Date of Conferral
Numerous research studies have shown that when teachers take children outdoors to learn, children show an increase in cognitive, physical, social, and emotional skills. Few researchers have focused, however, on teachers and their decision to use the outdoors as a way of teaching. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore whether life experiences impact a teacher's choice to not use the outdoor environment. Ham and Shuman's model of environmental education commitment and Kaplan and Kaplan's environmental cognition theory served as the conceptual frameworks for this study. The research question was designed to explore the experiences and barriers of teachers and how these experiences and barriers affected a teacher's decision to use or not use an outdoor classroom when one was available. Data were obtained using individual interviews of a purposeful sample of seven elementary teachers from a large school district in the U.S. state of Georgia who were not using outdoor classrooms at the time of the study. Themes that emerged from data analysis were lack of time in tightly controlled class schedules, lack of administrator support, lack of staff development for teachers, weather, and lack of time to research and prepare lessons. Study findings have the potential to engender positive social change by increasing insight about the barriers teachers perceive to using the natural environment in instruction. With more knowledge about such barriers, administrators may able to encourage teachers to use the natural environment as an extension of the indoor classroom to increase academic achievement and lifelong behaviors in nature among students.