Evidence from elsewhere

Learning Away focuses particularly on residential learning experiences. What is it about learning outside the classroom experiences which include an overnight stay that is so powerful? And what evidence is there to support, and help us understand, their impact?


Initial scoping for the Learning Away initiative suggested there were relatively few studies attempting to isolate, and separately and systematically evaluate, the specific contribution of the residential component of learning outside the classroom programmes. The Learning Away team invited a group of teachers experienced in planning residentials to take part in a focus group. The aim was to identify criteria that could be used to guide applicants in what became known as the Learning Away brilliant residentials approach. The findings are summarised in this download: Brilliant Residentials – ‘Next practices’.

CUREE, Learning Away’s external evaluators during 2009-11, prepared a small-scale literature review focused on research about residential learning. The literature review (2010) focused exclusively on research about residential learning, finding evidence that residential experiences in particular can lead to individual growth and improvements in social skills as well as higher-order learning. Download the review here.

In 2013 the English Outdoor Council, an umbrella body for organisations involved in the provision of outdoor education, published an updated paper collecting together research on the positive impact of residential outdoor experiences. This paper makes the case that a high-quality residential experience (including challenging outdoor education activities) should be an entitlement for all children. Download the report here.

Outward Bound UK have been conducting evaluation and research on their residential experiences. Studies include ‘Benefits for teachers‘, ‘Environmental learning‘, ‘How we develop emotional competencies‘, ‘Social impact report‘ and ‘Supporting young people to and within employment‘.

Dr Jim Sibthorp has published a number of studies based on two USA organisations, the American Camping Association, that has its own research web page, and the National Outdoor Leadership School. Some of his studies are, like Learning Away, long term and large scale. As well as examining the outcomes of different types of residential experiences, Jim Sibthorp has also considered what a quality experience might be and how to enhance this quality.

In 2015, The Bay Trust in partnership with Canterbury Christ Church University, examined the impact of the residential programme at Rippledown on children’s educational experience, wellbeing and perceptions of the environment. Findings provide additional promising evidence as to the impact of the residential experiences. There is evidence from questionnaires to suggest that perceived competence, nature connectedness, hope and healthy eating awareness, are positively affected through Rippledown’s residential programme. Evidence from the nature journals completed by children highlight the complexities in how children view and interact with the outdoors. The research report, published in 2016, can be found here.

Other sources of evidence that may be of interest include:

  • Bunyan, P. S. and Boniface, M. R. (2000) Leader anxiety during an adventure education residential experience: an exploratory case study, Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1(1), pp.37-44.
  • Christie, B., Higgins, P. and McLaughlin P. (2013) Did you enjoy your holiday? Can residential outdoor learning benefit mainstream schooling? Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 14(1), pp.1-23.
  • Fleming, J. A. (1998) Understanding Residential Learning: The Power of Detachment and Continuity, Adult Education Quarterly, 48(4), pp.260-271.
  • Hopkins, D. (2013) Adventure Learning Schools: an education fit for the future? Adventure Learning Schools.
  • Kabel, C. J. (2002) Residential Learning: A Safehouse for Study and Growth, [Online]. In: Proceedings of the 2002 Midwest Research to Practice Conference held at Northern Illinois University. Indiana: University of Indiana.
  • Scruton, R. (2014) Evidence for a ‘pathway’ of learning for school children on residential outdoor education courses. Horizons 67. pp.13-14.
  • Waite, S. (2011) Children Learning Outside the Classroom. Sage.
  • Williams, R. (2013). Woven into the fabric of experience: residential adventure education and complexity. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 13.2.

Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC)

Ofsted’s 2008 report Learning Outside the Classroom: how far should you go? evaluated practice across 27 educational settings (from primary schools to further education colleges). It concluded that, when planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving students’ personal, social and emotional development. Download the report here.

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom is the national voice for learning outside the classroom, promoting the benefits of learning outside the classroom (LOtC), working to influence policy and practice, and providing support for education practitioners, headteachers, governors and organisations that provide LOtC experiences.

The Council’s partners, manifesto signatories and its network of educational practitioners contribute to a growing database of evidence relating to LOtC. Read more, or submit your own research to the Council here.


Be inspired by our case studies from Learning Away schools.

Explore Getting Started and access free resources to help you plan your own brilliant residentials.

Have a look at our theory about how change happens on brilliant residentials.

Read our recommendations for schools, providers, policy makers and researchers. 

Read our independent evaluation report.