Making a difference through education outside the classroom

How can educational experiences in public spaces such as museums, libraries and eco-sanctuaries support learners to address pressing social and environmental issues?Victoria University of Wellington’s Dr Andrea Milligan has been awarded a Teaching and Learning Research Initiative (TLRI) funding to find out.

Education outside the classroom, a young girl holds a page with different plants as she attempts to identify a large plant she is standing in front of.

Dr Milligan, who is Associate Dean (Teacher Education) and a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, is conducting research that explores how Education Outside The Classroom (EOTC) can help students to respond to big issues—such as increasing diversity and environmental degradation—that face New Zealand communities. Her research team will investigate how the cross-curricular themes of ‘future-focused issues’ and ‘active participation’ can be developed through EOTC.

Working with four primary and secondary teachers, and 12 informal educators, this two-year research project will explore how teachers and informal educators can create stronger connections between the classroom and informal learning. The aim to enhance children and young people’s critical, creative and democratic engagement with issues that face them and society.

“Opportunities for EOTC are highly valued by students and schools,” says Dr Milligan. “However, very little is known both internationally and locally about how short-term collaborations between teachers and informal educators can help students learn from EOTC visits,” she says.

The collaborative action research project has a strong practical focus of value to all New Zealand schools and EOTC providers. The intention is to generate effective collaboration tools, planning frameworks, learning and teaching strategies, and manageable assessment tools.

The TLRI is funded by the New Zealand government and administered by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research | Rangahau Mātauranga o Aotearoa.