The Paradox of Structured Autonomy: A Critical Ethnography of Challenge-by-Choice and Safe Spaces in Adventure-based Experiential Education
Whereas conceptual deconstructions and critiques of safe space pedagogies as subtly oppressive are readily available, little empirical research has systematically explored the manners in which students and educators come up against such curricula. This study focuses on a popular American setting for alternative and progressive learning: an adventure and environmental education center that uses safe space pedagogies in manners historically claimed to maximize student experiences. The author posits that unintended breakdowns in democratic learning appear borne of hierarchically privileging structural norms of individualism in safe space pedagogies. The argument highlights ways in which students and educators are actively—if tacitly—renegotiating alternative educational environments beyond the claims of safe space pedagogy.
Armstrong, C.F. (1990). On the making of good men: Character-building in the New England boarding schools. In P. Kingston & L. Lewis (Eds.) The high-status track: Studies of elite schools and stratification (pp. 3-24). New York: State University of New York Press.
Bailey, A. (2007). Strategic ignorance. In S. Sullivan & N. Tuana (Eds.), Race and epistemologies of ignorance (pp. 77-94). New York: State University of New York Press.
Biesta, G.J.J. (1994). Education as practical intersubjectivity: Towards a critical-pragmatic understanding of education. Educational Theory, 44(3), 299-317.
Bowridge, M., & Blenkinsop, S. (2011). Michel Foucault goes outside: Discipline and control in the practice of outdoor education. Journal of Experiential Education, 34(2), 149-163.
Britzman, D.P., & Gilbert, J. (2004). What will have been said about gayness in teacher education. Teaching Education, 15(1), 81-96.
Brookes, A. (2003). A critique of neo-Hahnian outdoor education theory. Part one: Challenges to the concept of ‘character building’. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 3(1), 49-62.
Brown, M. (2002). The facilitator as gatekeeper: A critical analysis of social order in facilitation sessions. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 2(2), 101-112.
Brown, M. (2009). Reconceptualising outdoor adventure education: Activity in search of an appropriate theory. Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 13(2), 3-13.
Brown, M. (2010). Transfer: Outdoor adventure education’s Achilles heel? Changing participation as a viable option. Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 14(1), 13-22.
Carlson, J.A., & Evans, K. (2001). Whose choice is it? Contemplating challenge-by-choice and diverse-abilities. The Journal of Experiential Education, 24(1), 58-63.
Carspecken, P.F. (1996). Critical ethnography in educational research: A theoretical and practical guide. New York: Routledge.
Chickering, A. (1976). Developmental change as a major outcome. In M. Keeton (ed.), Experiential Learning (pp. 62-107). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.
Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education. New York: Free Press.
Dewey, J. (1922). Human nature and conduct: An introduction to social psychology. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
Dewey, J. (1927). The public and its problems. New York: Henry Holt & Co.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Macmillan.
Dewey, J. (1976). Creative democracy: The task before us. In J. Boydston (Ed.), John Dewey, The later works 1925-1953: Vol 14. Carbondale, Southern Illinois University.
Dewey, J. (n.d./1981). Experience and nature: A re-introduction. In J. Ratner (Ed.), John Dewey, The later works 1925-1953 volume 1 (pp. 330-361). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Ellsworth, E. (1989). Why doesn’t this feel empowering? Working through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy. Harvard Educational Review, 59(3), 297-324.
Engeström, Y. (1999). Expansive visibilization of work: An activity-theoretical perspective. Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 8(1), 63-93.
Engeström, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133-156.
Fenwick, T.J. (2001). Experiential learning: A theoretical critique from five perspectives. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education.
Freeman, M. (2010). From “character training” to “personal growth”: The early history of Outward Bound 1941-1965. History of Education, 40(1), 21-43.
Habermas, J. (1984). The theory of communicative action. Cambridge: Polity.
Hackford-Peer, K. (2010). In the name of safety: Discursive positions of queer youth. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 29(6), 541-556.
Hahn, K. (1934). The practical child and the bookworm. The Listener (November 28, 1934), 39-41.
Humberstone, B. (1995). Bringing outdoor adventure into the physical education agenda: Gender identities and social change. Quest, 47(1), 144-157.
Itin, C. (1996). CbC as professional enabling. Rocky: Newsletter of the Rocky Mountain Region of the Association for Experiential Education, 6(2), 2.
Itin, C. (1997). The impelling principle in CbC. Rocky: Newsletter of the Rocky Mountain Region of the Association for Experiential Education, 7(1), 1-2.
Kaldec, A. (2007). Dewey’s critical pragmatism. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Korth, B. (2003). A critical reconstruction of care-in-action. The Qualitative Report, 8(3), 487-512.
Korth, B. (2007). The leaps of faith in social science: Study of the imagined in the discourse of the real. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 6(1), 69-94.
Kumashiro, K. K. (2000). Toward a theory of anti-oppressive education. Review of Educational Research, 70(1), 25-53.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Leonardo, Z. (2002). The souls of white folk: Critical pedagogy, whiteness studies, and globalization discourse. Race Ethnicity and Education, 5(1), 29-50.
Leonardo, Z., & Porter, R.K. (2010). Pedagogy of fear: toward a Fanonian theory of “safety” in race dialog. Race Ethnicity and Education, 13(2), 139-157.
Lissen, B. (2000). Is there choice in CbC? Pathways: The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education, 12(4), 20.
Matusov, E. (2001). Intersubjectivity as a way of informing teaching design for a community of learners classroom. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17(4), 383-402.
Mitten, D., & Dutton, R. (1993). Outdoor leadership considerations with women survivors of sexual abuse. Journal of Experiential Education, 16(1), 7-13.
Nerlich, M. (1987). Ideology of adventure: Studies in modern consciousness 1100-1750, Volumes 1 & 2. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Panicucci, J. (2007). Cornerstones of adventure education. In D. Prouty, J. Panicucci, & R. Collinson (Eds.), Adventure education: Theory and applications (pp. 33-48). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Prouty, D. (2007). Introduction to adventure education. In D. Prouty, J. Panicucci & R. Collinson (Eds.), Adventure education: Theory and applications (pp. 3-17). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Roberts, J. (2008). From experience to neo-experiential education: Variations on a theme. Journal of Experiential Education, 31(1), 19-35.
Rogoff, B., & Angelillo, C. (2002). Investigating the coordinated functioning of multifaceted cultural practices in human development. Human Development, 45(1), 211-225.
Rhonke, K.E. (2000). Kurt Hahn address: 2000 AEE International Conference. Journal of Experiential Education, 23(3), 166-169.
Rhonke, K. (2010). CbC: The real story. The Ripple Effect, 33(1), 2-3.
Schoel, J., Prouty, D., & Radcliffe, P. (1988). Islands of healing: A guide to adventure-based counseling. Beverly, MA: Project Adventure.
Schoel, J., & Maizell, R.S. (2002). Exploring islands of healing: New perspectives on adventure-based counseling. Beverly, MA: Project Adventure.
Seaman, J. (2007). Taking things into account: Learning as kinaesthetically-mediated collaboration. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 7(1), 3-20.
Seaman, J. (2008). Experience, reflect, critique: The end of the “learning cycles” era. Journal of Experiential Education, 31(1), 3-18.
Seaman, J., & Nelsen, P.J. (2011). An overburdened term: Dewey’s concept of experience as curriculum theory. Journal of Education and Culture, 27(1), Article 4. Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/eandc/vol27/iss1/art4
Stan, I. (2009). Recontextualizing the role of the facilitator in group interaction in the outdoor classroom. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 9(1), 23-43.
Stengel, B.S. (2010). The complex case of fear and safe space. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 29(1), 523-540.
Strauss, A.L. (1993). Continual permutations of action. Hawthorne, NY: Walter de Gruyter.
Tinning, R. (2002). Toward a “modest pedagogy”: Reflections on the problematics of critical pedagogy. Quest, 54(1), 224-240.
Vernon, F. (2011). Whose responsibility is it? The hierarchical contract in co-instruction. Proceedings from the Symposium on Experiential Education Research (39th, Jacksonville, Fl, November 2011).
Vernon, F. (2013). Structured feedback in outdoor adventure education: What are we accomplishing? In S. Taylor, P. Varley, & T. Johnson (Eds.), Adventure tourism: Meaning, experience and education (pp. 134-137). Oxford, UK: Routledge.
Wallia, S.S. (2008). CbC: A sojourn at the intersection of challenge and choice. Australian Journal of Outdoor Education, 12(2), 39-51.
Warren, K. (2005). A path worth taking: The development of social justice in outdoor experiential education. Equity and Excellence in Education, 38(1), 89-99.
Weems, L. (2010). From “home” to “camp”: Theorizing the space of safety. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 29(1), 557-568.
Wenger, E. (1999). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License of their choice (usually CCBY 3.0 unported, but determined at the proofing stage by consultation with the Editor - readers looking for copyright permissions are required to do this on a case by case basis) that allows others to share the work in some way with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. We appreciate authors placing a link to the Other Education site wherever they choose to offer a PDF download to the original OE article.