The value of the unitended in tourism education

Helene Balslev, Maggie Miller

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


It is critical for tourism education to emphasize the importance of contextual learning, such as field-based activities, whereby teaching and learning becomes embodied, emplaced, sensorial and empathetic (Pink, 2015; Clausen & Andersson, 2018): a notion understood by Wenger (1998) as “knowing in practice” (p. 141). Rather than simply facilitating opportunities and providing tools to engage and critically analyze from a distance (i.e. within the walls of a university) we suggest that field courses, and more specifically ‘unintended’ encounters that emerge in these contexts, are pivotal for students’ intellectual and critical development. Indeed, knowing in practice affords opportunities for students to unpack their privileges and reflect on their roles as future tourism practitioners, and more broadly as responsible citizens of the world. All too often we privilege organized and scheduled events in our field course curriculum. However, ‘trouble’ in the field can generate novel situations in which diverse unexpected factors are at play. Though educators may be aware of some of these variables and relationships in situ, admittedly the potential and potency of trouble, or ‘unintended’ instances, are not recognized until much later. These learnings and realizations arise form reflective dialogue between educators and students, thereby highlighting reflection as an integral part of these valuable learning processes. Within this contribution we hope that educators learn to resist the temptation to avoid and/or oversimplify unexpected learning situations brought on by ‘trouble’ in the field. We argue that these instances add value to Higher Education and can contribute to changes in students’ attitudes and actions upon their return home.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTeaching Tourism: Innovative, values-based learning experiences for transformative practices
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Aug 2021


  • unintended, field course


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