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Learning outside the classroom

In this week, I am going to talk about outdoor education. Outdoor education can be referred to experiential learning in the external environment (Cameron, D. , no date). According to Institute of outdoor learning (What are the benefits of outdoor learning, no date), outdoor education would improve personal and communication skills. Moreover, it also increases physical and mental health. On the other hand, however, Jacobsen, K. (2012) showed that outdoor education might not suitable for all students. It depends on students’ temperament. In this passage, we are going to discuss the advantages and drawbacks of outdoor education.


Firstly, there are lots of pieces of evidence that supported outdoor education exerts benefits to students’ learning. Research showed that external environments have a potential to improve learning education, personal and social development (Mirrahmi et al., 2011). In addition, outdoor learning cultivates students’ passionate in learning, fosters critical thinking, enhances leadership qualities and makes students become real-world problem solvers ( National Environmental Education Foundation, no date). Besides, a case study also showed that the participant had greatly increased his score on different subject and class participation after changed to outdoor learning (Oliver, A. , no date). 


Then, despite outdoor learning plays an important role in education, it also exists limitation. Jacobsen, K. (2012) displayed that individuals’ temperament would also affect the efficiency of outdoor learning on students. On one hand,students with an easy or a withdrawal temperament are suitable in both indoor and outdoor learning environment. On the other hand, outdoor education would be more suitable for students with a difficult or a mixed temperament.


From the above, we can clearly see that outdoor learning benefits students in learning. By learning in external environment, students can increase their learning enthusiasm and their academic result. Still, outdoor education has its disadvantage. This is to say, it is not suitable for all students. Therefore, if educational sectors want to implement outdoor learning, they have to firstly examine student own temperament.


Personally, I agree that outdoor education is a more interactive way in learning. Nevertheless, it is obviously not suitable for all students. It is important for teachers to examine students in terms of their behavior and attitude before implement outdoor learning.


Reference list


Cameron, D. (no date). What is outdoor education. Retrieved 18 October 2013, from


Institute of outdoor learning (no date). What are the benefits of outdoor learning. Retrieved 18 October 2013, from


Jacobsen, K. (2012). Individual Differences and Possible Effects from Outdoor Education

Long Time and Short Time Benefits. World Journal of Education, 2(4): 20-33


Mirrahmi, S. Z., Tawil, N. M., Abdullah, N. A. G., Surat, M., & Usman, I. M. S. (2011). Developing Conducive Sustainable Outdoor Learning: The Impact of Natural Environment on Learning, Social and Emotional Intelligence. Procedia Engineering, 20, 389-396.


National Environmental Education Foundation ( no date). Benefits of environmental education. Retrieved 18 October 2013, from


Oliver, A. (no date). The Benefits of Outdoor Education and

its Effects on Reluctant Learners. University project. Retrieved 18 October 2013, from


6 responses to “Learning outside the classroom

  1. I think there are definite benefits to learning outside, but I would disagree with your point about this method of learning not being suitable for everyone, certainly different children may take different things from what they are taught, but I believe much of the curriculum can be adapted to work with outdoor activities or at least link to them. One type of school which teaches in this way is Forest schools.

    Usually these run alongside traditional schools, offering sessions once a week to the students, they seek to encourage the children to interact with the natural world and gain learning from this, activities may include things such as working together to build something (teamwork, physics, construction, planning skills), gathering sticks or leaves from a sample area (botany, maths, environmental studies and science) looking after farm animals (biology, responsibility, care) etc. Not only does this offer a more integrated curriculum but it also helps build social skills.

    Murray and O’Brien (2006) looked at forest schools and their impact on groups of children ranging from 3-9 years old. They found significant gains in confidence, social skills, language and communication, motivation and concentration, physical skills and knowledge and understanding resulted from the children who attended the forest school groups. While Apsianll and Roe (2011) looked at teenagers both with and without behavioural problems, again they found that the teenagers all befitted from the experience, but especially those with behaviour deemed as poor in the classroom, this they attribute to the ‘restorative’ effect of outdoor learning.

    The government too believes that an outdoor education is very important and in 2006 they stated: ‘‘outdoor education gives depth to the curriculum and makes an important contribution to students’ physical, personal and social education’’. Therefore I think as much as possible schools should be seeking to address this and take at least some lessons outside… as soon as the rain stops!

    Roe, J. & Aspinall, P. (2011) The restorative outcomes of forest school and conventional school in young people with good and poor behaviour Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 10,(3), 205–212
    O’Brien, L., & Murray, R. (2007). Forest School and its impacts on young children: Case studies in Britain. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 6(4), 249-265
    Department for Education and Skills, (2006). Learning outside the classroom manifesto. DfES, London, P5

  2. sjs91

    I enjoyed your blog and agree that students can get a lot more from outside based learning. I would however disagree with your point, that this methods isn’t for everyone. Astin, (1993) argues that learning and personal development during the undergraduate years occurs as a result of students engaging in both academic and non-academic activities, inside and outside the classroom (Astin, 1993). He suggests that to enhance student learning, institutions must make classroom experiences more productive and also encourage students to devote more of their time outside the classroom to educationally purposeful activities, such as university clubs. Pascarella and Terenzini, (1991) agree suggesting that time outside the classroom can refresh a students perspective and get them back into the ‘mindset’ of traditional learning in the classroom. Looking back I used to love time out of the classroom, it always made things far easier to envisage opposed with power point presentations.

    Astin,. (1993). What matters in college, four critical years revisited. The Jossey-Base Higher and Adult Eduication Series, 482.
    Pascarella & Terenzini. (1991). Student learning outside the classroom. Journal of Education, 7, 229-235.

  3. I agree that outdoor education appears to be an effective alternative to the class room environment. Obviously outdoor education is most beneficial when it comes to learning about the environment, but this knowledge students gain first hand can then be transferred back to the classroom. One study found that children showed a significant improvement in their capability to write about an animal they had experienced directly compared to when asked to write about an animal they had not encountered personally (Scott, Churchill, Grassam and Scott, 2012). However it appears that teachers lack the confidence to incorporate more outdoor education into their day to day teaching. But it has been found that training and experience can combat this. One study found that when classroom and student teachers engaged in a partnership project to create primary mathematics based outdoor activities, they established the skills, interest and confidence to engage in future outdoor learning practices (Moffett, 2011). So maybe if more training programmes were offered to teachers, so they can experience the benefits of outdoor education and gain the skills to teach effectively, it would be become a bigger part of the education system.


    Moffett, P. V. (2011). Outdoor mathematics trails: an evaluation of one training partnership. Education 3–13, 39(3), 277-287.

    Scott, G., Churchill, H., Grassam, M., & Scott, L. (2012). Can the integration of field and classroom-based learning enhance writing? The life on our shore case study. Education 3-13, 40(5), 547-560.

  4. psuf3c

    Outdoor learning helps to encourage team building, leadership, environmental leadership and many other things. As outdoor learning is a stark contract to being in a classroom it is often more engaging for students, it helps to motivate and keep a topic interesting. As well as just learning about the topic in a lesson, outdoor learning means a child gets to go and explore and discover through real life interaction with the element. One way in which we learn is by taking meaning from the direct experiences that we have. Although direct experience may not necessarily be needed for academic learning to take place by experiencing the world through outdoor education can only inspire, engage and create a passion for that subject.

  5. psueef

    I like your blogs interesting concept regarding outdoor education, however I disagree with you conclusion about if not being suitable for all students.

    For me I don’t think it is the type of student, which can benefit more from an outdoor setting, it is the subject or seriousness of the class. I would argue that learning for an extreme example, logarithmic algorithms would be at a disadvantage in an outdoor setting. However for a more interactive lesson involving something environmental I can see the advantage.

    Research suggests the main advantages of outdoor education lie with primary school children as it allows children to move freely (Rivkin, 1995). Play and movement are considered as the most natural and powerful way of learning in young children (Bilton, 2002). The outdoors also allows children to engage in more believable fantasy play (Ouvry, 2003) allowing better relationships with peers and distance from confrontation, reducing signs of frustration and lack of cooperation.

    Outdoor education has its time and place. For younger children who are learning more life skills, such as making friends and cooperation it is advantageous. As for actual academic performance there is little literature suggesting outdoor education improves grades.


    Bilton, H. (2010). Outdoor learning in the early years: management and innovation. Routledge.

    Ouvry, M. (2003). Exercising muscles and minds: outdoor play and the early years curriculum. NCB.

    Rivkin, M. S. (1995). The great outdoors: Restoring children’s right to play outside. National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1509 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC.

  6. Pingback: Discovery Learning, Still Not Convinced? | The Science of Education

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