The purpose of school is to prepare students for life beyond school. Today's society has a higher demand for self-awareness and more specialised skills. One of the easiest ways to help advance students is by incorporating learning experiences outside the classroom. Learning outside the classroom can help enrich a student's educational experience by showing them real-life applications of theories that they are learning at school.
Learning outside the classroom is the use of places other than the school for teaching and learning. It is about getting children and young people out and about, providing them with challenging, exciting and different experiences to help them learn.
Places may refer to a location, activity or workshop, but regardless of where learning outside the classroom takes place, the purpose is the same - to give students a real-world learning experience that will set them up for success in life beyond school.
Learning outside the classroom experiences differ from those that arise through conventional teaching methods as students may be encouraged to engage a broader range of soft skills such as teamwork, leadership and compromise in their learning environment.
Conventional teaching focuses on repetition and memorisation to educate students and is beneficial for sharing new knowledge and teaching students who learn best by listening. However, conventional teaching doesn't encourage students to develop critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills, which learning outside the classroom can. Not only can learning outside the classroom lead to a deeper understanding of challenging concepts, but it can also provide a context for learning in many areas.
Learning outside the classroom can help teachers create enthusiasm for learning, provide a real-world context and expose students to a range of STEM careers.
Students who experience learning outside the classroom benefit from increased self-esteem and become more engaged in their education. Evidence suggests learning outside the classroom can help raise achievement, improve classroom behaviour and improve the engagement of students, including those who are hard to engage in the classroom environment. An extensive report published by Ofsted found learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving pupils’ personal, social and emotional development.
In 2016, School Travel Forum conducted an independent research study to find out how school trips and learning outside the classroom impact the development of students. They found 60% of teachers noticed an increase in students’ confidence, resilience and wellbeing after participating in a school trip and 61% of students achieved higher than their predicted grade.
The study also found that while most teachers wish they could offer more learning outside the classroom opportunities, 67% cited cost and organisation as their primary deterrents.
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A degree of cost-benefit analysis takes place when deciding to organise a school trip or other learning outside the classroom activity. Costs involved in coordinating learning outside the classroom may include accommodation, transport, insurance, learning workshop fees, and time taken to fill out paperwork. Benefits commonly include what students are expected to get out of the trip, such as a better understanding of a concept or topic.
While the cost-benefit analysis can be helpful in making decisions, teachers often forget to include the many external and intrinsic benefits that arise from learning outside the classroom. These might include reduced behavioural problems, a more accepting attitude towards cultural differences and diversity, or a piqued curiosity in a future career prospect. All of these are examples of benefits that have a positive impact but cannot be easily quantified. Because of this, organising a school trip or other learning outside the classroom experiences may appear costlier than it actually is.
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