An investigation into bridging formal and informal education in schools.
MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.
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Much educational research has focused on schools in order to understand student learning. However, the important roles that informal learning and field trips have on a student’s educational journey are also vital to understand. Effectively bridging formal classroom-based education with the benefits of outdoor informal learning may greatly enhance the students overall educational experience. This project explores the issues surrounding the bridging of formal and informal education at a Scottish national park. Issues were investigated through a review of the current academic literature as well as qualitative data collection involving semi-structured interviews with park educational staff and visiting teachers. The project found that field parties visited the park for many social and educational reasons, which were not mutually exclusive. Field trips were perceived to encourage students through exercising, hearing differing teaching voices, experiencing different teaching styles, and also to embolden pupils to study the subject further. Park field trip structures varied depending on the activity and organiser. There is no standard park educational programme and no joint education strategy for Scotland’s two national parks. The investigation was carried out a time of great change in the formal Scottish education system. The new curriculum was found to be more favourable to informal learning than the previous arrangements. It was also found that many informal educational activities running at the park met formal curricular goals. There was a willingness amongst park staff to organise activities to meet new curricular goals and to embrace new technologies and activities. There are some logistic, behavioural and physical problems, which are currently limiting the degree to which the national park can assist in the bridging of formal and informal education. Transport issues, local facility availability and the requirement of staff to simultaneously pursue other non- educational aims were problems found during the investigation. The park was found to possess many organisational strengths, strong educational attractions and have enthusiastic, flexible and approachable staff. The project found that there was perceived to be a new drive to increase student exposure to informal education. Bridging formal and informal education is possible in Scotland and was found to be present at the national park. However, it currently relies heavily on the work of a few dedicated individuals, and is not yet viewed as a governmental educational priority.
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