Introduction. To understand science is to understand the world around you,thus restricting learning to the confines of a classroom will only apprehendthe learner from having a true understanding of the subject. To enable studentsto contextualise concepts Braund & Reiss (2006) suggest that the teachershould move to teach outdoors, as it provides a more authentic environment.
Theeducational potential that learning outside of the classroom provides has beenrecognised as effective practice, promoting engagement, cognitive development,and motivation (Bogner, 2002; Dillon and Dickie,2012; Hovardas, 2016; Rickson et al, 2004).Specific examples of the gains learning outside the classroom which have beenidentified are the retention of knowledge, Mackenzie & White (1982)identified that students who were involved in an active excursion had a longterm retention of 90%, where as those student whom studied the same content withno excursion only maintained retention of 51%. Outside learning was furtheridentified as a facilitator for long term retention by Fägerstam & Blom (2013). In other research it hasbeen concluded that learning experiences undertaken outside the classroompromotes “increased student motivation and enjoyment.” (Fägerstam, 2014). Thedemand on schools to cover an extensive curriculum and maintain high results itis vital that leaving the classroom to learn does not impede on this, acollective of researchers identified that learning outside the classroom allowsfor contextualization without reducing student achievement (Braund & Reiss,2006; Fägerstam, 2014; Glackin, 2013). In addition to the research highlighting theimportance of learning outside the classroom educational bodies have also emphasisedthe importance of learning outside the classroom.
For example the UK Governmentand Skills Committee (2005) states that “education outside the classroom is ofsignificant benefit to students”. This report continues to highlight how socialskills and confidence of learners also benefits. House of Commons Children,Schools and Families Committee (2010) further recognise the importance of learning outdoors puts forward annumber of initiatives intended to increase the participation in suchopportunities. Research widely agreesthat teaching outside that classroom as an effective pedagogical practice, andgovernment concurs providing initiatives to encourage growth in involvement ofschool. However, in spite of increasing academic emphasis on the advantages ofteaching outside the classroom a decrease in practices has been noted (Barker,2005; Tilling, 2004). Scott (2005) examined the barriers teachers faced whichprevented them from completing fieldwork. The paper identified that the cost,transport and paperwork were the main deterrents for teachers when consideringa fieldtrip; these concerns were sufficient enough to prevent fieldwork. Scottalso looked at the barriers to taking teaching outside the classroom yetremaining within the school grounds, in doing so he removes concerns aroundcosting or extensive paperwork, in doing so his findings as to how factorswhich impeded fieldwork changed were of interest.
Scott identified thatteachers shifted in their reasoning towards apprehension towards fieldtrips,citing more emphasis on teacher’s confidence (or lack of), school policy and management.Scott proposed that perhaps traditional barriers and initiatives to overcome themshould be reconsidered to focus more on the teacher’s individual predispositionto teaching outdoors in order to support those lacking confidence andfacilitate their willingness to engage in outdoor learning. It is with theresearch presented by Scott (2005) that this literature review will attempt toanalyse how an individual teacher’s own personal barriers to teaching outsideof the classroom may alter their pedagogical approaches.
Whilst many studieshave looked at the effectiveness of teaching outside the classroom few havefocused on the impact being removed from the familiarity and routine of theclassroom posses. Glackin (2017) argued that “Teachers’ ‘fearful’ expectationswhen outside triggered the initial use of regulatory technologies that werefrequently more assertive and controlling than their usual classroom practice,resulting in increased authoritative teaching approaches.” Perhaps in fact anindividual’s own fears may not only be a barrier (Scott, 2005), but alsoinhibit the most effective teaching practice. I will firstexamine how the theory of learning has established to develop an understand of’best practice’ in science teaching, this will allow critique of pedagogicalpractice in a number of studies focusing on outdoor learning. I will define keyterms for the paper. I will then examine a number of research papers that areaimed to identify the effectiveness of learning outdoors and critique thequality of pedagogy recorded. I aim to discuss how the teachers own outlookcould potentially alter their approach and inhibit the quality of teaching linkingto the findings of prior research (Glackin, 2017; Scott, 2005), and drawing from my own experienceas a secondary school teacher. Theoretical Framework In order to successfully teach it is critical to understandthe process by which students learn.
Initial approaches to learning took a behaviourist approach;behaviourism is principally associated with the early work of Pavlov (????). Pavlov’s workintroduced the theory of classical conditioning, a term derived form the ideaof reflex learning. Conditional learning uses the concept that a response to anunconditional stimulus could be stimulated by a controlled stimulus ifrepeatedly presented together. The subject would become conditioned to respondby association as a result. Behaviourist concepts grew in popularity and beganto influence the education policy.
Operant conditioning (Skinner, 1968) describedlearning as a function of change in overt behaviour. The role of the teacherwas that strengthen a desired response by positive reinforcement. Whilstfocusing on positive reinforcement this technique also accepted negativereinforcement. However, behaviourism is less prevalent in modern practice asmany within the field believe that these techniques promote rote learning, thusneglecting a true development of understanding in pupils. The Psychology of the Child (Piaget, 1952) brought a newtheory to development of children’s learning. Piaget’s extensive research intochildren’s minds concluded that a learner’s development could be broken downinto a series of stages. To date Piaget’s revolutionary four-stage theory ofdevelopment remains popular within education and laid the basis for theconstructivist theory of learning (Phillips, 1997). Constructivism cites an individuals learningto be based upon the ability to combine old and new information to constructmeaning, in tern generating an internal cognitive process.
This process hasbeen interpreted that the learner them selves should take ownership of theirlearning and not be reliant on a teacher to ‘transmit’ information to them (vonGlaserfeld, 1989), Mayer (2004) translates this principal as the learner mustuncover concepts by themselves. Whilst it is identified that it is nearimpossible for a learner to construct their own theories of scientificphenomenon in the world around us a constructivist view would be that theteachers role in science would be to understand the learners interpretation ofthe phenomena and guide them through cognitive conflict to enable them to trulyunderstand the scientific reasoning (Fay & Mayer, 1994; Khlar & Nigam,2004). Linked closely to constructivism isthe theory of social constructivism.
This theory is based on the work ofVygotsky (1978) and Bruner (1966), it proposes that through interactions withan individual’s environment and assisted by those with more knowledge aroundthem an individual may build their own understanding. The view thatinteractions between learners may be utilised as an effective device to furtheradvance skills was employed by Vygotsky (1978). He presented the idea of Zoneof Proximal Development (ZPD) – the area between the attainment possible bysolitary work and that with the aid of an individual with broader knowledge.
Murphy(2012) further explored this idea and found that as scientific understanddevelops everyday observations and understanding become more scientific. Thusallowing the learner to make sense of the world around them, and make judgementon everyday topics based on a scientific reasoning. The view that interactions between learners may be utilisedas an effective device to further advance skills was employed by Vygotsky(1978). He presented the idea of Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) – the areabetween the attainment possible by solitary work and that with the aid of anindividual with broader knowledge. The individual with a wider skill andknowledge set may be. Vygotsky (1978) identified that a students leaning may beaccelerated by the teacher through initially identifying the students ZPD, thismay be done via the use of probing questions, or assessment. Once the ZPD has been identified the teachermay further their development by providing the appropriate “scaffolding” (Wood,Bruner & Ross 1976 p90) to succeed in a task unattainable by self study.
Once the task has been understood the scaffolding may be dissolved and thestudent is able to achieve the same results with out the scaffolding previouslyrequired. By structuring the task the teacher has the ability to aid studentlearning such that they are provided with the correct support to “boost” theirdevelopment and access the task. “Learning is aprocess of active engagement with experience. It is what people do when theywant to make sense of the world. It may involve the development or deepening ofskills, knowledge, understanding, awareness, values, ideas and feelings or anincrease in the capacity to reflect. Effective teaching leads to changedevelopment and the desire to learn.”(The Campaignfor Learning, 2003)