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Title: Using realistic evaluation to evaluate 'Forest School' with young people aged 14-16 with special educational needs
Author: Southall, Laura
ISNI:       0000 0004 5366 0061
Awarding Body: University of Nottingham
Current Institution: University of Nottingham
Date of Award: 2014
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This study aims to evaluate a Scandinavian approach to outdoor learning, which is used in the UK. The approach, known as ‘Forest School’ involves children and young people spending regular time in natural woodland working on practical projects. Forest School promotes a child-led ethos, so children are encouraged to choose their own activities (Forest School Association, 2013). A Realist Synthesis (Pawson, 2006) was undertaken to develop an understanding of how Forest School works, according to existing research. Features of the context, change mechanisms and outcomes were abstracted to form a set of hypotheses. In line with a Realistic Evaluation (Pawson and Tilley, 1997), these hypotheses were tested through a case study of Forest School involving 14-16 year old pupils with special educational needs (SEN). Drawing on interview, observation, questionnaire and documentary evidence, the initial programme specification was refined through thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) to create programme specification 2. Participants checked this in a Realist Interview (Pawson and Tilley, 1997) and a final programme specification was produced. The final programme specification presents findings through context + mechanism = outcome configurations. The study extends existing research by finding that Forest School can support confidence, social skills, language and communication, motivation and concentration, physical skills, knowledge and understanding of the world and emotional well-being and behaviour in young people aged 14-16 with SEN. The study further indicates that Forest School works differently for different pupils, depending on their individual characteristics. Strategies for best practice were illuminated which may be useful to other Forest School practitioners, such as a high level of adult practical skills. The evaluation has implications for professionals working with young people as it highlights how Forest School can promote positive outcomes for some young people aged 14-16 with SEN.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (D.App.Ed.Psy.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology ; LC1001 Types of education, including humanistic, vocational, professional