Effective field trips in nature : the interplay between novelty and learning

Jelle Boeve-de Pauw, Jan Vanhoof, Peter Van Petegem

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Educational field trips are common practice in environmental education and education for sustainable development, well recognised by researchers for their potential to achieve cognitive and affective educational outcomes. One of the factors that influences learning during field trips is their novelty. The current study focuses on the interplay between novelty, preparation and environmental learning outcomes of 5th and 6th grade students during a typical field trip in Flanders. Our dependent variables are Inclusion of Nature in the Self, the two major ecological values Preservation and Utilisation and ecosystem knowledge. The sample includes 484 students (1012 years old) and their 24 teachers. Key questions addressed are: (1) What is learned during the field trip? (2) What is the level of novelty for students during a field trip? (3) How does the novelty effect relate to learning? Results show that participation in the field trip leads to a substantial increase in ecosystem knowledge, but fails in reaching the affective goals set out by the field trip organisers. Our results furthermore provide support for the hypothesised non-linear relationship between novelty and knowledge gain, showing that while a little novelty is positive, too much novelty can stand in the way of learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-33
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


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