Empowerment in outdoor environmental education: who shapes the programs?

Jan Cincera, Petra Simonova, Roman Kroufek, Bruce Johnson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Empowerment is often considered to be a central goal in outdoor education and environmental education. To develop student empowerment, a frequent recommendation is for the leaders of outdoor environmental education programs to provide students with a high level of autonomy through an emancipatory approach, by involving them in the decision-making processes about and during the programs. The study analyzes the strategies applied in five outdoor environmental education programs to involve students in shaping the programs. Further, it discusses the concepts of the program leaders, the accompanying teachers, and the participating students regarding how and whether such student involvement should be implemented. The findings show that while student involvement is achievable, most of the leaders and teachers questioned its effectiveness and expressed concern regarding the students’ ability to provide meaningful suggestions about the program. As a result, most of the leaders preferred instrumental programs, with few opportunities for students to shape the program. Instead, the leaders focused on enjoyable and attractive learning activities prepared by external program designers. The study argues for an adoption of an open and pluralistic approach to the practice, one that would accept both instrumental and emancipatory strategies as relevant for program design and implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1690-1706
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2020


  • Outdoor environmental education
  • autonomy
  • emancipatory approach
  • empowerment
  • instrumental approach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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