Why learning outside the classroom?

Motivation & behaviour

A positive view of the world and high motivation are the keys to positive behaviour. A young person who is not motivated is unlikely to concentrate and learn effectively. Research evidence shows that learning outside the classroom can have a powerfully motivating effect on young people and a beneficial impact on behaviour.

Teenage girl trying yoga while learning outside the classroom

Places like museums provide new visual and sensory experiences

It suggests that such experiences are especially motivating for young people of all abilities who are not motivated by classroom learning.  Those whose behaviour might deter teachers from taking them outside of the classroom are often the very young people who benefit the most.

Learning experiences outside the classroom have a positive impact on motivation and behaviour because they offer young people a different kind of stimulus from the formality of the classroom, providing them with opportunities to learn that suit them as individuals, and demonstrating the value of real-life situations. For example:

  • Adventure activities offer an outlet for physical energy and opportunities for teamwork. Young people who are otherwise disengaged from formal education often flourish in this kind of challenging situation.
  • Images and objects in places like museums and galleries provide new visual and sensory experiences. For young people who do not like reading and writing or who have learning difficulties and disabilities or special educational needs, this can be a liberation.
  • Music, theatre, dance and other arts activities can have immense emotional and visual impact. Actually seeing a play on stage can engage young people more successfully than reading it on the page.
  • Observing how knowledge and skills are applied in a real-life context can make learning more meaningful, whether it is investigating approaches to land management in a local farm or exploring mechanical processes in a science centre.

London Challenge evaluation

Starting in 2004 the Field Studies Council London embarked on a government funded programme to give children a free residential experience during the summer holidays at one of its 17 centres. The experience included team building and outdoor adventure education. Initial evaluation of the project reported benefits in the following aspects:

  • Cognitive — very positive effect: the ‘hands-on’ active learning style led to the engagement and learning of students.
  • Affective – motivation and willingness to participate was much greater. Immense boost to their self-esteem and confidence when they realised they were achieving well, especially compared with those who normally did better in school. Many students enjoyed the space and freedom.
  • Interpersonal / Social — Trust in one another improved over the course. Teachers reported positive relationships developing between themselves and children during the course. There were examples of students taking leadership roles within their team where they would not be expected to in school.
  • Physical / Behavioural — behaviour was as good as if not better than in school.  Students were surpassing their own expectations of what they might be able to achieve during key activities.

Read more about the London Challenge.