Activity trips: A Benefit for students and teachers
If most schools and teachers recognise the benefit of outdoor activity days and trips outside the classroom, then why is it not more wide-spread?
Traditional restrictions cited by schools included organisational workload, curriculum pressures, and concerns about risk and cost; However, research commissioned by the Natural Connections Demonstration Project and Ofsted also identified a lack of teacher confidence in teaching outside, and an uncertainty in how to link activities to the curriculum.
‘It is a joy to go on school trips but organising them is such a hassle…’ (‘In-class learning no match for inspiring trips’, Times Educational Supplement)
Between 2012 and 2016 The Natural Connections Demonstration Project invited 125 schools to enhance and develop learning outside the classroom in the natural environment (LINE) and surveyed results from 2,531 teachers, 2,492 teaching assistants and 40,434 students. Over this four-year period the results showed that although many teachers and staff had reported lack of confidence in teaching outside, workload, curriculum pressures and budget restraints as their main challenges at the beginning of the project, overtime they began to see these challenges lessen, and their understanding of how to embed school priorities into curricular and non-curricular activities expand.
In-fact the positive impact for teachers grew as they implemented more outdoor learning into their lessons; this included:
• Teaching practice
• Health and well-being
• Professional development
• Job satisfaction
• Teaching performance
These results were reflected in student outcomes; including:
• Enjoyment of lessons
• Improved social skills
• Improved behaviour
• Improved Attainment
• Engagement with learning
• Health and well-being
Many teachers found that issues such as risk-assessments and organisational workload were reduced when using a licenced activity provider, as much of the educational objectives and practicalities of an activity was pre-determined; plus, extra support and dialogue with an outside organiser helped in preparation for the event and linking an activity to the school curriculum.
‘I get a lot of personal satisfaction from it [LINE] but I think that is from seeing the [pupils’] engagement, the enjoyment …’ (Teacher, Natural Connections Demonstration Project)
Both curricular and non-curricular activities, appeared to be given equal of value by teachers and staff, as both provided opportunities for informal learning through play, and resulted in improved motivation for both students and staff; Teachers reported having more confidence, and that their relationships with their students improved.
‘When we spoke to the students about the benefits [of LINE] … they talked about how they felt so much closer to the teacher … [it was] a much more relaxed environment’ (teacher)
This resulted in reduced behaviour problems, improved attendance and attitude towards learning across the schools.
Over this four-year project, what began with uncertainty, perceived limitations and a lack of confidence, resulted in a more relaxed in environment, higher attainment, better relationships, and improved job satisfaction for the teachers and staff who implemented LINE into their school. What the evidence showed was that small steps can create the beginning of a whole cultural shift, which ultimately can benefit everyone; it is of course the first step that can appear to be the hardest to take.
For more information on prospective learning outcomes for curricular and non-curricular activities, please visit our adventures page. Or for further advice on taking that first step, contact us using the form below.