Saturday, February 24, 2018 by Michelle Simmons
Conducting science classes outdoors rather than within the four corners of a classroom can make the students more motivated to learn and participate, a study has discovered. The study was carried out by a team of researchers from Norway and Germany who looked at the effect of outdoor class setting on the motivational behavior of students.
In the study, about 300 students took part in the program called “researcher weeks,” which was based on the curriculum for science subjects in secondary level I from 2014 to 2016 at the Berchtesgadener Land student research center. The program was aimed to get students excited about the natural sciences. The students were prepared for a week by staying in the classroom. Then, it was continued on-site during the research week, which led to a research expedition with experiments for two days. The students also accomplished a survey on their satisfaction and overall motivation in connection with their autonomy for a study developed at the Technical University of Munich in Germany before and after the course. By the end of the week, they shared once more their experiences during the outdoor class.
According to the research team, basic psychological needs to experience independence, competence, and positive social relationships apply the main influences on motivational behavior. In their study, they found that motivational behavior in both settings was affected to the same extent by these three needs, even though at different levels. Moreover, in the outdoor setting, basic needs were met at a significantly higher level when compared to the classroom setting. In addition, the students felt a sense of achievement and were more motivated in the outdoor classes.
Meanwhile, the relationships of students and teachers or students and their classmates had little or no effect on the increase of motivation. Likewise, gender did not also affect motivation behavior.
The findings of the study suggest that conducting classes outdoors with “explorative” learning methods greatly improves the attitudes of students toward learning, such as increasing their motivation and participation. The researchers defined “explorative” as simply letting the students study the subject matter through independently organized experiments.
“Whether it involves rural study centers away from school or forms a part of the science curriculum, or both, this statistical analysis demonstrates that regular outdoor teaching is an appropriate strategy to meet the challenges of the 21st century,” said Ulrich Dettweiler, an associate professor at the University of Stavanger in Norway.
Dettweiler added that these models may even help close the gap between science education and environmental education in the long term. This study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
A 2016 report suggested that outdoor learning can positively influence the development of children, although it needs to be formally adopted. The researchers revealed that children have less opportunities to spend time outside their homes, which could have negative long-term consequences. In the report, they pointed to past studies that showed that with busier family lives, children did not have the chance to explore the natural environment. This negatively affected the children’s social skills, and would possibly restrain their long-term physical and emotional development, and well-being. The researchers suggested that establishing “outdoor learning hub” could prevent and lessen these long-term risks.
“At the moment, if outdoor learning is part of a school’s curriculum in England, it is largely because the teachers recognise the value of it,” said Sue Waite, co-author of the report a reader in outdoor learning at Plymouth University in the U.K.
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