Space and Place Perspectives on outdoor teaching and learning
Abstract: This thesis aims to explore teachers’ and students’ experience and perception of outdoor teaching and learning. Further, it aims to explore influences of outdoor teaching on academic performance in biology and mathematics. The contexts for the thesis are a Swedish high school and Australian environmental education centres. The empirical material comprises student and teacher interviews, and questionnaires and tests answered by students. Theoretical frames of reference are theory of place and three dimensions of learning: content, social and emotional dimensions of learning. The results reveal that the extended physical space had the potential to improve social relations and increase participation, collaboration and on-task communication. However, teachers witnessed a period of up to three months before the students adjusted to outdoor teaching. During that time disciplinary issues were a concern. Teaches’ perceptions were that experience of specific places such as local natural environment was fundamental to forming a sense of belonging and environmental concern. However, teachers described children and students as unfamiliar with local natural environments. Teacher’s perceptions were that media provides knowledge about nature rather than direct experience and children and students were often uncomfortable or afraid in nature. Mathematics followed by language education were the subjects most regularly taught outdoors. Two studies compared classroom education with partly outdoor education in biology and mathematics. Results reveal that students’ performance was equally good, or more developed as a consequence of outdoor teaching. An overarching conclusion is that the possibility to appeal to cognitive, social and emotional dimensions of learning all at the same time has the potential to concretize and broaden the often theoretical approach of high school education, and to contribute to long term episodic memories and a desire to learn.
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