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Title: Group interaction in the 'outdoor classroom' : the process of learning in outdoor education
Author: Stan, Ina Teodora
ISNI:       0000 0004 2687 5438
Awarding Body: Brunel University
Current Institution: Bucks New University
Date of Award: 2008
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This research is concerned with the educational process within an outdoor centre involving groups of primary school children. It studies group interaction between the participants in a natural setting by taking a holistic approach, giving an account of their outdoor learning experience in the context of a group. It appears that there is little focus on groups in the outdoors, even though most outdoor programmes involve groups. Most of the research done on groups is quantitative and laboratory based. Such traditional approaches have been challenged, as empirical limitations and theoretical problems have been identified. It is argued that a study of group interactions within a natural environment, such as the outdoor classroom, would allow for a more insightful understanding of the phenomena involved, and it could also shed light on the outdoor educational process, which has been neglected by research in outdoor education. Participant observation and semi-structured interviews were used as part of an ethnographic approach. This enabled the collection of varied data, which resulted in a thick description of the phenomena explored. The findings show that the concept of team building is central to the philosophy of the outdoor centre and of its staff. The activities, which are used as learning tools, are group orientated. Teamwork is seen as essential for the learning experience at the outdoor centre. The study also revealed that the different approaches of the participants influenced the way learning was constructed. The two main themes that have emerged were empowerment and control. The empowering approaches offered support and encouragement to the participants, allowing for collaboration and cooperation to exist between them, which enabled learning to be more effective. The controlling approaches were characterised by a lack of dialogue between the participants, which interfered with the learning experience, by not creating an environment where the participants could work together as a group. A social aspect of learning was thus identified, which emphasised the importance of viewing learning as a joint process. The research shows that a well-designed process does not always result in the participants achieving the ‘desired learning outcomes’. The teachers/facilitators need to be aware of the impact that their approach may have on the learning experience of the participants.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Buckinghamshire New University
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Outdoor education ; Education ; Group interaction ; Outdoor classroom ; Learning styles ; Primary school education ; Group interaction ; Team building ; Empowerment ; Learning experience