Evidence from the Learning Away pilot partnerships suggests that the benefits of residentials can be measured long after everyone is back home. Learning away from the familiar classroom environment is motivating, exciting and stimulating; naturally curious young people will embrace new skills and challenging approaches with enthusiasm, given the opportunity.
Enriching the curriculum topics pupils are currently working on is just one short-term benefit; at residentials, young people discover previously undiscovered skills and aptitudes. Suddenly, they’re able to think quickly and creatively; they collaborate willingly and can see the purpose behind collaboration. The short-term nature of a residential encourages a sense of urgency in young people in order to complete tasks, be they completing a daunting high ropes course or planning a lavish mediaeval banquet. For young people who rarely take the lead in the classroom, learning beyond the classroom can provide welcome respite and an opportunity to shine.
In the longer term, pupils who are familiar with working away from the classroom, and understand the routines associated with residentials, are quickly able to adapt to the new learning environment, increasing the effectiveness of the learning itself. Their self-confidence when staying away from home helps them settle into new routines and anticipate future residentials with a positive attitude.
Research by Ofsted suggests that learning beyond the classroom is ‘more memorable’ and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom explains that residentials can capitalise on and develop ‘different learning styles, particularly kinaesthetic. Experiencing something – as opposed to hearing it described or reading about it – can also help improve young people’s recall and reflective skills, as they relive the event in their heads.’
Residentials offer young people opportunities to take ownership of their learning, debating pedagogy, content and outcomes with staff in an environment that can feel far more equitable to the young people, and more collaborative to the staff. The co-construction and co-design suite of resources (due February 2015) will explore some of these ideas in more detail.
Interestingly, several partnership schools now report ‘oversubscription’ for residentials, with more teaching staff volunteering to attend than is strictly necessary. They attribute this enthusiasm in part to the benefits staff derive from working alongside motivated, eager and purposeful young people.