Published on Brock University (http://www.brocku.ca)
Dr. Tim O'Connell is an Associate Professor in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies and this year’s recipient of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences Award for Excellence in Teaching. His impact in the area of innovation and leadership in teaching and learning is evident within the classroom and beyond.
In addition to innovative and experiential teaching practices in field-based and theory courses, he has contributed to the curricular development of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies through his involvement in the redesign of the outdoor recreation curriculum, the development of a new outdoor education learning centre/research lab, by facilitating University partnerships nationally and internationally (e.g., Outward Bound Canada, National Outdoor Leadership School), and, most recently, by launching the Brock BaseCamp program. Tim’s initiatives are supported by his program of research that has two main trusts: examining psychological sense of community and sense of place in people engaged in wilderness trips, and exploring the effectiveness of reflective journals as a pedagogical tool.
Taking the lead on the new Brock BaseCamp experience (an outdoor orientation program involving wilderness trips), Tim (along with Ryan Howard, his Ph.D. student, and Dr. Anna Lathrop, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences), has combined his research interests with his desire to generate experiential learning opportunities for students. The result is a program that not only provides prospects for further research and practical learning experiences, but also creates a fresh and exciting opportunity for incoming first year students.
In an effort to enhance retention, BaseCamp provides first year students with the chance to make friends and to learn what university life is all about from current Brock students prior to arriving on campus in the fall. Incoming students can ask questions about making healthy choices, what it’s like to live away from home, and how to be successful in their first year. Current students have the chance to lead extended wilderness trips and put into practice what they’ve learned in their various classes at Brock. The program allows all students involved to meet new people, to gain experience in decision-making, to manage risk, to understand group dynamics and to gain self-confidence. One inaugural trip last summer included seven participants and two student leaders. Expansion plans are building on this success to offer eight trips (4 canoeing, 2 backpacking and 2 rock climbing) this coming summer.
In addition to the BaseCamp program, Tim’s research initiatives continue with colleagues from Brock University (Drs. Mary Breunig and Garrett Hudson) and SUNY Cortland (Drs. Sharon Todd, Lynn Anderson, and Andy Young), which examines how people engaged in outdoor education activities perceive their group, the location in which they are traveling, the interplay of community and place and how this impacts people’s experiences in the outdoors.
Tim’s second major area of research involves the study of reflective journaling, which has been on-going for the past 10 years with Dr. Janet Dyment from the University of Tasmania, Australia. Results of this research are included in 10 peer-reviewed journal articles as well as presentations at numerous conferences. He is also working on a book (currently under review), tentatively titled Reflective Journals: Unlocking the Power and the Potential, which examines the effectiveness of reflective journals as a teaching technique. The book is a combination of the results of cumulative research and synthesis of the literature, as well as a “best practices” guide for instructors who use reflective journals with their students.
Tim’s contributions through his research, teaching and learning techniques are helping develop new and innovative strategies within the field of outdoor recreation and beyond. Tim will receive his award at spring convocation, June 9th, 2011 at 10:00 am.
Congratulations to Tim O’Connell