The science focusing specifically on science based trips and


The ‘Learning
Outside the Classroom Manifesto’ defines learning outside the classroom as a
learning environment that differs from the indoor based classroom (Department
for Education and Skills, 2006). This
assignment will discuss the value of learning outside the classroom in primary
science focusing specifically on science based trips and outdoor learning. This
differs from indoor learning settings which are associated with classroom based
learning and conventional teaching techniques (Dhanapal and Lim,
2013). School trips are
described as informal learning opportunities at a setting outside of the school
premises (Morentin and Guisasola, 2015).  Whilst
school trips are valuable, using school grounds provide an opportunity for
sustained scientific enquiry over long periods of time (Loxley et al., 2014). Fägerstam’s (2012)
research revealed the many benefits of regular school-based outdoor learning
including encouraging curiosity and interest in the outdoors. Priest (1986) defines
this outdoor education as a way of learning through outdoor experiences that
use all the senses to interact with the natural environment around us.

Braund and Reiss (2004) discuss the
positive effects a range of different science settings outside the classroom
can offer including the need to make clear links with the real world. For
example, they discuss the value of using ponds to link science to the environment
around them. The National Curriculum states that science should provide
children with the opportunity to understand the world around them and the
impact science has on the world we live in (Department of Education, 2013).
Bianchi and Feasey (2011) highlight the importance of out of class learning in
achieving this, as primary classrooms do not provide enough opportunity for
children to apply their scientific understanding to real life experiences. Consequently,
learning outside the classroom has been shown to have a positive effect on
learning as it can increase cognitive achievement (Rea, 2008).

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Children can apply their prior knowledge
obtained in class to outdoor experiences to enhance their understanding (Scott
and Boyd, 2014). Out of classroom experiences are most valuable when they link
to prior learning, this can encourage engagement and motivation within the
subject (Davies et al., 2013). Although,
Ayotte-Beaudet et al. (2017)
argue that these types of science lessons could not completely replace
classroom based learning and should only be used to supplement indoor science
lessons. This is supported by
Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning theory which is the process of acquiring
abstract ideas through a variety of experiences. He presents a learning cycle
that includes a concrete experience, for example an out of classroom activity, that
needs to be reflected upon, conclusions need to be made and children as a
result need to testing out what they have learnt. This cycle is only effective
if all stages are completed. Driver (1989) also comments specifically on the
complex and abstract nature of science concepts and explains the need to
introduce these concepts through a range of different experiences. These ideas
support the integration of out of classroom learning into science lessons as it
gives children an opportunity to understand concepts by moving through each
stage of the cycle.

The National Curriculum also expresses the
need for children to work scientifically and take part in scientific enquiry
(DfE, 2013). The Association for Science Education (2017) defines scientific
enquiry as the process of children understanding scientific concepts and asking
questions about the world around them. 
The Ofsted (2013) report Maintaining Curiosity highlighted that the best
science lessons allowed children to develop their scientific enquiry skills, participate
in practical investigations and let children to take control of their learning.
Outdoor based lessons encourage this child-centred learning allowing children
to develop inquiry skills in comparison to teacher-led classroom science
lessons (Shih, Chuang and Hwang, 2010). Grigg and Lewis (2016) discuss the
current emphasis on ‘active learning’ whereby children are involved in
practical activities rather than subject to didactic teaching. Although, Coe et al. (2014) note that children may
need to simply listen at times and teachers should only facilitate ‘active
learning’ where appropriate.

A recent report
found that children’s interest and enjoyment in science declined throughout
their school lives highlighting the need to capture children’s interest in the
subject (ATKearney and Your Life, 2016). Similarly, Murphy and Beggs (2003)
suggest that the reason for a decline in interest is the lack of practical
engagement within the subject as the children progress through primary school.
To combat this, out of class learning offers children a change in environment
stimulating their interest in the subject by creating an authentic link between
the real world and science (Roth et al., 2008). Natural England (2017) detailed the
wonder outdoor learning created about science, something that often cannot be
recreated in the classroom. Research suggests that memorable experiences, such
as outdoor learning environments or trips, can help to improve long-term memory
recall (Mackenzie and White, 1982). Furthermore, Nundy (1999) suggests that
some experiences out of the classroom can be more effective than there in class
equivalent due to the change in environment as well as allowing for
opportunities that may not be available inside a classroom. Sharp et al. (2014) discuss ‘spontaneous
events’, such as snow fall, as an opportunity in science that should be used to
spark enthusiasm and memorable experiences that children will not be able to
recreate indoors. A recent literature review compared a range of findings and
concluded that learning outside the classroom increased students interest in
science and had a positive effect on their attitudes towards their outdoor
environment (Ayotte-Beaudet
et al., 2017).

explanation for the decline of children’s interest may be due to their
preconceived ideas about what it means to be a scientist. By the age of eight children are said to
have formed stereotypical ideas towards what a scientist looks like
(Christidou, 2011). Özgelen (2017) details the
stereotypical image of a scientist, a bearded intellectual male in a lab coat,
and notes the importance of the period between the ages of eight and thirteen
as specifically influential in solidifying this stereotypical view. Learning
outside the classroom can offer children the opportunity to go on trips and
interact with individuals working in the science field allowing them to build a
realistic view of what scientific job roles entail (King and Glackin, 2014). These
opportunities can help to tackle the declining interest in science and inspire
children to consider becoming scientists in the future as there is evidence showing
a lack of young adults choosing to peruse careers in the science field (DeWitt, Osborne and Archer, 2013; ATKearney
and Your Life, 2016). However, communication between
teachers and educators at out of school educational settings, such as museums,
is essential when creating beneficial learning opportunities (Kisiel,
2014).  Tal and Steiner (2006)
highlighted that both parties had preconceived ideas of what their role was during
the trip. For example, they discuss that teachers believe their role is to
manage behaviour and encourage student participation, whereas the educators expected
teachers to take an active role within the delivery of experience. Additionally,
the purpose of the trip needs to be explicitly clear as the priorities of the
trip may differ. For instance, museum staff may prioritise encouraging interest
in science and the museum, whilst this is important from a teaching perspective
children also need to acquire scientific knowledge and understanding during the
trip (Tran, 2007). Learning within the school grounds also helps to inspire
children and create the foundations of their interest in science as a possible
career. Carrier and Stevenson (2017) discuss that many scientists identify early
interaction with the outdoor environment and natural world as an influential
element in encouraging them to pursue a career in science.

Despite this, Waite (2009) argues that
outdoor learning opportunities decrease as children move through primary school.
This could be due to a range of barriers that oppose learning outside the
classroom. Managing pupil behaviour is a barrier that many teachers encounter
when teaching outside the classroom, particularly when teaching in an
environment that is unfamiliar (Connolly and Haughton, 2015). The lack of
control of their surroundings and the behaviour of the children can create
teacher anxiety towards taking learning outside the classroom, a specific
concern displayed was the need to use behaviour management techniques that vary
from the familiar techniques of the classroom environment (Scott, Boyd and
Colquhoun, 2013). Specifically, when on field trips children can become
disorientated affecting their behaviour as they display exploratory behaviour
about the new environment around them (Falk, Martin and Balling, 1978). Falk
goes on to explain that the right amount of explorative behaviour is essential
for scientific learning however the wrong amount can result in challenging
behaviour. Furthermore, if behaviour is not managed correctly it can leave
children with a negative experience of out of class learning. Humberstone and
Stan (2011) document the negative interaction between teacher and pupil due to behaviour
during outdoor experience which resulted in pupils becoming disengaged and
uninterested which had an adverse effect on their learning. Comparatively,
outdoor learning on site provides a familiar setting but can still present
behaviour management issues as children often associate the outdoors with break
time rather than a setting where learning takes place (Cowley, 2014). Alternatively,
Scott and Boyd (2016) suggest that outdoor learning can offer motivation and
positively affect the behaviour of those students who display challenging
behaviour and find learning in a classroom environment difficult. Often, boys
can fall into this category of disruptive behaviour yet outdoor learning has
been shown to improve their focus on learning and knowledge of the environment
in comparison to learning in a classroom (Carrier, 2009). Careful preparation
can also help to ensure that children are equipped for out of class learning
and are clear what is expected of them prior to the outdoor experience (Scott et al., 2015).

Additionally, teacher confidence within science
can directly impact the value of out of the classroom learning, there is a
correlation between teachers that displayed an interest in the outdoors and
those that valued outdoor learning (Maynard et
al., 2013). Bandura’s (1977; 1982; 1986; 1997) self-efficiency theory supports
this, self-efficiency is the confidence we hold about our abilities which
directly impact on our motivation and performance in that area. Therefore,
teachers that have high self-efficiency are more likely to create inquiry based
learner centred opportunities, for example felicitating outdoor learning, in
comparison to a teacher displaying low self-efficiency who is likely to rely on
classroom based worksheets with limited engagement (Menon and Sadler, 2016).  One way to combat this is through professional
development opportunities and teacher training, when done consistently over
long periods of time this has been shown to increase self-efficiency towards
teaching science resulting in a positive effect on attainment (Lumpe et al., 2012). Notably, an Ofsted report
(2011) highlighted that science professional development was an area of
improvement for schools as the majority of training was performed by subject
leaders who had a limited amount of training themselves.

Furthermore, Abell and Lederman (2007)
discuss that trips can be more impactful to learning in science compared to
classroom science lessons however they can be a challenge to organise. Staffing
can become a concern when taking children outside of the classroom as the adult
child ratio is something that needs to be considered, although parental
involvement is often a solution to this barrier it has been highlighted that
this does not provide the same support that a teacher or teaching assistant
would (Scott et al., 2015). Teachers
may also act differently if they feel they are being observed or judged by
other staff members or parents when taking children out of the classroom, this
can result in reluctance to deviate from indoor lessons (Glacklin, 2017). Another
obstacle is the expense of the trip, yet outdoor learning on school grounds can
provide an alternative as this does not cost anything (Waite, 2011).  Whilst this may be free, children need to be
equipped with adequate clothing and footwear before they are able to
participate (Braund and Reiss, 2004). This reveals the need for effective
relationships with parents as a lack of parental support can be become an
obstacle (Ernst, 2009). Although, Carrier et
al. (2014) found that parents often valued outdoor learning and deemed this
an essential part of science.

Before any trip can go ahead health and
safety must be considered. Scott et al. (2015)
discuss that the risk of taking children out of class is not the predominant
cause for concern, instead completing all the relevant paperwork is a source of
reluctance. Risk assessment and parental consent is an example of this and can
be difficult to obtain if school parent relations are not effective (DeWitt
and Storksdieck, 2008). Parental concerns for their child’s safety can be a
source of opposition, this is fuelled by media input and has been suggested to
be influential in parents restricting children’s exploration of outdoor
settings (Carrier, Tugurian and Thomson, 2013). It is also important to note that by expecting parents to
provide adequate clothing and footwear as well as pay for school trips there is
a cost attached to this approach to learning. The Children’s Society carried
out research that states that two in five children from low income families have
missed a term time trip as they could not afford the cost of the trip (Holloway et al., 2014).
They go on to discuss the negative effect this has on the child as they often
feel embarrassed and segregated from their friends as well as missing out on
important learning opportunities. Teachers must consider this when organising
trips. Where possible make subsidised funding for parents available accompanied
by clear information about the trip to reassure parents (Owen, 2017). This
links to Teaching Standard 1b by stretching and involving all learners no
matter what their background (DfE, 2011).

In conclusion, learning outside the
classroom has many benefits to the teaching and learning of primary science.
Children can consolidate their learning of complex and abstract ideas through
scientific enquiry in real life contexts. They form memorable experiences,
whether it be outdoor or trip based learning, which promotes the love of
learning through an engaging curriculum referred to in Teaching Standard 4
(DfE, 2011). Furthermore, children can interact with individuals with careers
in science allowing children to become more aware of the impact science has in
our day to day lives and promote that interest for the future. Despite these
apparent benefits, there are several barriers which cause this approach to
teaching to be underused, with only 8% of children visiting natural environments
on school trips (Natural England, 2016). These are predominantly caused by
teacher apprehension, specifically; a lack of confidence, behaviour management
concerns and the complexity of organising out of class learning opportunities.
Parental influence is also an issue that can cause children to miss out on
valuable learning opportunities, primarily trips. Children that come from low
income families should not miss the positive impacts of out of class learning discussed
in this assignment due to lack of funds. Owen (2017) discusses the adverse
effect this can have on children who may become disadvantaged within lessons due
to their absence and notes that whilst Pupil Premium funds may help subsidise
the cost of these trips schools are increasingly under financial strain due to lack
of funding. Overall, this assignment has led me to reflect upon my teaching
practise, previously I have taught science solely in the classroom environment yet
the points raised in this assignment reveal that by integrating both indoor and
out of classroom learning children will be gaining a better understanding in
science. It has also emphasised the need to effectively plan out of the classroom
opportunities and the steps that need to be taken to enable these opportunities
are available to all students.

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