Date of Award

Summer 7-21-2020

Semester of Degree


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Environmental and Forest Biology


Environmental and Forest Biology

Major Professor

Elizabeth Folta


Gregory McGee

Steering Committee Member

Elizabeth Vidon

Steering Committee Member

Mary Collins


Outdoor and environmental educators are increasingly concerned about the presence and resistance of whiteness, racism, and settler colonialism in outdoor pedagogy. In this dissertation, I present three distinct inquiries examining the entanglement of educator identity, curriculum, anti-colonialism, and anti-racism in outdoor and environmental education (OE/EE). All three manuscripts are united by self-study, which is a methodology whereby educational professionals make inquiries of and investigate their own practice. In chapter one I use an action research framework and discourse analysis to better theorize my anti-oppressive outdoor curriculum design. Through this analysis, I uncover my tendency to position critical educators at high levels of consciousness and ignore the complexity of learners’ meaning-making processes. Subsequently, I shifted towards strategies that placed participants in conversation with entities of place. This curricular approach decenters educators’ singular interpretations of injustice, which is an important theoretical concept for critical outdoor education. Chapter two uses autoethnographic methodology and applies performativity theory to analyze this same professional journey but from the perspective of educator identity. Here I describe a narrative in which my work and education forced me to 1) notice how my wilderness performativity enforced inequity and 2) acknowledge different outdoor performativities as expressions of different values of place. Ultimately, I use my journey to delineate a major lesson for outdoor educators: as we seek to incorporate justice and anti-oppression into our work, we should see ourselves as non- neutral agents with regards to place. Chapter three makes a case for the broader application of self-study in OE/EE; as we create anti-oppressive or social justice curriculum in OE/EE, it is important that educators and organizations have tools to reflexively examine their relationships to learners and places. With its focus on ontology, self-study is a well situated but underrecognized tool for such reflexivity. All three chapters arrive ix at a complex valuation of ‘place as teacher’ and I believe this notion implicates all outdoor professionals. It is important that the way we relate to place in our pedagogy grapples with the complexity and non-neutrality of place.