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Research-Practitioner Hubs Project Update!

We are six months in to the hubs project proof-of-concept – facilitated by IOL, University of Cumbria, Natural England, and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom - and enthusiasm for the project has grown, and continues to grow, at a considerable pace! Four regional groups are already active across the country, three in England: Northwest, Southeast, Southwest, and one in Scotland, a group in the Northeast are about to convene their first meeting in June and there are several other hubs currently in development.

In light of a growing evidence base that illustrates both the health and well-being, and educational benefits of outdoor learning (e.g. 1, 2), the core aim of the research-practitioner hubs project is:

To meet the need for better joined-up research development in outdoor learning, to enable the nationwide development of an evidence base to support the delivery of high quality, frequent and progressive outdoor experiences for children and young people, and to raise the standards of professional delivery in outdoor learning research and practice.

The regional research-practitioner hubs project encapsulates this aim and continues to develop in response to the Government’s 25-year Environment Plan and the 2022 Campaign - to enable a joined-up and progressive nature connection for all school-aged children by 2022.

By facilitating research-practitioner engagement at the local-level with support from the national players, the hubs project empowers local practitioners and researchers to highlight local priority areas for research development, and through the Central OL Research Hub (CRH), feed these back to the national picture. The CRH will in-turn disseminate national priorities, help local-hubs to uncover locally-gathered evidence, and provide evidence and support for research development within the hub regions.

What have we achieved so far?

The Central OL Research Hub has been busy since the beginning of the project proof-of-concept, the impacts so far have been:

  • Support for 5 existing and several emerging regional hubs
  • At least six OL providers working with researchers on small scale studies to inform practice
  • A funding proposal to develop applied research workshops for the regional hubs to offer via IOL regional events
  • A literature review conducted by the central hub research coordinator, Carrie Hedges, to provide the evidence base for a campaign to promote OL to Scottish schools organised by members of the Scottish regional hub
  • A research ask to members of the regional hubs to support the development of national strategy and OL's contribution to the Natural England progression model for outdoor experiences for all
  • The identification of data sets held by providers and available for researchers
  • The identification of unpublished research and evaluation reports that can be shared more widely
  • The ongoing monitoring of new research findings for dissemination

The Research Reports page is where we will show-case reports and links of interest – with new material being added shortly – this blog space is an area to promote new additions to the repository, and discuss new, interesting and exciting OL developments! Our next blog from Dave Harvey (IOL/University of Cumbria) discusses outdoor learning interventions and the effectiveness of the research-practitioner approach, focussing on the interesting Wilderness Schooling Study from Quibella et al. (2017)3

How can you take part?

Anyone is welcome to take part in the local research hub groups. For more information, local Research Hub contacts, and to keep up to date with Research Hub activities, visit the IOL Research Hub webpage. Should you wish to develop a local research hub group then please contact Louise Kier at the IOL office for more information.

The first report of the Research-Practitioner Hubs Project Proof-of-Concept can be viewed here.

Carrie Hedges.

Carrie Hedges is the Research Coordinator at the Central Outdoor Learning Research Hub based at the University of Cumbria. Carrie can be contacted here.

References: 1 Waite, S., Passy, R., Gilchrist, M., Hunt, A. & Blackwell, I. (2016). Natural connections demonstration project, 2012- 2016: Final report. 2 Kendall, S., & Rodger, J. (2015). Paul Hamlyn Foundation Evaluation of Learning Away: Final Report. 3 T. Quibella, J. Charltonb, and J. Lawb (2017) 'Wilderness Schooling: A controlled trial of the impact of an outdoor education programme on attainment outcomes in primary school pupils' British Educational Research Journal. 43, 3. 572-587

If you spot any new and interesting research you think would be of interest to the OL community, why not let us know? Email Carrie Hedges

Previous Article Upbeat meeting of North West Outdoor Learning Hub at Ambleside campus
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