Analysing attempts to support outdoor learning in Scottish schools

Malcolm Thorburn, Peter Allison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The new ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ in Scotland outlines a policy vision of a more integrated and holistic form of education; a commitment which offers considerable prospects for increased levels of outdoor learning in schools (Learning and Teaching Scotland, 2010). With reference to Fullan’s theorizing on achieving educational change, we investigated four main implementation areas, namely: policy aims, partnerships arrangements and associated professionalism and sustainability issues. We collected evidence through a series of sixteen semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders at national, local authority and school level. Despite increased agreement on aims, we found that improving the frequency and quality of outdoor learning in schools was adversely influenced by the patchwork nature of partnership support at national and local authority levels. This has curtailed the prioritizing of outdoor learning in schools and of teachers being supported when trying to make use of their increased curriculum decision-making responsibilities. Thus, we found only limited evidence of policy-related innovation and considerable evidence of policy stasis. As such, building national capacity is proving difficult. We conclude that further research on how some atypical schools have managed to develop their programmes offers the best prospects for understanding the complexities of achieving greater levels of outdoor learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)418-440
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Curriculum Studies
Issue number3
Early online date25 May 2010
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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