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The benefits of learning outside the classroom

Published: Jun 29, 2017 3 min read

STEM learning


There is much awareness of the benefits of taking students outside the classroom to learn. However, little is often made of the benefits of teachers developing their own expertise through experiencing continuing professional development outside the classroom environment.

Research and studies show that different people learn in different ways, as such learning outside the classroom can have a range of benefits, because it can inspire and reignite enthusiasm for teaching, provide a real-world context for delivery of content to students, making the curriculum more engaging for students, and remind teachers of the vast array of STEM careers that are on offer to tomorrow’s workforce.

Good teachers are reflective practitioners who are always striving to develop themselves and their practice, re-incarnating themselves year-on-year for the greater good of their students and their own career and to maintain the on-the-pulse professionalism for the benefit of all.

Often CPD that is delivered in schools is a “one size fits all” approach, usually to address some sort of deficit in the school rather than being specific to the individual which would make significant impact on the teacher in the classroom. Dylan Wiliam summed up the problem: "The standard model of teacher professional development is based on the idea that teachers lack important knowledge. For the last 20 years, most professional development has therefore been designed to address those deficits. The result has been teachers who are more knowledgeable, but no more effective in practice."

Taking continuing professional development outside of the classroom allows teachers to think “outside the box” about their lessons and the engagement of students in their learning. The Iceland STEM Study visit, appears on the face of it to be a “jolly” but in reality, the visit is full of opportunities to engage with STEM subjects, professional scientists and other teachers in a way that reignites the enthusiasm for teaching, opens the mind to the development of new resources for schemes of learning, develops links to bring researchers directly into contact with students and much, much more.

Over 150 teachers have now visited Iceland over the past few years to see what the STEM study visit has to offer. The resulting impact has been enormous, and the CPD remains one of our most highly evaluated courses that we offer.

Examples of impact and evaluation in the past twelve months have included:

The Researchers’ talks were accessible, technically useful, entertaining and expanded my knowledge. Overall, I would say that every part of this expedition was more useful than I could ever have imagined!”

“Honestly, I’ve been cruising along in my work for a while and I couldn’t see it. The trip, the group’s enthusiasm, the change of perspective/scenery/people that I’ve been exposed to, has really given me the boost that I needed. I have a more professional outlook, go a bit further each day (that adds up over a year!) and am more keen to spread the love of STEM. This is obviously of benefit to the college. It’s hard to pin it down to one thing – the CPD was like a spiritual healing, enabling me to start fresh and focused back at work.”

Share your STEM stories

As the academic year draws to a close, we want to celebrate all of the amazing things that have been achieved this year. If you have an inspiring STEM story that you want to share, contact us or join in the conversation on Twitter, @STEMLearningUK #STEMStories17.