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Cooperative learning in outdoor education

13 December 1994


This paper examines the way in which cooperative learning techniques are applied in a residential outdoor school setting. Included in this examination is a brief history of outdoor education, an overview of cooperative learning, and a summary of the factors that effect learning in outdoor education. This study is based largely on the framework of cooperative learning as established by Johnson, Johnson and Holubec (1990). They identify five essential components of cooperative learning for positive effects to be realized. Questions answered in this study were: How is cooperative learning employed in a residential outdoor school setting? What happens at a residential outdoor school when cooperative learning takes place? What are the director's perceptions of the value of cooperative learning in a residential outdoor school setting? Findings indicated that while the textbook definition of cooperative learning did not occur at this residential outdoor school, cooperative orientation and supportive environment were present in the form of group initiatives. Facilitator knowledge and training played a critical role in the success of learning activities. Finally, the sum effect of several factors present at this outdoor school was far greater than the accumulative impact of individual components. As educators we must examine the success of outdoor education and how these principles can be brought into the traditional classroom.


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