The process of learning has also to deal with the
psychological needs of the students. A student, for example, should experience
sufficient autonomy in the learning process, not being over-dependent on teachers
or the books or peers. They should also develop a self-appreciation as
competent in what they learn. Further, the process of learning should enhance
the positive social relationship with peers as well as with teachers.
A recent study led by Ulrich Dettweiler , a faculty of Arts and Education, University of Stavanger, Norway shows that these basic psychological needs of education are met to a significantly higher degree during outdoor instruction than in the classroom. It was found that a sense of achievement particularly increases motivation during outdoor instruction, and these results were gender neutral; it was equally applicable to male and female students. The results are published in Frontiers in Psychology.
The study concludes that outdoor instruction conducted based on an explorative learning methodology significantly promotes positive attitudes of students toward learning and enhances their intrinsic motivation. The learning becomes student-directed, where student exercises its freedom through independently organized experiments. Further, the outdoor settings provide a strong boost to more situational interest for science and engagement with the subject.
The authors of the study recommend development of a new curriculum for schools, which takes the insights of this research into account. “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,” suggests Dettweiler, the lead author of the study. “Such models might even be suitable to bridge the existing gap between science education and environmental education in the long term.”
According to Professor Simon, Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany, another co-author of the study, the outdoor learning units also have potential positive effects on the physical and mental health of children. “In the coming years, we would like to conduct more specific research into whether and how outdoor instruction influences children’s resilience to stress,” concludes Professor Simon.