Trial to find out how adventure learning can boost skills and behaviour

The Education Endowment Foundation is calling on schools to take part in a new trial to see how adventure learning and challenging outdoor activities can boost pupil behaviour and attainment.
There will be two programmes for Year 9 pupils: Outward Bound® will be focused on outdoor activities like hiking and canoeing, and Commando Joe’s will be based on challenging activities with military veterans.
Pupils in the Outward Bound group will go on an intensive 5-day residential in wild settings in either North Wales, the Lake District or Scotland. They’ll take part in challenging, adventurous activities such as rock climbing and gorge scrambling.
Trained outdoor learning instructors will deliver the course in collaboration with teachers from the pupils’ schools. Learning strategies such as growth mindset theory, goal setting and feedback will be used by instructors during the course with the aim of boosting attainment in the classroom and skills like resilience and motivation.
Similarly, the pupils in the Commando Joe’s group will take part in challenging activities delivered by military veterans over five consecutive days. Pupils will respond to an imagined nationwide blackout by supporting one another to implement an emergency response: belaying equipment, setting up shelters and rescuing injured people.
Delivered in schools, the course will combine physical activity with the use of metacognitive skills and instructor-facilitated reflection sessions to try to improve attainment, behaviour and other skills like perseverance and team-work.
An independent team from Sheffield Hallam University will evaluate the Adventure Learning trial to find out what impact both of the programmes have on the pupils’ outcomes in self-regulation and maths, as well as their relationships in school and behaviour in the classroom.
According to the EEF’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit, outdoor adventure learning programmes can lead to academic gains of up to an additional 4 months. However, while the evidence behind the Toolkit entry is moderately strong, less is known about why these sorts of programmes have an impact on academic results. This large-scale study will help us to understand how outdoor adventure learning programmes may affect outcomes in the classroom.


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