UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Experiencing freefall: a journey of pedagogical possibilities Haskell, Johnna Gayle


Experiencing Freefall is an inquiry into outdoor experiencing. It focuses on both my experiences with a group of Grade 10 students in an outdoor adventure education program and my personal experiencing of the outdoors. I explore the awareness we embody within moments of unexpected happenings while negotiating Whitewater rapids or searching for a handhold while clinging to the side of a cliff face. Also in this thesis I explore the 'phenomena of experiencing' which emerges out of our actions and interactions within outdoor activities. The challenge of this dissertation is capturing in prose, the phenomena of experiencing and 'embodied awareness' arising through such unexpected instances. Hence, the thesis, in trying to articulate the complexity of experiencing in the outdoors, uses stories, poetry and the metaphor of life, breath, and mountaineering to invite the reader on a journey of inquiry. This thesis escorts the reader, like a true pedagogue, into an outdoor environment of experiencing that opens the reader to ponder pedagogical possibilities. I explore several themes in the thesis which include 'freefall,' community, 'turning points,' and 'embodied respect' using a methodology of 'enactive inquiry.' The thesis takes a journey through each theme by weaving students' stories from the study, my own personal stories of the unexpected, and the theory of enaction. The thesis creates an opportunity for readers to embrace their own struggles, fears, and inquiry. Through the use of outdoor stories to illustrate moments of freefall into the unfamiliar or unknown, we may imagine pedagogical possibilities. As an enactive inquiry, this research thesis embodies an "education" or way of being, living, experiencing that explores unexpected happenings. In articulating an ecological perspective of experiencing, the thesis juxtaposes encounters in the outdoors with enactive theory to move beyond traditional representationalist models of cognition. Specifically, I focus on the embodied awareness that arises through phenomena of experiencing and its relation to pedagogy. The thesis contributes to the theory of the enactive approach by bringing examples of human experience which unfold, not only our interactions within the ecological web of the outdoor world, but an emergent space of pedagogical possibilities. As such, this thesis is an experiential work through which the reader may realize their own interpreting of possible pedagogies for many educational contexts.

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