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ALS Handbook

 

The Adventure Learning Schools Handbook is available from the ALS office at £19.95 per copy.

Here is a review by Dr Chris Loynes of The University of Cumbria

 

Adventure Learning Schools: an education fit for the future?

 

Despite many interventions, current approaches to education are making little inroad on improving the lot of young people in a fast changing world. A new approach to education that prepares young people for the future as best we can has become an imperative. Until now, few if any of the proposed strategies have seemed workable. Now, a new approach with firm foundations in educational philosophy, has placed learning to learn from experience at the heart of learning and teaching, Adventure Learning Schools (ALS). The approach is catching on and it has the potential to transform primary and secondary school education.

 

Experience has been placed at the core of educational philosophies for over two thousand years. More recently experience has been highlighted as essential for deep learning, slow learning, affective learning and other innovative ideas founded on our new and rapidly expanding knowledge of brain function. There is increasing evidence that experiences also impacts significantly on the development of knowledge and skills more generally. At the same time the essential knowledge and skills needed be an adult – at work, at home, in the community – has never been harder to determine in the fast changing economic, political, environmental and social worlds of today. It is even harder to imagine what knowledge and skills will be needed in the near future. It is not surprising that campaigners for a new approach to education are arguing that what young people need most are the skills and aptitudes to learn for themselves and with each other. In the information age knowledge and skills are easy to come by. What is needed, it is claimed, are the abilities to acquire them and the contexts in which to learn how to apply them. Experience is back in the centre of good education again.

 

Until now however, there have been few if any transformative approaches to education that have the potential to provide an effective and manageable strategy for providing such an education in our schools. Adventure Learning Schools (ALS) does just that. And now there is a handbook to explain the idea and give schools the principles by which they can develop the approach for themselves.

 

ALS seeks to target schools in areas of social deprivation that have areas of wild country close by, places like Cumbria with deprived estates in towns on the edge of the Lake District National Park. The approach does involve a significant dose of outdoor education, which ALS claim, develop the confident, moral and autonomous young person ready and willing to learn. However, what is special about this approach is that adventure learning is also a concept for a whole school approach to enquiry based teaching and learning in as well as out of the classroom. This is achieved by focussing on core curriculum knowledge, reducing the quantity of the wider curriculum, taking a thematic approach and developing through experiences competent learners with deeper understanding of skills and knowledge, how to gain them and how to apply them to problems in the real world.  Experiences such as expeditions, community service, scientific investigation or a community issue provide contexts to learn from and apply learning to. Importantly attention is also given to intensive learning to support catch up and stretch so that all learners are supported or challenged appropriately.

 

The approach is not only founded on strong educational philosophies from Plato, Dewey and Kurt Hahn of Outward Bound fame. Prof David Hopkins, the inspiration behind the ALS approach, has developed detailed strategies for teaching and learning, school organisation and implementation founded on his extensive understanding of the implications of current educational research.

 

Commentators are increasingly saying a new education is urgently needed for a different and unpredictable future. Engaging with such a future sounds like it could be an adventure. Whilst ALS are quick to say that their approach will not suit all and it will not solve all our educational challenges, Adventure Learning Schools could play a major part in providing that new education. The proof is in the pudding so I’m looking forward to finding out how the growing number of ALS schools and academies are implementing this approach and what difference it is making to the their students. The handbook is an important contribution, supporting schools considering joining the ALS network and all educators seeking inspiration for the challenges ahead.

 

Dr Chris Loynes

University of Cumbria

 

"The approach is not only founded on strong educational philosophies from Plato, Dewey and Kurt Hahn of Outward Bound fame. Prof David Hopkins, the inspiration behind the ALS approach, has developed detailed strategies for teaching and learning, school organisation and implementation founded on his extensive understanding of the implications of current educational research."
Dr Chris Loynes
University of Cumbria

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