Theses and Dissertations


Shana Lee

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Walker, Ryan M.

Committee Member

Jianzhong, Xu

Committee Member

Binford, Paul E.

Committee Member

Franz, Dana P.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Secondary Science Education

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Education


Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education


Experiential, outdoor education supports improvement in students’ problem-solving skills; collaboration and communication skills; and enjoyment in learning in the outdoors. Outdoor instruction is becoming increasingly underutilized. A residential environmental education center, located in Tennessee has conducted professional development programs in effort to increase teacher implementation of instruction in outdoor spaces. This institute revealed concern for low implementation rates to past professional development opportunities. Their newly designed, long-term professional development explored teacher’s perceived challenges and needs, then combined effective experiential pedagogy in outdoor spaces with pre-established communities of support from the participating schools in effort to contribute to experiential, outdoor instruction reform. This program entailed four workshop meetings over a seven-month time span, producing over 50 hours of face-toace contact during the training. Program leaders designed the learning experience to include effective professional development strategies; reflective assignments; and activities that related to citizen science, experiential learning, and science and engineering practices found in the recently adopted Tennessee State Science Standards. This study identified concepts of the planned, delivered, and received curricula of the workshop series to define the intentions, methodologies, and impact of the experience. The intentions of the program were aligned to the delivered curricula then the impact of the program was considered. Data collected during this qualitative study included over 15 hours of interviews; over 110 hours of observation field notes; and various artifacts including journals, handouts and applications. This long-term professional development provided a pre-established community of practice and advocated for experiential instruction in outdoor spaces; eliminating barriers; improving teacher confidence and implementation of knowledge gained; and reinforcing the professional development experience.