Outdoor Learning


A review of Research on Outdoor Learning

National Foundation for Educational Research and King’s College London


There is growing concern that opportunities for outdoor learning by school students in England have decreased substantially in recent years. In response to this, and recent Government calls for ‘schools to make better use of the outdoor classroom as a context for teaching and learning’,1 the Field Studies Council (FSC) and several partner

organisations commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to undertake a review of research on outdoor learning.

This document summarises the key findings of this review, which critically examined 150 pieces of research on outdoor learning published in English between 1993 and 2003. The literature encompassed three main types of outdoor learning with primary school pupils, secondary school students and undergraduate learners:

  • fieldwork and outdoor learning visits
  • outdoor learning adventure education
  • school grounds/community projects.



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Student Learning

Student and Schooling Pathways


Professor Karen Malone, Centre for Educational Research, Western Sydney University

Associate Professor Sue Waite, Plymouth Institute of Education, Plymouth University


This report coincide with a time when there is evidence that childhoods are dramatically changing, and children are experiencing limited opportunities to be outdoors in formal or informal learning settings, with consequent negative effects. The evidence especially reveals that lack of exposure to natural environments denies children the opportunity to develop understandings and experiences that will have a long term impact on the quality of their lives, particularly in relation to their physical health and wellbeing and ‘character capabilities’ such as application, self-regulation, empathy, creativity, and innovation, and their capacity to be successful learners and active contributing members for a sustainable society. This report responds to an urgency to address this social predicament; the childhood disconnect from nature and importance of learning in natural environments, with a view of encouraging policy makers to recognise the value of outdoor learning and the opportunities that it provides to overcome these contemporary challenges to children’s education, health, wellbeing and future success in life.

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Student Learning