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Sesiunea Naional de Comunicri tiinifice Studeneti, tiinele Educaiei

Educaia la timpul viitor - scenarii si resurse, Ediia a V-a 2016

Outdoor education Stepping outside for authentic learning

Mirela Alexandru
VIA University College, Holstebro, Denmark,
Pedagogie Social
Anul III
Profesor Coordonator Lector univ. dr. Cosmina Mironov

Education in outdoor involve you with all your body, with all your mind and soul, it is
the best provider of authentic learning. Stepping outside the classroom door, will open to you
and to your students a brand new word, full of opportunities for authentic learning and
developing relationships between teachers and students.
In this article I will present how outdoor it is a good framework for authentic learning
and how it is viewed form two points of view in a practical application, as a student,
beneficiary and as a pedagogue, facilitator, bringing augments for using the outdoor as a
frame for education more often.


What is authentic learning?

Todays pedagogical literature shows a growing concern about concept of authentic

learning, and all educational systems should focus on capacity to create meaningful and
authentic learning experiences. (L. Ciolan, Laura Ciolan, 2014)
The question: how can we provide authentic learning? I think it was on the thoughts
of any pedagogue. One of the answers can be, by outdoor activities. First, we need to
understand what authentic learning is and according to Lombardi (2007), authentic learning is
the way human mind turns information into useful, transferable knowledge.

When we speak about outdoor and authentic learning we speak about experience,
discovering by doing, the meaningful of the learning that you achieved by doing it with all
your body, mind and soul.


Authentic learning through experiential learning

Experiential learning (learning by doing) is based on assumptions that people learn

best when they are personally involved in the learning experience, knowledge has to be
discovered by the individual and a persons commitment to learning is highest when they are
free to set their own learning objectives and are able to actively pursue them within a given
framework (John Dewey 1910 in Smith, 1980, page 16)
If we analyse Berit Bae perspective about children participation and relationships we
can situate experiential learning in a spacious patter that can be described as seeing the child
as being aware of his own chose, and his own learning, offering him the right of learning by
tying. Also, Bae sustain that this patter mediates mutual recognition between children and
adults, and they support children in efforts to express their own views. (Bae, 2012)
Experiential learning theory defines learning as "the process whereby knowledge is
created through the transformation of experience. Knowledge results from the combination of
grasping and transforming experience" (Kolb 1984, p. 41). The ELT model portrays two
dialectically related modes of grasping 3 experience -- Concrete Experience (CE) and
Abstract Conceptualization (AC) -- and two dialectically related modes of transforming
experience -- Reflective Observation (RO) and Active Experimentation (AE). According to
the four-stage learning cycle depicted in Figure 1, immediate or concrete experiences are the
basis for observations and reflections. These reflections are assimilated and distilled into
abstract concepts from which new implications for action can be drawn. These implications
can be actively tested and serve as guides in creating new experiences.
Figure 1.David Kolbs Experiential Learning Model Source:


Outdoor, framework for authentic learning

Outdoor education embraced experiential learning as a way of learning in the

outdoors using real-world experiences to achieve learning goals. In outdoor education the
emphasis for the subject of learning is placed on relationships, relationships concerning
people and natural resources. The process of that learning is experiential. Early educators
such as Comenius, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Dewey advocated the importance of meaningful
experiences in the educational process.
For offering to children the framework of experiential learning it is very important to
approach a child-centred perspective where the child is understood in its own right and he is
seen a human being. (Erik Hygum, 2014). In our opinion this perspective is in accord with
Baes spacious patter.
Being outside helps participants to discover personal growth insights as they form
positive community relations also in outdoor many skills can be realized beyond the skills of
various an outdoor pursuits, including communication, cooperation, problem solving,
decision making, citizenship and critical thinking. (Redmond, Foran, & Dwyer, 2010)
Focusing on community relations and socialisation frame that outdoor provide,
according to Wegner, learning is highly influenced by socialisation and imitation which
culminates with shared learning. (Wenger, 1998)
Looking forward we can speak even about transformative learning, that can take place
in outdoor activities if the achieved learning is characterised by far-reaching change in the
learner than other kinds of learning, especially learning experiences which shape the learner

and produce a significant impact, or paradigm shift, which affects the learner's subsequent
experiences. (Mezirow, 1991)
As Foran sustain, outdoor is a good place for developing comunication and
colaboration skills, that are very important for a more complex skill, team work. Also outdoor
activities can develop: self-estime, confidence, independence, and these abilities that people
develop working in the outdoor environment can be easily transferred in other fields of life.
The teamwork ability is a very important skill for 21 century, it was a seen as an
important ability to develop on child and also on adults since 1950 when team processes
started to be studied by psychologists. A theory that helped practitioners to understand and to
develop team working on target groups is Cannon-Bowers theory that divide human
teamwork into three dimensions: cognitions, skills, and attitudes.
The cognition or knowledge category includes information about the task such as
team mission, objectives, norms, problem models, and resources. Teamwork skills include
behaviours such as adaptability, performance monitoring, leadership, communication
patterns, and interpersonal coordination. Attitudes measure the participants feelings about the
team: team cohesion, mutual trust, and importance of teamwork. (Sycara & Sukthankar,
Summarising the literature, weve understood that all these skills that are most have
in today society can be developed in outdoor activities by experiential learning which provide
authentic learning. Once an educator offers the motivational challenge in nature it is
transforming from I have to to I want to and they treat this as a real life task connecting
the task with real world and this is authentic learning.


Study Case

In this study case we will analyse authentic learning two positions perspective, as a student
and as a pedagogue.
We chose for collecting the empirical data, interview and observation scale.
Interview is a research method used in many fields during which questions are asked
and answers are given with the aim of documenting the views of a particular group of

Observation it is a research method used to record facts, situations, which occur during a
pedagogical activity.
The strengths of these methods are the fact that are qualitative methods and using
them we can access deep meanings of research them. The limits are that they present the risk
of involving subjectivity and also the fact that we arent experimented researchers. We
collected empirical data during the Wonderful Days activities and after finishing the both
modules 1 and 9.

Authentic learning as a student

Being part of working with frames for developing persons skills in many
environments with many groups of persons we can said form our experience that outdoor is
the pest provider of authentic learning. We felt this being part of outdoor activities in module
9 and by designing, implementing and evaluating activities for Wonderful Day in module 1.
Reflecting on the transition process form student to teacher, Weve understood the
value of outdoor activities about how outdoor education should be done, it was more
meaningful for us to be there and work on what we should provide to our students from all
the literature Ive read.
So for understand and to be able to use in practice the experiential learning theory it
was enough to get out and experimented it, and we gained more than knowledge from the
book, we gained skill that we can use in which context we need, we gained authentic
To find out if our idea of outdoor provide authentic learning it is relevant for other
students that experienced the same activities as us, we applied a short interview for two
Resuming their answers, it seems that my colleagues share the same opinion about
outdoor activities that provide authentic learning. According to Ana, one of interviewed,
Outdoor is and infinite provider of experiential learning than can create an authentic
learning and a lot more benefit that can be transferred in various context.
In conclusion weve understood that outdoor activities can provide authentic learning
but now how can we design? This is the adventure from module 1.

Authentic learning as pedagogue
Process of designing was full of valuable experience, working in an intercultural team
splinted in two groups with different level of knowledge it was a win-win collaboration, we
learned together to design outdoor activities.
Next we will present objectives of the activities that weve planned for children:
Name game ice break, preparing for collaboration and socialisation
Puzzle game to offer to children the chance to cooperate and collaborate for a main
propos, understanding the surroundings, get knowledge about outdoor environment,
achieving team work skills by working together in outdoor, providing the frame for
authentic learning
Treasure hunt problem solving skills, developing teamwork skills working in
Wisper game fun, intercultural collaboration, attention, language skills
Stafet enjoying movement in the nature, language skills, team work, helping each
Planning the activities, we used as base theories that I analyse in this document, but I
need to add the fact that we had as guidance, some important theories of learning: Deweys
learning theory, learning by doing in the activities that involved de children like puzzle game,
theory that is connected with Constructivism and Behaviourist learning theory (Skinner), in
treasure hunt, with a reward.
During the activities, we applied the observation scale and we observe that during the
tasks weve achieved all our objectives. (See specification matrices from SMTTE) Children
divides their tasks very well during the puzzle game and treasure hunt, they recognize the
insects and plants and make connections between the plants and insects.
We observe the noticing of a leader that makes easier in the group to find solutions and
dividing the tasks. We can say that they had a good team work, they helped each other and
they worked really fast. Thing that put us in the situation to be spontaneous, but we handled
it, we added in our program the Wisper Game, that was really fun for the children, special
because of intercultural characteristics.
In the evaluation phase of our plane, we applied a set of narrative questions, to see how or
design worked for the kids and summarising their answers we can said that it was a success

because for them it was fun, they liked Madagascar theme and they found interesting us as
English speakers.



A conclusion and personal reflection we think that outdoor offer immense

possibilities, also this was sustained as you seen by many authors and by using all
possibilities we can grow healthy, skilled and happy people.
In the end everything that weve write can be resumed in one John Dewey quotes:
Give the pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as
to demand thinking; learning naturally results.

Ciolan, L., & Laura Elena, C. (2014). Two perspectives, same reality? How
authentic is learning for students and for their teachers? Social and
Behavioral Sciences, 24 - 28.
Foran, A. (2005). The Experience of Pedagogical Intensity in Outdoor Education.
Journal of Experiential Education, 147-163.
Hygum, E. (2014). Early childhood education - To be or not to be - the child as
human being. Aarhus: VIA Sistemtime Publishing.
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning. Experience as the source of tearning and
development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Lombardi, M. (2007). Authentic Learning for the 21st Century. An Owerview.
Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative Dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco.
Redmond, K., Foran, A., & Dwyer, s. (2010). Quality Lesson Plans for Outdoor
Education. U.S.A: Versa Press.
Smith, M. (1980). Creators Not Consumers: Redidcovering social education.
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Study Group 3. (2016). SMTTE MODEL - Madagascar Activity. Holstebro.
Sycara, K., & Sukthankar, G. (2006). Literature review of teamwork models.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Carnegie Mellon.
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.