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Katherine Pinch

department of recreation & leisure studies | college of health & human services | csus home

Kath at Monterey, CA



Contact Information


Dr. Katherine Pinch
Associate Professor
Graduate Coordinator



Wednesday 4:00 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Thursday 9:30 a.m.-11:00 a.m.
Other times by appointment
Solano 4016




(916) 278-6880


California State University, Sacramento
6000 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95819-6110

Important Links

Graduate Program



  • RLS 034 - The Outdoor Recreation Experience
  • RLS 110 - Research and Evaluation in Recreation and Leisure Studies
  • RLS 122 - Perspectives on Leisure
  • RLS 148 - Experiential Education in Outdoor Recreation Settings
  • RLS 149 - Developing and Programming Adventure Experiences
  • RLS 204 - Advanced Research Methods in Recreation and Leisure Studies
  • RLS 209 - Seminar in Advanced Leisure Education

Teaching Philosophy

Education to me is more than the mastery of facts or the understanding of concepts within subject areas. Education is a lifelong process of growth, and involves some understanding of self, others and of our world. Factual knowledge contributes to the understanding of the world, but I believe that unless we also strive for some inner understanding that relates content to the lived experience of self and others, then what we take away from the classroom is meaningless. It is this realization that guides me in my own education and in the guidance I give to the education of others. Yes, I want to grapple with the construction of knowledge, but it is the interconnection between the cognitive, physical, affective, social and spiritual that I wish to highlight. For this reason I don't only engage my students' minds. I engage their bodies with physical movement; I engage their hearts by taking them out into the world, literally or metaphorically, to see its sorrows as well as its joys; I take them into natural or semi-natural environments whenever I can to feel a sense of connection to and spiritual renewal through contact with nature; and I engage their minds with information to build upon and process and question in the light of all of their other senses and ways of knowing.

The principles that guide much of my teaching are active learning, using experiences that are relevant to students’ lives, drawing on past experiences and knowledge of students, and facilitating reflection and transfer of knowledge and experience. Student and teacher both participate in the construction of knowledge. Teaching methods should be chosen to fit specific situations, but my pedagogical practices are grounded in a belief in experiential education. I believe in constructivist learning theory and liberatory educational practice. I wish to empower students through the learning process so that they take responsibility for their own learning and feel that, through their education, they can become advocates and active agents for positive change and growth for themselves and for society.

To these ends I construct a classroom environment that is supportive of discussion and free interchange of ideas. I encourage debate, and contend that it can be passionate and heartfelt and still respectful to others. Opinions my vary, but I want my students to feel free to debate passionately, to interact with readings and with classroom work and with each other, to listen with an open mind, and not to feel threatened by questions but challenged positively by them. My students know that I will always be asking: "Why?" or "What does that mean?" or "Can we expand on that?" or "Where does that thought take us?" l encourage them to do the same thing and as the class progresses they learn how to ask these questions of each other and not to rely on me to do so. Through this process they begin to realize that they ARE agents in their own learning, that they DO have a knowledge base they can build on; that they AREN’T simply repositories for information that is poured into them; and that they CAN think critically and become problem solvers. Looking at the world critically and not simply accepting things as they are also helps students to realize that they CAN change themselves and the world, and that perhaps they have an obligation to do so.

In line with my experiential approach to learning and the free flow of ideas, the physical space that I utilize for teaching is also important. My classroom seating arrangements, for example, are fluid. We move chairs and other furniture into group and circle formations or push furniture aside entirely to free up space for an activity of some sort. Often I shift from indoors to outdoors, and back again, as I take the class outside for an activity that I then use metaphorically to link back to theory or concepts we are dealing with in the course. Using such an approach to learning also enables me to connect with the wide range of learning styles and needs of my students. There will be something for the visual, the kinesthetic or the oral learner, and all will be stretched a little beyond their comfort zones to deal with the multiple ways that information will be presented to them in the world, inside and outside of the university. Similarly, the tasks they undertake in class and the assignments they are asked to complete will be varied in terms of what I do and what they are expected to do: from lectures, to small and large group work, to discussion, to audio-visual presentations, to debates, to field trips, to activities ... to whatever is most suitable to the learning situation. And, most importantly, I try to link all of this to real-life situations. Many of my classes have a component that asks students to interact with people and organizations outside of the university. It is very important to me that students see the relevance of what they are learning in terms of its application to life and work beyond the university.

Another important cornerstone of my teaching philosophy is that I do not see myself as a "sorter" of students into abilities and grades. The reality of university education does require me to grade students, but I work within this system to encourage them to be the best that they can be, and to understand that growth and knowledge often comes gradually and not merely on the first "try" at something. I have a test / retest philosophy whereby I grade student work, provide feedback, and then encourage them to resubmit the work with corrections and additions if they wish to do a better job ... and receive a higher grade if the new work merits it. This option is entirely voluntary for students, but I have found that the majority of my students take me up on it. And they tell me it isn't just the higher grade that they take away from the experience. It's the knowledge that they can do better if they want to put in more effort and being "perfect" the first time around isn't what learning is all about.

I see teaching at a higher education institution as an opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with students embarking on their careers and moving forward on new paths to growth and knowledge, as a means of encouraging students to see themselves as agents of change in the world, as a means of broadening my own perspective in an academic environment and as a way to contribute to scholarly debate. I teach because I believe that what and how I teach is genuinely important for the development of my students and for the betterment of our world. These are lofty sentiments, but it is this conviction that drives me to constantly question both my knowledge and my teaching practice. The best teacher is one who is not afraid to continue to learn.

RLS 148 - Experiential Education in Outdoor Recreation Settings
Student Project::
Design, build and facilitate a small group initiative task or low ropes course activity

last updated: 09/23/2008
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