on my own journey within this project and how it shaped me to become the researcher I am today, and how I will not only use this piece of work to shape my understandings but also shape me as a researcher in the future. 

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Beth Parker (PDF)

Last modified: Wednesday, 13 December 2023, 6:19 PM