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What is Outdoor Learning

 

Acknowledgment

The “What is Outdoor Learning?” research was undertaken by Dr. Roger Greenaway, author of publications such as 'Playback'. The idea for the research project came from the English Outdoor Council, and has been funded by IOL. It is potentially a key resource for the field. "What is Outdoor Learning?" research was published in 2005.
Links to other websites were correct at the time of publication.

What is Outdoor Learning?

  • Outdoor Learning is a broad term that includes: outdoor play in the early years, school grounds projects, environmental education, recreational and adventure activities, personal and social development programmes, expeditions, team building, leadership training, management development, education for sustainability, adventure therapy ... and more. Outdoor Learning does not have a clearly defined boundary but it does have a common core...
  • All forms of Outdoor Learning value direct experience
    Outdoor Learning can provide a dramatic contrast to the indoor classroom. Direct experience outdoors is more motivating and has more impact and credibility. Through skilled teaching, interpretation or facilitation, outdoor experiences readily become a stimulating source of fascination, personal growth and breakthroughs in learning.
  • Outdoor Learning is active learning in the outdoors
    In Outdoor Learning participants learn through what they do, through what they encounter and through what they discover. Participants learn about the outdoors, themselves and each other, while also learning outdoor skills. Active learning readily develops the learning skills of enquiry, experiment, feedback, reflection, review and cooperative learning.
  • Outdoor Learning is real learning
    Not only does Outdoor Learning happen in the natural environments where participants can see, hear, touch and smell the real thing, it also happens in an arena where actions have real results and consequences. Outdoor Learning can help to bring many school subjects alive while also providing experiential opportunities for fulfilling the National Curriculum aim "to enable pupils to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities, to manage risk and to cope with change and adversity." Source: DfES & QCA, The National Curriculum, 'Aims for the School Curriculum' 1999.
  • Outdoor Learning broadens horizons and stimulates new interests
    There is no limit to the experiences and curiosities that outdoor environments and activities can arouse. Participants frequently discover potential, abilities and interests that surprise themselves and others. Safety codes provide clear boundaries and learning goals give clear direction, but Outdoor Learning draws in energy and inspiration from all around. 'Broadening horizons' is a common outcome.
  • Outdoor Learning is becoming more integrated
    Many forms of Outdoor Learning are crossing traditional boundaries: recreation providers are paying more attention to personal and social development; development training providers are showing more interest in the environment and sustainability; field studies is becoming more active and developmental. Participants' experiences are enriched as providers develop a broader vision and more integrated practice.
  • Continuing change in Outdoor Learning
    Since its formation in 2001 by the convergence of six outdoor organisations, the Institute (IOL) has influenced the changes outlined above. IOL supports networking and the sharing of good practices throughout all forms of Outdoor Learning. The practices and values include promoting respect for diversity, equality of opportunity and the sustainable use of the environment. New funding continues to stimulate new practice and developments within the Outdoor Learning sector.

How Safe is Outdoor Learning

Accidental, injury or sudden death amongst young people (up to the age of 19) approximately:

1420 All accidents
700 Road Traffic Accidents (Massively the biggest single cause)
220 Accidents in the home.
200 Skin cancer caused by over exposure to the sun
140 Suffocation
125 Poisoning (a quarter of which are from taking Class A drugs)
110 Suicide (Not part of the 1400 total, but twice as common as child murders)
90 Drowning
80 Fire (When did you last change the batteries in your fire detectors?)
70 Falls (Kids fall a lot, but it is not often fatal)
50 Homicide (Not part of the 1400 total. The vast majority by someone from within the direct or extended family.)
3 On school trips (The average since 1985 - Mostly Road Traffic Accidents)

And by comparison…..

School visits - 3 (A third of which are road traffic accidents)

Adventure Activities on school visits - 1
Marcus H. Bailie: Head of Inspection Services, Adventure Activities Licensing Authority - Source: "….. and by comparison". (2005)

Just about the safest place a child could be is on a school trip, writes Phil Revell, and teachers have little to fear either.
The Guardian, March 15, 2005

Risk is often cited as the main factor deterring schools from organising school trips. We have found no evidence to support the perception that school trips are inherently risky.
House of Commons Education and Skills Committee
Education Outside the Classroom, Second Report of Session 2004–05

A person under 18 years has a 0.01% chance of staying in hospital as the result of an outdoor play accident.
Kate Moorcock: teacher and author of Swings and Roundabouts

Leeds City Council found such an increase in pedestrian injuries each October that they have had to design a road safety skills programme for under graduates coming to their city. They are having to teach adults to cross the road because already people have not had the opportunity to practice these skills in childhood.
Kate Moorcock: teacher and author of Swings and Roundabouts

The Duke of Edinburgh Award schemes have an accident rate of 1 serious accident (e.g. broken leg) per 1.5 million overnights.
Marcus H. Bailie: Head of Inspection Services, Adventure Activities Licensing Authority - Source: "….. and by comparison". (2005)

Health and Safety Guidance:

 

How Much Outdoor Learning is going on?

  • Approximately 7 million pupil visits already take place every year meaning that thousands of pupils are going on visits every week. From a geography field trip to a week at a residential activity centre, out of classroom education can help bring a subject to life. The Government wants education outside the classroom to be an important part of all young people’s education.

DfES Press notice: 15 February 2005

  • There are probably 3 million school children who are involved in adventure activities each year, and 7 – 10 million days of school visits.

Marcus H. Bailie: Head of Inspection Services, Adventure Activities Licensing Authority

  • 2.5 million people  have visited its Field Study Council centres since 1943.

Field Studies Council

  • The Real World Learning campaign partners host visits for 1.5 million school children each year, but this is well below capacity and numbers have fallen by 10% in the last five years.

Real World Learning Campaign

 

  • Extract from the Government's response to the Second 'Education Outside the Classroom' Report
    We agree with the Committee that there is a wealth of good practice and many committed teachers, Heads and providers who value the benefits of learning outside the classroom and who make sure pupils experience a range of safe and stimulating activities. We believe these experiences should be widely acknowledged as an essential part of children's education at all stages.
    We also agree that evidence from different sources, sometimes contradictory, provides a patchy picture. Evidence direct from schools appears generally more positive than that from other sources.
    In July 2004 MORI research on study support (out of school hours activity) found that 67% of secondary schools provided field trips; the 2003-4 survey of school sport partnerships showed that 68% of the 6500 schools taking part in the survey offered outdoor and adventurous activities (which are part of the PE curriculum).
    In Autumn 2004, we commissioned the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards (DoE) and The Scouts Association (SA) to do a survey of school visits for 7 to 16 year olds in 900 secondary & primary schools. The draft report shows 86% of primary and 99% of secondary schools offer pupils at least one residential opportunity during their time in the school.

From the Education and Skills Committee, Session 2004-05

 

Links to other websites for these (and other) facts and figures about Outdoor Learning

Why Outdoor Learning Matters: the case for Outdoor Learning

Imagine a world in which the only concrete experience is concrete experience - where people grow up in an urban environment with no experience of gardens or farmland or wild areas. For some young people, especially those living in urban poverty, this is reality. Every citizen surely deserves the opportunity to spend time in the natural world? This simple (and minimal) expectation is now enshrined in government legislation which ensures that every child has at least one residential experience in their school years.

Outdoor Learning provides direct contact with the natural world
Environmental issues are of increasing importance in the political agenda, yet many people live an urban life which does not allow them to experience the relationship between their actions and the elements which support life on earth. Outdoor Learning allows participants to develop values and opinions that are informed by first hand experience of the natural world.

Outdoor Learning is a source of powerful learning experiences
Outdoor Learning can be powerful, exciting, inspirational, developmental and rewarding in many ways. The power of Outdoor Learning makes it a valued means for overcoming some of the toughest learning challenges. For example: it can bring about personal breakthroughs for people with learning difficulties; it can help to bring divided communities together; and it can inspire culture change in organisations.

Learners who usually struggle can excel in the outdoor classroom
Outdoor Learning provides such a different climate for learning that people who normally struggle as learners often become motivated and capable learners in the outdoors. Teachers are frequently surprised by the abilities and interest shown by 'poorly performing' students when in the outdoors, and by the extent to which Outdoor Learning has awakened their potential.

Learners who already excel become more versatile learners
Even people who are excellent learners in indoor environments encounter very different learning experiences outdoors. For example, some outdoor programmes are designed to help PhD students become more rounded and employable. But all students benefit from becoming more skilled, rounded and versatile learners. This matters even more in a fast-changing world that needs lifelong learners.

Personal development: "If I can do this, I can do anything!"
Participants of all ages and abilities frequently report personal breakthroughs, especially when taking part in adventurous activities and surprising themselves. "If I can do this, I can do anything!" is the kind of statement that signifies such breakthroughs.

Team development: "If we can do this, we can do anything!"
On many outdoor programmes, and especially on team building programmes, participants discover just how much they can achieve when they work well together. It is also good news for schools, communities or other sponsors when participants' team skills and team spirit continue into the future.

Active citizenship results from a greater sense of connection and responsibility
As change accelerates, many individuals become disconnected from society and feel they cannot use the political process to bring about beneficial changes in their lives and within their communities. Outdoor Learning has helped people to take control of their lives and take a more active part in their communities.

Why Outdoor Learning Matters: the case for Outdoor Learning
Outdoor Learning is an engaging, effective and enjoyable form of learning, whether the emphasis is personal, social or environmental, or is about learning itself. Outdoor Learning provides first hand experience for learning about our natural world. It is also a powerful medium for personal, organisational and cultural change. Many socially useful purposes are readily achieved through Outdoor Learning.

Acknowledgement: The above paragraphs about 'Direct contact with the natural world' and 'Active citizenship' are adapted from the website of The European Institute of Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning (EOE).

Who Supports Outdoor Learning and Why?

  • SUPPORT FOR ADVENTURE

"I am happy to place on record that the government supports the role of adventure as part of active education, especially in helping young people to learn about assessing and managing risk, in offering them new and exciting challenges, and in helping them to gain skills in leadership and team working that will be of huge value in their progression to adulthood."

Tony Blair, Prime Minister, September 2001 in support of the English Outdoor Council's 'Campaign for Adventure'.

  • "We are convinced of the value of adventurous outdoor activities for children and young people."

House of Commons Education Committee 1995.

  • SUPPORT FOR OUTDOOR LEARNING

"During this inquiry, the Committee has become convinced of the value of education outside the classroom in its broadest sense. Outdoor learning supports academic achievement, for example through fieldwork projects, as well as the development of ‘soft’ skills and social skills, particularly in hard to reach children. It can take place on school trips, on visits in the local community or in the school grounds. Yet outdoor education is in decline."
"The Department should issue a ‘Manifesto for Outdoor Learning’, giving all students a right to outdoor learning. This Manifesto should attract a similar level of funding to the Music Manifesto (£30 million) in order to deliver real change. In particular, schools in deprived circumstances should be enabled to enhance their facilities, to offer professional development programmes to their teachers and to fund off site visits. Education Outside the Classroom."

House of Commons Education and Skills Committee
Education Outside the Classroom, Second Report of Session 2004–05

  • SUPPORT FOR OUTDOOR EDUCATION

"Outdoor activities both at school and on residential courses enable pupils to enjoy challenging and unfamiliar experiences that test and develop their physical, social and personal skills. They can bschool-days. This report [Outdoor education, Aspects of good practice] shows that many schools e among the most memorable experiences for pupils of their recognise the many benefits of outdoor education but also that we must work harder to ensure pupils in all schools do not miss out on these opportunities."

David Bell, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, September 2004

  • Education Secretary Ruth Kelly wants to increase the "quality and quantity" of school trips to make them an essential part of every child's education. Kelly is set to unveil the government's Outdoor Education Manifesto through which schools and outdoor pursuit centres will have to work together to improve opportunities for pupils. The move follows a critical report from a committee of MPs who blamed fear of "compensation culture" for a decline in the number of trips carried out by schools.

Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary, February 2005

  • SUPPORT FOR LEARNING OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM

"Children need to be taught how to deal with risks in life. We will encourage learning outside the classroom and provide protection for teachers worried about school trips."

Conservative Party Election Manifesto 2005

  • "To enhance our children's understanding of the environment we will give every school student the opportunity to experience out-of-classroom learning in the natural environment."

Labour Party Election Manifesto 2005

  • "We believe that out-of-classroom learning is a key part of a good education, and will include the quality of out-of-classroom education in the criteria on which schools are inspected."

Liberal Democrat Election Manifesto 2005

  • "We believe every child and young person should experience the world outside the classroom as an integral part of their learning and development, complementing learning in the classroom. High quality education outside the classroom can stimulate and inspire; foster independence; aid personal and social development; and can often motivate reluctant learners. These experiences should be stimulating, safely managed and enjoyable, and contribute to meeting the needs of every child."

Department for Education and Skills, Education outside the Classroom Manifesto (draft)

  • "We agree with the Committee that there is a wealth of good practice and many committed teachers, Heads and providers who value the benefits of learning outside the classroom and who make sure pupils experience a range of safe and stimulating activities. We believe these experiences should be widely acknowledged as an essential part of children's education at all stages."

Government response to the Second Report from the Education and Skills Committee, Session 2004-05.

  • SUPPORT FOR SCHOOL TRIPS AND AN ENRICHED CURRICULUM

"My Lords, well planned and safely delivered school trips, with learning later reinforced in the classroom, make a valuable contribution to the education of pupils of all ages and abilities. The importance of an enriched curriculum is set out in our Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners. We believe that there are educational and personal benefits to be gained from experiences as diverse as fieldwork, visiting farms, museums and galleries, and outdoor activities."

Baroness Andrews, House of Lords, Friday 12th November 2004

  • SUPPORT FOR LEARNING TO MANAGE RISK

"The school curriculum should….enable pupils to respond positively to opportunities, challenges and responsibilities, to manage risk and to cope with change and adversity."
 

  • Department for Education and Skills & QCA, The National Curriculum, "Aims for the School Curriculum" 1999

"There is an essential need for adventure in the education of young people. The human need for excitement and challenge can, if unfulfilled, express itself in anti-social behaviour. Outdoor and adventurous activities have the potential to satisfy the need for excitement and challenge in a positive way."

Curriculum proposals, Secretary of State for Education and Science 1991.

Links to other websites for these (and other) sources of support for Outdoor Learning
Second Report from the Education and Skills Committee, Government response, Session 2004-05.
Education outside the Classroom Manifesto (draft, 2005) (Now known as Learning Outside the Classroom) Department for Education and Skills,
Tragedies deflect us from our core aims Anthony Seldon, Times Educational Supplement, 2006.

Campaigns for Outdoor Learning

Campaigns and Manifestos Supporting Outdoor Learning

  • Campaign for Real World Learning
    The campaign is a partnership between the Field Studies Council, RSPB, National Trust, PGL, the Wildlife Trusts and the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust. Although a number of the partners are from the environmental sector the Campaign objectives includes the promotion of Heritage and Arts education, Outdoor and Adventurous activity as well as first hand sustainability and development issues. The campaign partners and supporters recognize that many schools are reporting barriers to out-of-classroom learning:
    - Lack of time through the perception of a crowded and prioritised curriculum
    - Fear of accidents and subsequent litigation
    - Cost – staff cover, insurance, transport etc
    - Low status of out-of-classroom training and teaching
    - Senior managements’ negative view of what is often seen as a ‘disruptive’ activity

     
  • The Outdoor Education Manifesto
    Bringing together a range of stakeholders, the Manifesto will:
    - set out a joint commitment that all children should have the opportunity of a wide range of high quality outdoor learning, including at least one residential experience;
    - encourage schools to partner with other schools and outdoor learning providers;
    - encourage parents to take an active interest outdoor learning;
    - set out a range of advice and support;
    - provide information and good practice guidance on health and safety issues; and
    - set out priorities for the development of outdoor learning.

    Around thirty partners from across the outdoor learning sector have already been involved in early Manifesto discussions. They will work together to establish a broad range of priorities for helping schools to improve the range and quality of education outside of the classroom.
    For more info: DfES Press notice: 15 February 2005

     
  • Campaign for Adventure, Risk and Enterprise in Society
    The Campaign (launched in 2001) seeks to show that life is best approached in a spirit of exploration, adventure and enterprise; to influence and better inform attitudes towards risk; to build wider recognition that chance, unforeseen circumstances and uncertainty are inescapable features of life and that absolute safety is unachievable; and to demonstrate that sensible education and preparation enable an appropriate balance to be achieved between risk & safety and achievement & opportunity.
    For more info: Campaign for Adventure, Risk and Enterprise in Society

     
  • Manifesto for Outdoor Adventure for Young People
    This manifesto was promoted from about 2000-2004 by the Foundation for Outdoor Adventure. Its aims are similar to those of the Campaign for Adventure.
    For more info: Manifesto for Outdoor Adventure for Young People
  • All Party Parliamentary Group on Adventure in Society [APPG]
    The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Risk and Adventure in Society has agreed with Jane Kennedy MP, minister responsible for health and safety at work, to investigate the state of outdoor activities and the litigation culture which has been causing difficulties for volunteers and professionals alike.

What are the Benefits of Outdoor Learning?

The potential benefits of outdoor learning are so many that they are grouped below in four broad categories: background, planned, bonus and wider benefits.

Background benefits of Outdoor Learning
are benefits that arise from spending time in the natural environment.

5 key ways in which exposure to the natural environment is beneficial to human health:

  • enhanced personal and social communication skills
  • increased physical health
  • enhanced mental and spiritual health
  • enhanced spiritual, sensory, and aesthetic awareness
  • the ability to assert personal control and increased sensitivity to one's own well-being.

Source: Health, Well-Being and Open Space, Literature Review by Nina Morris, OPENspace Research Centre, (2003).

Planned benefits of Outdoor Learning
are benefits that are determined by, or negotiated with, the provider of Outdoor Learning. For example, the City of Salford expects Educational Trips and Visits to help young people to:

  • develop self esteem, take personal responsibility, co-operate with and respect the needs of others;
  • extend their personal horizons through greater appreciation and understanding of the world and its peoples around them;
  • understand the need for sustainable relationships between people and their environment;
  • enhance practical problem solving and team work skills.
  • promote a positive and knowledgeable response towards personal health and well being.

"Educational Trips and Visits are particularly effective when young people engage in well planned and structured, first hand experiences in small groups, with opportunities to reflect and build upon those experiences." Source: Educational Trips and Visits, Health and Safety Guidance Notes, City of Salford (Revised 2003)

Bonus benefits of Outdoor Learning
arise where participants gain more value than was expected. Such benefits happen more by chance than by design, but they are more likely to happen when there is a highly supportive climate for learning. 

Wider benefits of Outdoor Learning
are benefits to stakeholders such as families, schools, sponsors, society and future generations (especially in relation to sustainability). Ultimately we are all stakeholders in the success of Outdoor Learning. The more that wider stakeholders are involved, the greater the opportunities for achieving these wider benefits. 

Examples of benefits gained from OL

This section provides summaries of key findings from reviews of research and major studies in Outdoor Learning. Each review asks different questions about a different kinds of Outdoor Learning. The overall impact of these collections of research studies is impressive. They demonstrate what can be achieved through Outdoor Learning. The outdoors provides a wide array of opportunities for achieving a whole range of outcomes. Some outcomes require careful design and facilitation, whereas other outcomes simply arise from being outdoors - as is demonstrated by the work of the OPENspace Research Centre described in the first section below.

1. Literature Reviews about the benefits of being outdoors (UK)
OPENspace Research Centre, Edinburgh College of Art, 2003 and 2006.

Health, Well-Being and Open Space (UK)
Literature Review, by Nina Morris, OPENspace Research Centre (2003)

Key points from this review of research include:

  • Exposure to the natural environment can have a negative effect on human health.
  • Exposure and access to green spaces can also have a wide range of social, economic, environmental and health benefits.
  • Urban green spaces are major contributors to the quality of the environment and human health and well-being in inner city and suburban areas.
  • Outdoor recreation provides an opportunity to increase quality of life and heighten social interaction.
  • Physical activity in the natural environment not only aids an increased life-span, greater well-being, fewer symptoms of depression, lower rates of smoking and substance misuse but also an increased ability to function better at work and home.
  • Health Walk and Green Gym participants cited they stated being 'in the countryside' and 'contact with nature' as key motivating factors to be active.
  • Short-term strategies must begin by establishing a clearer link between accessible urban green space and healthy living in the minds of politicians, policy-makers ad the general public.

Link to full review: Health, Well-Being and Open Space

 

Wild Adventure Space (UK)
Literature Review by Penny Travlou, OPENspace Research Centre (2006)

"Experience of the outdoors and wilderness has the potential to confer a multitude of benefits on young people’s physical development, emotional and mental health and well being and societal development. Mental health and wellbeing benefits from play in natural settings appear to be long-term, realised in the form of emotional stability in young adulthood."

Link to full review:  Wild Adventure Space

 

2. Changing Minds: The Lasting Impact of School Trips (UK)
Long term study of the effects of planned trips with primary school children.
Alan Peacock, Honorary Research Fellow, The Innovation Centre, University of Exeter, 2006.

Changing Minds: The Lasting Impact of School Trips (UK)
A study of the long-term impact of sustained relationships between schools and the National Trust via the Guardianship scheme.
by Alan Peacock, Honorary Research Fellow, The Innovation Centre, University of Exeter, February 2006.

"We looked at whether school children’s learning about their local environment would influence the way they treat it. We found that not only was this the case, but high quality, out-of-classroom learning also influenced how children behave and the lifestyle choices they make. It shows the potential for schools trips not just to change individual lives, but the lives of whole communities.’

Key findings

  • School trips are vital for children to connect with nature.
  • School trips influence lives.
  • Community spirit is developed from school trips.
  • School trips help bond families.
  • School trips improve children’s learning.

 

3. A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning (UK)
Literature review of 150 studies in the period 1993-2003.
Mark Rickinson and NFER colleagues. Field Studies Council, 2004.

A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning
by Mark Rickinson et al. Field Studies Council, 2004.

This review brought together the findings from 150 studies in the period 1993-2003 and included most kinds of Outdoor Learning.

Key findings 

The impact of fieldwork and visits

  • Substantial evidence exists to indicate that fieldwork, properly conceived, adequately planned, well taught and effectively followed up, offers learners opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in ways that add value to their everyday experiences in the classroom.
  • Specifically, fieldwork can have a positive impact on long-term memory due to the memorable nature of the fieldwork setting. Effective fieldwork, and residential experience in particular, can lead to individual growth and improvements in social skills. More importantly, there can be reinforcement between the affective and the cognitive, with each influencing the other and providing a bridge to higher order learning.
  • See original document for more points and more detail.

The impact of outdoor adventure activities

  • Strong evidence of the benefits of outdoor adventure education is provided by two meta-analyses of previous research. Looking across a wide range of outcome measures, these studies identify not only positive effects in the short term, but also continued gains in the long term. However, within these broad trends, there can be considerable variation between different kinds of programmes, and different types of outcomes.
  • There is substantial research evidence to suggest that outdoor adventure programmes can impact positively on young people's:

    - attitudes, beliefs and self-perceptions - examples of outcomes include independence, confidence, self-esteem, locus of control, self-efficacy, personal effectiveness and coping strategies
    - interpersonal and social skills - such as social effectiveness, communication skills, group cohesion and teamwork
  • See original document for more points and more detail.

The impact of school grounds/community projects

  • School grounds/community projects have the capacity to link with most curriculum areas. Two specific examples of benefits stemming from this are positive gains in science process skills and improved understanding of design and technology-related issues.
  • In the affective domain, the most important impacts of learning in school grounds/community settings include greater confidence, renewed pride in community, stronger motivation toward learning, and greater sense of belonging and responsibility
  • See original document for more points and more detail.

The full summary also includes:

  • Factors influencing outdoor learning and its provision
  • Key messages for practice
  • Key messages for policy
  • Key messages for research

 

4. Youth Development Outcomes of the Camp Experience (USA)
Major study involving over 5000 families from 80 camps.
Philliber Research Associates and the American Camping Association, 2005.

Youth Development Outcomes of the Camp Experience
A study by Philliber Research Associates and the American Camping Association, 2005.

Between 2001 and 2004 the American Camp Association conducted research with over 5000 families from 80 ACA-Accredited camps to determine the outcomes of the camp experience as expressed by parents and children.

Main Findings

Parents, camp staff, and children reported significant growth in:

Self-esteem,Peer relationships,Independence, Adventure and exploration, Leadership, Environmental awareness, Friendship skills, Values and decisions, Social comfort, Spirituality.
 

 

5. Why Adventure? The Role and Value of Outdoor Adventure in young people's personal and social development (UK)
Literature Review focusing on the more adventurous kinds of outdoor learning.
Jon Barrett and Roger Greenaway, commissioned by the Foundation for Outdoor Adventure, 1995.

A Review of Research by Jon Barrett and Roger Greenaway commissioned by the Foundation for Outdoor Adventure, 1995.

Main Findings:

Outcomes

Most empirical studies of outdoor adventure have concentrated on examining behavioural and psychological outcomes. Some of the most thorough outcome research is found in the youth social work field.

Personal Development

  • Some kinds of outdoor adventure can cause short-term  enhancement of aspects of self-concept (including gains in self-esteem and self-efficacy), and can cause short-term  improvements in internalisation of locus of control. These gains appear to be more significant on longer adventure programmes.
  • Various developmental benefits are associated with regular physical exercise (such as regular  outdoor adventure experiences can provide), e.g.. humour, patience, energy, optimism, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-assurance, emotional stability, improved body-image, etc.

Social Development

  • Strong anecdotal evidence indicates that outdoor adventure experiences can enhance interpersonal relationships and improve socialisation, and can facilitate group bonding and co-operation.
  • Outdoor adventure can help to reduce formality in relationships and develop more human relationships and awareness between young people, and between young people and staff.

Process Factors

Whilst outdoor adventure can  cause the above positive developmental outcomes, it is important to note that these do not automatically  arise from outdoor adventure. Studies investigating causal links between processes and outcomes have rarely been conducted. Nevertheless, some process factors have emerged as being of central importance.

  • Research about effective leadership styles in adventure generally favours a facilitative style in which personal and social development are emphasised. Research indicates that staff require training in interpersonal skills especially if they intend to enhance those of others.
  • Research about the effects of group experiences on personal and social development emphasises the value of small groups in which group support, co-operation and reciprocity may be facilitated.
  • Appropriate selection, group mix and composition are important, particularly with young people experiencing difficulties in their lives.
  • Research emphasises the importance of a supportive learning environment  where young people are able to (for example) express their emotions, learn collaboratively and take responsibility for their own development.
  • The beneficial outcomes of outdoor adventure appear to be most lasting when outdoor adventure experiences are regular and long-term and are linked to community-based follow-up. Research has demonstrated the value of outdoor adventure as an adjunct to community-based developmental and educational provision.

Outdoor adventure programmes working with young people with behavioural and psychological difficulties generally appear to require higher levels of staff facilitation, close attention to appropriate selection and targeting, and reinforcement by long-term community based interventions appropriate to young people's interests and needs.

Link to further information about: Why Adventure? The Role and Value of Outdoor Adventure in young people's personal and social development

 

6. Summary of the Effects of Outdoor Education Programs or "Does Outdoor Education Work?" (Australia)
Meta-analysis of 97 outcome studies from around the world.
James Neill, International Education Vol.3, No. 4, 1999 and revised for Wilderdom, 2006.

Summary of the Effects of Outdoor Education Programs or "Does Outdoor Education Work?" (Australia)
James Neill, International Education Vol.3, No. 4, 1999 and revised for Wilderdom, 2006.

Does outdoor education work?  The research evidence indicates that the effectiveness of outdoor education programming on average is positive and roughly equivalent to other innovative psychosocial interventions. The overall message from the research is that outdoor education has clear potential, if well designed, to foster enhancements of personal and social aspects of learning and development. In addition, at least 11 factors appear to influence what happens to participants during a program and the overall effects of the program.

Outdoor education programs have been found to be moderately effective in influencing typically measured outcomes, such as self-esteem and teamwork. The most commonly researched outcomes have been self constructs such as self-esteem, self-confidence, self-concept and self-efficacy; social constructs such as teamwork and leadership; and other more applied outcomes such as academic achievement and recidivism.

Link to full summary: Summary of the Effects of Outdoor Education Programs or "Does Outdoor Education Work?" which will lead you to a meta-analysis of 97 research studies by  John A. Hattie, Herbert W. Marsh, James T. Neill, Garry E. Richards. Review of Educational Research, 67, 43-87, 1997.

 

What does the research say?

This section provides summaries of key findings from reviews of research and major studies in Outdoor Learning. Each review asks different questions about a different kinds of Outdoor Learning. The overall impact of these collections of research studies is impressive. They demonstrate what can be achieved through Outdoor Learning. The outdoors provides a wide array of opportunities for achieving a whole range of outcomes. Some outcomes require careful design and facilitation, whereas other outcomes simply arise from being outdoors - as is demonstrated by the work of the OPENspace Research Centre described in the first section below.

1. Literature Reviews about the benefits of being outdoors (UK)
OPENspace Research Centre, Edinburgh College of Art, 2003 and 2006.

2. Changing Minds: The Lasting Impact of School Trips (UK)
Long term study of the effects of planned trips with primary school children.
Alan Peacock, Honorary Research Fellow, The Innovation Centre, University of Exeter, 2006.

3. A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning (UK)
Literature review of 150 studies in the period 1993-2003.
Mark Rickinson and NFER colleagues. Field Studies Council, 2004. 

4. Youth Development Outcomes of the Camp Experience (USA)
Major study involving over 5000 families from 80 camps.
Philliber Research Associates and the American Camping Association, 2005.

5. Why Adventure? The Role and Value of Outdoor Adventure in young people's personal and social development (UK)
Literature Review focusing on the more adventurous kinds of outdoor learning.
Jon Barrett and Roger Greenaway, commissioned by the Foundation for Outdoor Adventure, 1995.

6. Summary of the Effects of Outdoor Education Programs or "Does Outdoor Education Work?" (Australia)
Meta-analysis of 97 outcome studies from around the world.
James Neill, International Education Vol.3, No. 4, 1999 and revised for Wilderdom, 2006.

Where to find Outdoor Learning Research

Reviews of Research in Outdoor Learning 

  • Outdoor Learning Discussion Lists
  • Refereed Outdoor Learning Journals
  • Outdoor Learning Research Conferences
  • Other Sources of Research about Outdoor Learning
 
  • Reviews of Research in Outdoor Learning
    Literature Reviews from the OPENspace Research Centre (2003) Health, Well-Being and Open Space (UK)

    Key points from this review of research include:
    - Exposure to the natural environment can have a negative effect on human health.
    - Exposure and access to green spaces can also have a wide range of social, economic, environmental and health benefits
    - Urban green spaces are major contributors to the quality of the environment and human health and well-being in inner city and suburban areas.
    - Outdoor recreation provides an opportunity to increase quality of life and heighten social interaction.
    - Physical activity in the natural environment not only aids an increased life-span, greater well-being, fewer symptoms of depression, lower rates of smoking and substance misuse but also an increased ability to function better at work and home.
    - Health Walk and Green Gym participants cited they stated being 'in the countryside' and 'contact with nature' as key motivating factors to be active.
    - Short-term strategies must begin by establishing a clearer link between accessible urban green space and healthy living in the minds of politicians, policy-makers ad the general public.

  • Wild Adventure Space (UK)
    Literature Review by Penny Travlou, OPENspace Research Centre (2006)
    "Experience of the outdoors and wilderness has the potential to confer a multitude of benefits on young people’s physical development, emotional and mental health and well being and societal development. Mental health and wellbeing benefits from play in natural settings appear to be long-term, realised in the form of emotional stability in young adulthood."

     

  • A Review of Research on Outdoor Learning by Mark Rickinson et al. Field Studies Council, 2004.
    This review brought together the findings from 150 studies in the period 1993-2003 and included most kinds of Outdoor Learning.

    Key findings
    The impact of fieldwork and visits
    - Substantial evidence exists to indicate that fieldwork, properly conceived, adequately planned, well taught and effectively followed up, offers learners opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills in ways that add value to their everyday experiences in the classroom.
    - Specifically, fieldwork can have a positive impact on long-term memory due to the memorable nature of the fieldwork setting. Effective fieldwork, and residential experience in particular, can lead to individual growth and improvements in social skills. More importantly, there can be reinforcement between the affective and the cognitive, with each influencing the other and providing a bridge to higher order learning.
    - See original document for more points and more detail.

    The impact of outdoor adventure activities
    - Strong evidence of the benefits of outdoor adventure education is provided by two meta-analyses of previous research. Looking across a wide range of outcome measures, these studies identify not only positive effects in the short term, but also continued gains in the long term. However, within these broad trends, there can be considerable variation between different kinds of programmes, and different types of outcomes.
    - There is substantial research evidence to suggest that outdoor adventure programmes can impact positively on young people's:
    - attitudes, beliefs and self-perceptions - examples of outcomes include independence, confidence, self-esteem, locus of control, self-efficacy, personal effectiveness and coping strategies
    - interpersonal and social skills - such as social effectiveness, communication skills, group cohesion and teamwork
    See original document for more points and more detail.

    The impact of school grounds/community projects
    - School grounds/community projects have the capacity to link with most curriculum areas. Two specific examples of benefits stemming from this are positive gains in science process skills and improved understanding of design and technology-related issues.
    - In the affective domain, the most important impacts of learning in school grounds/community settings include greater confidence, renewed pride in community, stronger motivation toward learning, and greater sense of belonging and responsibility
    - See original document for more points and more detail.

    The full summary also includes:
    Factors influencing outdoor learning and its provision
    Key messages for practice
    Key messages for policy
    Key messages for research
  • Why Adventure? The Role and Value of Outdoor Adventure in young people's personal and social development (UK)
    A Review of Research by Jon Barrett and Roger Greenaway commissioned by the Foundation for Outdoor Adventure, 1995.

    Main Findings

    OUTCOMES
    Most empirical studies of outdoor adventure have concentrated on examining behavioural and psychological outcomes. Some of the most thorough outcome research is found in the youth social work field.

    Personal Development
    Some kinds of outdoor adventure can cause short-term enhancement of aspects of self-concept (including gains in self-esteem and self-efficacy), and can cause short-term improvements in internalisation of locus of control. These gains appear to be more significant on longer adventure programmes.

    Various developmental benefits are associated with regular physical exercise (such as regular outdoor adventure experiences can provide), e.g.. humour, patience, energy, optimism, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-assurance, emotional stability, improved body-image, etc.

    Direct experience of the natural environment, such as outdoor adventure may offer, can have significant mental and physical health benefits, can enhance self-esteem and self-confidence, and can provide opportunities for spiritual development.

    Social Development
    Strong anecdotal evidence indicates that outdoor adventure experiences can enhance interpersonal relationships and improve socialisation, and can facilitate group bonding and co-operation.

    Outdoor adventure can help to reduce formality in relationships and develop more human relationships and awareness between young people, and between young people and staff.

    PROCESS FACTORS
    Whilst outdoor adventure can cause the above positive developmental outcomes, it is important to note that these do not automatically arise from outdoor adventure. Studies investigating causal links between processes and outcomes have rarely been conducted. Nevertheless, some process factors have emerged as being of central importance.
    - Research about effective leadership styles in adventure generally favours a facilitative style in which personal and social development are emphasised. Research indicates that staff require training in interpersonal skills especially if they intend to enhance those of others.
    - Research about the effects of group experiences on personal and social development emphasises the value of small groups in which group support, co-operation and reciprocity may be facilitated.
    - Appropriate selection, group mix and composition are important, particularly with young people experiencing difficulties in their lives.
    - Research emphasises the importance of a supportive learning environment where young people are able to (for example) express their emotions, learn collaboratively and take responsibility for their own development.
    - The beneficial outcomes of outdoor adventure appear to be most lasting when outdoor adventure experiences are regular and long-term and are linked to community-based follow-up. Research has demonstrated the value of outdoor adventure as an adjunct to community-based developmental and educational provision.

    Outdoor adventure programmes working with young people with behavioural and psychological difficulties generally appear to require higher levels of staff facilitation, close attention to appropriate selection and targeting, and reinforcement by long-term community based interventions appropriate to young people's interests and needs.

  • Summary of the Effects of Outdoor Education Programs or "Does Outdoor Education Work?" (Australia)
    James Neill, International Education Vol.3, No. 4, 1999 and revised for Wilderdom, 2006.

    Does outdoor education work?  The research evidence indicates that the effectiveness of outdoor education programming on average is positive and roughly equivalent to other innovative psychosocial interventions. The overall message from the research is that outdoor education has clear potential, if well designed, to foster enhancements of personal and social aspects of learning and development. In addition, at least 11 factors appear to influence what happens to participants during a program and the overall effects of the program.

    Outdoor education programs have been found to be moderately effective in influencing typically measured outcomes, such as self-esteem and teamwork. The most commonly researched outcomes have been self constructs such as self-esteem, self-confidence, self-concept and self-efficacy; social constructs such as teamwork and leadership; and other more applied outcomes such as academic achievement and recidivism.

    Link to full summary: Summary of the Effects of Outdoor Education Programs or "Does Outdoor Education Work?" which will lead you to a meta-analysis of 97 research studies by  John A. Hattie, Herbert W. Marsh, James T. Neill, Garry E. Richards. Review of Educational Research, 67, 43-87, 1997.

Outdoor Learning Discussion Lists

Refereed Outdoor Learning Journals

Outdoor Leaning Research Conferences

Other sources of research about Outdoor Learning

Outdoor Learning Research in other Journals

Some other refereed journals that publish Outdoor Learning research

Academy of Management Learning and Education
Example: 2(4) 352-263. Meyer, J. P. (2003) Four territories of experience: A developmental action inquiry approach to outdoor-adventure experiential learning.

Educational Researcher
Example: 32(4) 3-12. Gruenewald, D. (2003) The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place 

Human Resource Management
Example: 36(2) 235-250. McEvoy, G. (1997) Organizational change and outdoor management education

History of Education
Example: 28, 157-172. Cook, L. (1999) The 1944 Education Act and outdoor education: from policy to practice

International Journal of Sport Psychology
Example: 29, 243-266. Meyer, B. & Wenger, M. (1998). Athletes and adventure education: An empirical investigation.

International Review for the Sociology of Sport
Example: 33(4) 393-402. Pedersen, K (1998) Doing Feminist Ethnography in the Wilderness around my Hometown

Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning

Journal of American Indian Education
Example: 35(2) Zwick, T. and Miller, K. (1996) A comparison of integrated outdoor education activities and traditional science learning with American Indian students.

Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy
Example: 30(1) 33-60. Hans, T. (2000) A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Adventure Programming on Locus of Control

Journal of Curriculum Studies
Example: 34(4) 405-425. Brookes, A. (2002)  Lost in the Australian bush: outdoor education as curriculum

Journal of Management Development
Example: 13(9) 14-24. Burnett, D. and James, K. (1994) Using the Outdoors to Facilitate Personal Change in Managers

Journal of Park and Recreation Administration
Example: 23 (3) 82-98. Astbury, R., Knight, B., and Nichols, G. (2005) The contribution of sport related interventions to the long-term development of disaffected young people: an evaluation of the Fairbridge Program.

Journal of Risk Research
Example: 3(2) 121-134. Nichols G. (2000) Risk and adventure education.

Review of Educational Research
Example: 67(1) 43-87. Hattie, Marsh, Neill, and Richards (1997) Adventure Education and Outward Bound: Out-of-Class Experiences That Make a Lasting Difference

Science Education
Example: 81(2) 161 - 171. Orion, N. et al (1998) Development and validation of an instrument for assessing the learning environment of outdoor science activities

Sport, Education and Society
Example: 11(2) 135-153. Allin, L. and Humberstone, B. (2006) Exploring 'careership' in outdoor education and the lives of women outdoor educators.

Team Performance Management
Example: 3(2) 97-115. Mazany, P. et al (1997) Evaluating the effectiveness of an outdoor workshop for team building in an MBA programme.

To find more journals that publish research about Outdoor Learning, refer to WilderdomGoogle Scholar, bubl, or this directory of scholarly search engines

 

 

 

 

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