Ecology and Task Structures in Adventure Education

Mark H. Zmudy, Matthew D. Curtner-Smith, Jeff Steffen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Many of the characteristics of effective physical education lessons have been discovered by sport pedagogy researchers by employing what has become known as the ecological or task structures perspective. The purpose of this study was to describe the task structures and ecology that existed in two consecutive 7-day summer adventure camps run by an agency outside the school setting. Participants included two novice adventure educators (AEs) and 31 elementary and middle school-aged children. Data were collected using a number of qualitative techniques and were analyzed using standard interpretive methods. Five task structure systems were identified. The instructional and managerial systems were similar to those previously found in classrooms and school physical education except that parental chaperones were used to enforce the management system. The social system was similar to those previously observed within sport education and adventure education units within school-based physical education in that it mainly served to support the instructional and managerial systems rather than compete with them as in more traditional models of teaching. The exploratory and atmospheric systems had not previously been identified, were extensions of the instructional and social systems, and appeared somewhat unique to adventure education. Implications for training AEs are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)319-340
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Experiential Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009


  • Adventure Education
  • Ecology
  • Task Structures


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