Investigating the process of learning for school pupils on residential outdoor education courses

Roger Anthony Scrutton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Pupils’ process of learning on residential outdoor education courses is perceived by some providers, customers and researchers as a linear one in which learning takes place in the social affective domain followed by the academic affective domain and then, depending on course objectives, the cognitive domain. Other researchers envisage a non-linear process, akin to soft complexity, in which the inputs are the course characteristics and traits of the learner and the process an ‘intertwining’ and feedforward and feedback between learning domains. These theses are investigated with reference to the objectives of different course types – adventure, curriculum, combined - and it is concluded that while individual pupils learn in a complex way, outcomes at the level of the group and/or course appear to be linearly related. However, there is a question over whether a curriculum-related course can deliver the affective learning that seems to facilitate cognitive learning. This was tested experimentally with secondary school pupils attending a field studies (curriculum) course. Although the experimental group made significant cognitive gain it was not accompanied by the putative affective learning. Affective measures revealed a level of stability of pupils’ self-concept that might have inhibited affective learning. There remains potential for primary quantitative studies to test for relationships between elements of learning in different domains on residential courses and thus inform the process of learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
JournalJournal of Outdoor and Environmental Education
Early online date11 Dec 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Dec 2019


  • residential outdoor education
  • learning processes
  • quantitative testing


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