'Did you enjoy your holiday?' Can residential outdoor learning benefit mainstream schooling?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In the United Kingdom there is a long tradition of residential outdoor learning provision, but to date there is limited research evidence for the direct educational benefits of such experiences, and to both critics and supporters the distinction between such visits and 'holidays in school time' is not always apparent. This paper summarises an evaluation of one such programme used by a Scottish council as part of an initiative to raise pupils' achievement, and considers the direct educational benefits in relation to the current educational framework within Scotland. A mixed-methods evaluation involving over 800 pupils combined psychometric analysis, participant observation, group and individual interviews, and was conducted before, during and up to three months after each residential experience. Aspects were repeated over the course of two years. The personal 'dispositions' concept prominent in the National Curriculum Guidelines for 5-14 year olds (in place during the fieldwork) provided an overarching analytical framework. The findings were then related to the development of the personal 'capacities' specified in the current curriculum in Scotland (Curriculum for Excellence). This paper therefore performs three functions: first, it examines the educational relationship between residential outdoor learning and mainstream education in Scotland; second, it considers the contemporary significance and continued relevance of outdoor learning more generally; and third, it examines the relationship between qualitative and quantitative approaches to such studies. The aim of fostering positive 'dispositions' or 'capacities' is now prevalent in the curricula of many countries and so the findings may have significance beyond the United Kingdom.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning
Early online date18 Mar 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Residential education
  • Outdoor education
  • Outdoor learning
  • Mainstream education
  • Curriculum
  • Mixed-methods research


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