The text below is a summary of the research evidence on the impact of outdoor adventure learning on the educational attainment of school pupils in sub-Saharan Africa. It is an analysis of individual studies of outdoor adventure learning in sub-Saharan Africa. The information here is valuable for African school leaders, administrators and policy makers.
Effective Basic Services (eBASE) Africa developed this summary using available research evidence while also taking into consideration prominent themes arising from key informant interviews (KII) and focus group discussions (FGD), particularly FGD with teachers and students. The research evidence in this summary is acquired from a detailed and replicable search protocol used on a wide range – listed below – of research databases for related studies in low- and middle-income countries in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular.
Definition of strand
Outdoor adventure learning involves outdoor experiences that will not include any formal academic component like field trips. Examples of outdoor experiences include climbing or mountaineering, rope and assault courses, or outdoor sports such as sailing, and canoeing. Adventure learning will usually entail high level of physical (and often emotional) challenge, with collaborative learning experiences. It could also involve practical problem solving, explicit reflection and discussion of thinking and emotion (Higgins, et al., 2016).
Why is this strand important?
Adventure learning involves non-academic work. However, global evidence suggests adventure learning improves educational outcomes (Higgins, et al., 2016). With high academic expectations, particularly within the challenging educational landscape of SSA comes the necessity for non-cognitive skills such as resilience and perseverance. Given that these skills could be acquired through adventure learning, highlights the importance of the strand and its exploration.
Summary of research in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)
The impact of outdoor adventure learning on academic success has seldom been researched in many SSA countries. However, some studies in South Africa and Nigeria have explored the subject.
In South Africa, (Opper et al., 2014) investigated whether emotional intelligence can be facilitated by the use of outdoor adventure learning. Using a pre-post experimental design, a sample of 76 boys who were enrolled in a private boys’ school embarked on an outdoor adventure intervention called “The Journey”. Results indicated that taking part in “The Journey” resulted in an overall increase in the scores of participants on an Emotional Intelligence (EI) test and in the areas such as ‘intrapersonal skills, adaptability and general mood.’
In Nigeria, (Ajitoni, 2014) conducted a study of 347 pupils in Junior Secondary 3 students from six public schools to investigate the effects of outdoor activities on students’ intercultural competence and achievement in social studies. Utilizing a pre-test post-test, quasi-experimental design, the study suggest that students who were exposed to the outdoor activities in the teaching of multicultural concepts scored higher on tests, compared to students in the control group who were taught using traditional teaching instruction methods. (Ajitoni, 2014) suggest the adoption of active learning strategies such as outdoor learning to improve the teaching of multicultural concepts, especially in cities and classrooms with a diverse ethnic groups (which is the case in most SSA countries)
Similarly, 480 primary 5 pupils from 12 primary schools were used to determine the effectiveness of some outdoor educational strategies compared to the conventional classroom teaching methods in Nigeria. With a pretest, posttest, control group, quasi-experimental design, it was found that there was a positive effect of outdoor education activities on pupils’ environmental knowledge (Ajiboye & Olatundun, 2010). The need to balance indoor and outdoor educational activities is highlighted by Ajiboye & Olatundun (2010), as these activities expose pupils to first hand learning experience in direct contact with an outdoor setting.
The impact of outdoor adventure learning on educational outcomes has rarely been investigated in SSA. Though some schools carry out outdoor adventure learning (such as excursions), there is limited evidence available on the impact of such activities on educational outcomes.
A study conducted in South Africa suggests that outdoor learning interventions may have a positive impact on pupil’s emotional intelligence. Two studies conducted in both primary and secondary schools in Nigeria suggests that the use of outdoor educational activities can facilitate social studies and environmental knowledge more effectively than traditional teacher instruction by helping students to understand first-hand the negative impacts of ethnocentrism, stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, and also for them to have direct contact with outdoor setting as this.
Impact, Security, and Cost of Local Evidence
There is a paucity of research evidence regarding the impact of outdoor adventure learning on educational outcomes in SSA. The few studies conducted so far have focused on the impact of outdoor learning on pupil’s soft skills and in the teaching of social studies Robust, randomized trials are therefore recommended to ascertain the impact of outdoor adventure learning interventions on educational attainment. Evidence is very limited.
The cost of implementing outdoor adventure learning is likely to be moderate.
Outdoor adventure learning, adventure activities; adventure education; bush experience; bushcraft; outdoor learning; outdoor education; experiential education programs; wilderness experience; wilderness education, excursion.
Taylor and Francis
Ajiboye, J. O., & Olatundun, S. A. (2010). Impact of some environmental education outdoor activities on Nigerian primary school pupils’ environmental knowledge. Applied Environmental Education and Communication, 9(3), 149 – 158.
Ajitoni, S. O. (2014). Enhancing Nigerian students’ intercultural competence and achievement in social studies through outdoor activities. Journal of Language and Cultural Education, 2(2), 205 – 217.
Opper, B., Maree, J. G., Fletcher, L., & Sommerville, J. (2014). Efficacy of outdoor adventure education in developing emotional intelligence during adolescence. Journal of Psychology in Africa, 24(2), 193 – 196.