When planning a learning experience don’t just think about what the young people will learn. Think also about, how it is best learned (learning styles) and where the best place is for the learning to take place (the location).
The answer to these questions will suggest that most things can be learned, and learned well, outside the classroom. So, seek out opportunities and plan the experience as you would any other aspect of your teaching or curriculum-based work.
To do this you need to consider the following planning questions:
a) What learning outcomes are the young people going to take away from the experience?
Whether you are a teacher, youth worker, care assistant, learning mentor or voluntary leader, being clear about what you want to achieve for your group is an important starting point. It will help you decide:
- what the most appropriate learning outside the classroom activity is
- how to plan and organise the learning experience
- how well have you achieved your outcomes.
View this illustration of the learning outcomes
With a clear vision of what you want to achieve, you can make decisions about the most appropriate activity, and the best location and time for these learning outside the classroom experiences. It will help you decide:
- where you should go (school grounds, immediate environment, local community, or further afield)
- when you should go e.g. it may be better to teach elements of astronomy in the winter when the nights are darker earlier
- whether it is to be a teacher/ practitioner -led activity or one using an external provider
- what support you need to achieve these outcomes
- whether a single experience or a series of experiences is appropriate.
View the ‘where does LOtC take place‘ pages for some ideas.
c) How do you plan a valuable learning experience?
With a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and where you want to go, you can make decisions about the best ways to organise these learning experiences. It will help you to plan for:
- the roles of teachers/practitioners and other adults
- risk management
- appropriate resources
- effective partnership
- different learning styles.
It should also ensure that this learning experience is integrated into wider curriculum (and other development) plans, by helping you to:
- support young people to make best use of the experience
- capture opportunities for follow-up
- extend learning beyond the learning outside the classroom experience(s)
- add value by using core skills and cross-curricular opportunities.
All activities should have a clear link to the wider curriculum and should contribute to enabling young people to become:
- successful learners, who enjoy learning, make progress and achieve
- confident individuals, able to lead safe and healthy lives
- responsible citizens, who make a positive contribution to society.
To maximise the learning opportunities, all those working with children and young people should take an overview of the range of learning outside the classroom experiences they offer, to ensure that, over time, there is progression and development which is reflected and contributed across the whole spectrum of experiences, activities and visits.
Read more about LOtC Curriculum Planning.
Compelling learning experiences
All learning outside the classroom experiences have the potential, if properly planned, to be compelling learning experiences. The latest curriculum documents highlight the importance of ‘compelling learning’. Compelling learning is: ‘A real and relevant context for learning through which young people recognise for themselves the importance of learning to their lives now and in the future.’
A compelling learning experience:
- has clear learning outcomes relating to what learners need to know and understand, the skills they will acquire and areas of personal development
- is real and relevant, connecting learning at school to the world beyond the classroom, and learning in non-formal settings
- has a real audience and purpose
- provides contexts that draw together several aspects of learning, connecting different subject disciplines, focusing on a specific subject, or linking learning through cross-curricular dimensions or the development of personal, social, learning and thinking skills
- gives learners a sense of autonomy, having the chance to think critically, make decisions, take responsibility and manage risks
- offers opportunities for cooperation and collaboration
- broadens horizons and raises aspirations, offering contexts that challenge learners and encourage them to step outside their comfort zone
d) Evaluating your activities
It is essential that all those involved in teaching and learning reflect regularly on the development of learning outside the classroom. This reflection will help you to recognise success and identify areas that are less effective and may need to be changed.
If you really want to know whether learning outside the classroom is having the desired impact on young people, you may need to establish a clear baseline and then carry out regular, planned evaluations to check progress.
Consider what evidence might be evaluated when undertaking self-review. It also provides opportunities for you to consider how you might involve young people, parents/carers and the wider community in evaluation activities. It will help you answer some key questions:
- What should schools, early years centres and youth projects, and others evaluate?
- How well does learning outside the classroom relate to achieving high standards and the outcomes of Every Child Matters?
- How well does it meet the wider aims of the curriculum?
- How well is our learning outside the curriculum working?
- Is learning outside the classroom helping more young people to achieve their aims?
- What are the strengths of our current work?
- What are areas for further development?’
Information gathered through evaluations will help keep your work exciting, relevant and up to date.