To what extent can the experience of outdoor learning contexts prevent permanent school exclusion for older learners? A visual analysis

Helen Knowler, Irina Lazar, Dario Cortese, Justin Dillon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


We report on a one-year project that focused on outdoor learning experiences for learners 12 - 14 years of age in a woodland environment in the UK. We wanted to investigate the ways in which experience in the outdoor environment could potentially mitigate school factors such as practitioner values and attitudes, learner motivation and engagement [1] that contribute to the processes of permanent school exclusion and therefore examine the claim that outdoor learning could provide an ‘alternative’ to using exclusion as a disciplinary sanction [2].

Permanent school exclusion has been rising in the UK since 2014 and the number of permanent exclusions in England in 2016 rose from 6,685 to 7,720 pupils in 2017 [3] and it is particularly prevalent in the age group involved in this project. While some argue that outdoor learning is often evangelised as a panacea for the shortcomings of school environments, particularly for very young learners [4], we draw on the work presented in [5] to make a case for the ways in which outdoor experiences can contribute to the learning needs of older learners at risk of permanent exclusion.

We analysed a sample of 102 photographs taken by the project team during the practical sessions in the woodland. We devised a set of categories for coding the images based on our theoretical and pedagogical concerns, and from our reading of empirical literature. Two members of the project team tried out our initial coding categories with the sample in order to check for exhaustiveness and exclusivity, and to try and avoid overlap of codes [6]. Photographs were then coded independently by the four members of the project team using the agreed coding framework. We ask critical questions about the ways in which space, risk, resources, outdoor pedagogies and adult identities can be mobilised to support the learning needs of young people who find school a difficult place to be. In this presentation we will use a selection of photographs to demonstrate that our approach to Visual Content Analysis, drawing on [6] in using a methodologically explicit approach to analysing visual evidence, can produce results that are valid and theoretically ‘interesting’. We interpret the implications of our analysis for educational professionals who want to learn more about preventing permanent exclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN19 Proceedings
EditorsL. Gómez Chova, A. López Martínez, I. Candel Torres
PublisherIATED Academy
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)978-84-09-12031-4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019

Publication series

ISSN (Print)2340-1117

Structured keywords

  • Engineering Education Research Group


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