Understanding emerging adult identity development through work at a residential outdoor environmental education program: an application of social practice theory

Timothy J. Mateer, B. Derrick Taff, Carter A. Hunt, Pete Allison, Ellen Will

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most previous research on residential outdoor environmental education (ROEE) programs has focused on the outcomes associated with student participation in these learning experiences. In contrast to these previous studies, this research takes an interpretivist approach to understand how work as a short-term instructor in a ROEE setting may also uniquely support learning and development for this population as well. A sample of former short-term instructors across the developmental period of emerging adulthood were interviewed to retrospectively explore the meaning that work in a single ROEE program holds in their current lives. Inductive analysis found social practice theory effectively aligned with the meaning former short-term instructors associated with program involvement. These findings suggest that short-term instructor work influenced individuals’ identity development processes in both a social-emotional and pro-environmental manner. Moving past their ROEE experience, former short-term instructors attempted to live out meaningful practices associated with these program-related identities, such as sharing the outdoors with others. Implications for both professional development in a ROEE setting and future research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education

Cite this