Taking seminars outdoors in nature: alternative learning spaces in LJMU





Objectives: This research draws on constructivist ways of thinking about learning where the learner is an active participant rather than a passive recipient and engages with the growing area of research on geographies of education and the increasing use of outdoor spaces in education. The objectives of the research are around an exploration of the concept of space where different behaviours are permitted, and the spaces given within modules.

Design: The research is formed around conducting university seminar groups outdoors in the on-campus outdoor learning area and provides a starting point for understanding the potential value of outdoor classrooms and engagement with nature within higher education contexts.

Methods: A convenience group of 25 participants were selected for the focus group as they sat around the campfire following seminar discussions. Conversations lasted one hour in length.

Results: Thematic analysis of the data identified the themes of collaboration, risk, and creativity. Participants reported that conversations were more relaxed and interactive due to the less structured environment, and they felt ‘more awake’ due to extraneous conditions such as the fresh air, the experiences of nature and the positioning of the seating. The tutor similarly felt more able to engage the students in the discussions due to the circular format of the seating.

Conclusions: The conclusions focus on providing an excellent student experience beyond the potential constraints of the indoor classroom. The research explores the ways in which new educational spaces can be formed, contested, and colonised and the benefits of nature for learning environments, whilst making no claims to the learning efficacy of such spaces per se.

Taking seminars outdoors in nature: alternative learning spaces in LJMU, PowerPoint, Only LJMU staff and students have access to this resource.