Outdoor pedagogy and practice: Non-formal education and outdoor education
Submitting InstitutionBuckinghamshire New University
Unit of AssessmentSport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Studies In Human Society: Sociology
Summary of the impact
Since the late 1990s, research has been undertaken into the theoretical
and practical implications of nature-based physical activities and outdoor
education. The research, which consisted of phenomenologically-informed
case studies, has linked informal, non-formal and formal outdoor learning
to consolidate understanding of the social, personal and environmental
impacts. The impact has been significant in providing theoretical and
practical foundations to inform practitioner work in youth based
non-formal outdoor education in European countries. This has been achieved
through the establishment of companies and a centre promoting outdoor
education, and the production of practical Handbooks available to
Work on the under-researched area of outdoor education began in the
mid-1990s. Professor Humberstone and colleagues' research concentrated on
outdoor education, teacher and pupil interaction and issues of diversity
(in particular gender). Humberstone focused on developing theory-based
practice in outdoor education, working towards developing the emerging
field of outdoor learning, and linking the theories of outdoor learning
and nature-based sport.
Building on these foundations, research, directed by Professor Barbara
Humberstone, has developed through a related series of projects and
- an EU funded project `Non formal Education through Outdoor Activities'
(NFE), 2004-2006, project-managed by Dr Dorin Festeu, Senior Lecturer
(2000 onwards), the overall aim of which was to research the needs and
create a European network of training centres to disseminate excellent
practice in outdoor adventure education and experiential learning
- the `Breaking Barriers' project (2009-2010) initiated through the
European Institute for Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential
Learning which focused on the rehabilitation and integration of disabled
young people through the creation of an informal network of
organisations devoted to non-formal education and outdoor activities for
young people with disabilities;
- the `Well-being and Outdoor Pedagogies' project which examined outdoor
learning and its implications for young people's well-being. This
project was supported through the appointment of a research assistant,
Dr Ina Stan (2009-2010) supported by Institutional investment.
The research insights arising from this work concern:
- The positive impact on the personal and social development of young
people of all abilities from learning through outdoor activities
- How the over-emphasis on safety and risk avoidance rather than on the
natural environment and learning disrupts children's engagement with
nature and limits outdoor experience.
- How the over emphasis on obesity and healthy eating can have negative
effects on pupils and that parents' and carers' voices should be heard.
- The importance of the form of teachers'/ facilitators' interaction
with children and young people in providing for democratic shared
References to the research
Humberstone, B, (1998) Re-creation and Connections in and with Nature:
Synthesizing Ecological and Feminist Discourses and Praxis? International
Review for the Sociology of Sport, 33 (4), 381 - 392.
Humberstone, B. and Stan, I. (2012) Nature in Outdoor
Learning-Authenticity or performativity Well-being, nature and Outdoor
Pedagogies project. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor
Humberstone, B (2011) Embodiment and social and environmental action in
nature-based sport: Spiritual Spaces, Special Issue- Leisure and the
politics of the environment Leisure Studies 30 (4) 495-512.
Stan, I. and Humberstone, B. (2011) An Ethnography of the Outdoor
Classroom — How Teachers Manage Risk in the Outdoors, Education and
Ethnography 6 (2): 213-228.
Humberstone, B. and Stan, I. ( 2012) Outdoor Learning: Pupils'
experiences and teachers' interaction in one outdoor residential centre, Education
3-13, International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years
Education. 39, (5): 529-540.
Humberstone, B. and Stan, I. (2011) Health, (Body) Image and Primary
Schooling Or `Why do they have to be a certain weight'? Sport,
Education and Society 16(4): 431-449.
The quality of these outputs is evidenced by the peer-review process
undertaken by the journals in which the articles are published.
Details of the impact
Humberstone has focused on developing theory-based practice in outdoor
education, linking the educational theoretical dimensions of outdoor
learning with nature-based sport.
The NFE project provided the impetus and theoretical underpinning that
drew together practitioners and academics to create a Non-Formal
Educational Framework (NFEF) which constitutes the main element of a
European Training Centre of Excellence within the European Institute of
Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential Learning (EOE). The NFE
collaboration included 18 partners from 12 European countries, mostly
practitioners, and attracted 250,000 Euros from EC funding. Dialogue and
research into needs and good practice was undertaken by partners overseen
by Humberstone and Festeu and outputs from the project included a set of
resources aimed at enhancing professional practice and influencing
professional standards. These constitute a Handbook and guidelines
`Non-formal education through Outdoor Education in Europe', achieved
through direct work with 50 people and the collaborative contribution of
over 250 people (Source 1). These resources have been distributed
at Practitioner conferences, via the EOE website and since 2012 have also
been downloadable via academia.edu. (Number of views 1013). The Handbooks
are aimed at providers and practitioners of outdoor learning for youth
work. The Handbook is used in all the countries of the partner
As a result of the NFE project, 14 small companies have been established
in the outdoor education sector in the Brasov region of Transylvania. It
has been estimated that each company has, on average, approximately 400
customers using these outdoor education services, meaning that the overall
customer base exceeds 5500 people. The social impact of the services
provided by these outdoor education companies is illustrated by the rapid
expansion of children being actively engaged in outdoor activities with
In Hungary, the NFE project has led to the establishment of a Training
Centre by the Human Reform Foundation in Chirui Bai, currently providing
training for approximately 25 people each year. The majority of these
people have established their own businesses in outdoor education or they
use outdoor education in schools where they teach. Moreover, the
Foundation, using the NFE methodology, is reaching approximately 200
people per year, where volunteers are trained in the maintenance of the
region's natural habitat.
Following on from the NFE project, Professor Humberstone was invited to
supervise the Breaking Barriers project, a European network of
institutions using outdoor adventure education and experiential learning
to support young people with different disabilities and to establish good
practice for exchange between youngsters and social workers in this field.
A Handbook of Good Practice on `Non formal education through outdoor
activities for disabled people' resulting from this project has been
widely distributed and is freely available through the EOE website (Source
2). The two Handbooks have had 2894 views since 2011.
The academic research has also been disseminated to practitioner groups
- Conferences and workshops European youth workers and practitioners in
social work, teachers and providers (annual EOE conferences http://www.eoe-network.eu/conferences/
(from 2000 in Sweden, Germany, Poland, England Wales, Slovenia, Finland,
- NFE workshops (2004-2006) UK and Romania Stan, I. (2005) The
Non-Formal Education through Outdoor Activities Project. Variety 2.
Pp. 16-17. (international nature friend) http://www.iynf.org/
- Workshops e.g. Institute for Outdoor learning (UK) (biannual
- Practitioner journals e.g. Horizons-UK, Festeu & Humberstone
(2005) Working together in Europe Non-formal Education and Outdoor
Education in Horizons 31 p.16-18.
- European Institute for Outdoor Adventure Education and Experiential
Learning (EOE) activities (Prof Humberstone was Chair of the EOE 2004 -
2008). The EOE is a European network of professionals, from social and
youth workers, teachers and educators, academics and students.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Non-formal Education through Outdoor Activities Guide — http://www.eoe-network.eu/publications/publications/
- Non -formal Education through Outdoor Activities for Disabled People
Guide (Breaking Barriers) http://www.eoe-
- Contacts re Centres, EOE, Polish centre Fradja http://www.frajda.com.pl/