You are never alone: Understanding the educational potential of an ‘urban solo’ in promoting place-responsiveness

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Solos have a long history in outdoor learning (education) for their use in ‘wilderness’ settings. They have been theorised in experiential education literature and through phenomenological concepts where dwelling and solitude provide unstructured time for individual reflection. Place-Based Education provides opportunities for educators to develop place-responsive practices in areas local to where people live, work and study. This paper reports on an exploratory investigation into a Masters-level course. Students were required to undertake an ‘urban solo’ in a familiar place and consider how ontological disruption might be nurtured in city-based locations. Six students participated in in-depth semi-structured interviews which were then analysed thematically using a constructivist grounded theory approach. Findings revealed that their solo experiences had had a profound and unexpected effect on all students. These changes seemed to occur as the result of an ontological shift in the students from being passive receptors of stimuli to engaging more actively with their surroundings. We concluded that, because of its simplicity and close proximity to school grounds, the urban solo is one way for teachers to overcome the barriers they consistently report to outdoor learning. We recommend that future studies draw further on urban theorists to develop more city-based, place-responsive practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1368-1385
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Issue number9
Early online date20 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2019


  • place-based education
  • outdoor learning
  • urban solo
  • experiential education
  • ontological disruption


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