The 30-second briefing: What is learning outside the classroom?

Think you know about learning outside the classroom? Sarah Wright might make you think again in her 30-second overview of the topic.

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Do I really need to ask what learning outside the classroom is?

It does sound self-explanatory, but there is actually more to it than just taking a bunch of kids outside to read under a tree. It’s about taking your learning beyond the classroom in a way that makes it really matter – and there’s a growing body of research to suggest that LOTC can positively impact everything from attainment to well-being.

Alright, how do I do it?

Learning outside the classroom is defined by the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom as using “places other than the classroom for teaching and learning”.

But it’s not about packing up your traditional classroom and plonking it down somewhere else. Learning outside the classroom is about harnessing the opportunities that the outdoors provides, whether that means a bug hunt in the school grounds, a trip to the theatre or a residential visit.

We run a yearly theatre trip once Sats and GCSEs are out of the way. Isn’t that enough?

Excursions and field trips are only one aspect of learning outside the classroom and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed into certain times of the year.

When you take your learners out of the box, the change in scenery alongside a well-planned and purposeful lesson can increase motivation and engagement at any time.

So, it’s about engaging them before we go back to the real work indoors?

This is the real work. Engagement is a key part of learning in different places, but there’s more to it than that.

Giving your learners a direct experience will help to make learning become more authentic. Whether your pupils are sowing their own seeds in an allotment or exploring their local environment, learning outside the classroom has the potential to develop collaboration, independence and resilience.

I can see the benefits, but it sounds like a lot of paper work…

Risk assessments may look like an initial boundary, but once you understand exactly what is required of them and when, they aren’t so bad. Risk should be assessed in proportion to the activity and the needs of your learners. These assessments are there to support rather than to restrain your teaching.

CLOTC has some great advice on how to risk assess and many traditional school trip destinations will be able to complete risk assessments on your behalf.

Okay, you’ve convinced me. Where can I find out more about it?

As well as the CLOTC, you’ll find some incredible advocates for learning outside the classroom on Twitter.

Juliet Roberston (@creativeSTAR) has written a book called Dirty Teaching that is brimming with activities. Classroom practitioners like Mike Watson (@WatsEd) share great ideas and you can follow developing research from Louise Hawxwell (@ehusci_louise) as well as using the #LOtC hashtag. Sue Waite and Simon Beames also conduct research in this area.

Sarah Wright is a senior lecturer at Edge Hill University. She tweets as @Sarah__wright1

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