TEACHOUT - results of the study


The TEACHOUT study's research results on outdoor education in one place

The purpose of this website is to support teachers, students and other interested parties who, either in Danish or English, want to gain insight into the results of the TEACHOUT study in short form as well as the opportunity to find more in-depth links to PhD projects, book chapters and international publications. The results include students and teachers using outdoor school as a method to promote movement, learning and motivation in primary school.

The inspiration materials also provide the opportunity to watch films, video clips or listen to podcasts about outdoor education as a whole.






For the past 20 years, Erik Mygind, together with a large number of colleagues, has researched what it means for pupils to move teaching out of the classroom. Currently, the TEACHOUT study - from 2014-2018 - is the largest national as well as international extracurricular project. 15 scientific articles and 17 book chapters has been published and the project was financed by the Tryg Foundation, the Institute of Nutrition and Sports Science in Copenhagen and VIA UC, Aarhus with a combined budget around 11 million Danish Kr.

Knowledge and materials are now gathered in one place and made accessible on the website, ‘Center for Children and Nature’, University of Copenhagen. From an international perspective, Denmark is acknowledged as a leader when it comes to research in udeskole – weekly or bi-weekly regular teaching outside the school buildings. A major strength of the TEACHOUT project was the inclusion of control classes taught on average approximately one hour per week, while the outdoor school classes had 5 hours of outdoor school per week. The project has had a great impact on the dissemination of knowledge about the potential of udeskole at the youngest grade level (3rd-6th grade) in terms of physical activity, learning (Danish and mathematics) as well as social relations and motivation.

The TEACHOUT study shows, among other things, that pupils are more physically active when they are taught outside the school buildings and not at least in nature. In general, both girls and boys experience increased light physical activity compared to pupils in the parallel classes, but the boys also increased moderate to hard physical activity.

In the TEACHOUT project, practical activities and academic tasks were combined. In other words, the pupils used their body and brain at the same time. This means that learning and movement are connected. In relation to learning, it was investigated what the pupils learned in Danish and mathematics. No significant difference was found between the udeskole classes compared to the control classes in mathematics, but the udeskole classes made significant improvements in reading skills. The combination of outside and inside teaching as well as the increased communication between the pupils can possibly explain this positive finding.

Furthermore, the project showed that outdoor education has a positive influence on pupils' motivation and well-being. In the control classes, motivation decreased throughout the year, while the pupils who were taught outside the school buildings one day a week maintained their motivation to go to school. Finally, outdoor schoolteachers express that teaching outdoors is more demanding, but also very rewarding in terms of their relationship with the students and personal values.

Due to the TEACHOUT project's quasi-experimental design, the results must be judged and evaluated with this in mind, because the teachers who met the inclusion criteria were both engaged and motivated in teaching outdoors. This bias has been taken into account in a new Danish project – MOVEOUT (grades 4-9). The strength of this study is the attempt to complete the study with a randomized controlled trial design – although not easy (2022-2026). The project mainly concentrates on physical activity, movement, and health, but also examines learning and motivation. As something new, pupils in the secondary school are also included in the study. As part of the MOVEOUT study, a booklet has been published that provides knowledge, inspiration and examples of udeskole teaching. Furthermore, 18 video teaching materials and three films to support teachers who would like to use outdoor education as a method to promote movement, learning and motivation in elementary school. Read more about MOVEOUT on the University of Copenhagen's website.



Perspectives on outdoor school didactics and the teacher's work with outdoor school

In her PhD project, Karen Barfod has investigated the teachers' work with udeskole. Partly through analyzes of the school's didactic basis, based on the tension between Arne N. Jordet's work and an educational discourse that attaches great importance to the school's impact goals, and partly through empirical analyses.

The didactic analysis places udeskole in a critical position, where an educational discourse with a focus on testable goals is challenged or balanced by giving general education more space. Udeskole does not seem to be a countermovement, but a balance block in the contemporary educational landscape.

The participants in the empirical part were experienced outdoor teachers who taught intermediate school. Through interviews and observations of the teaching, a picture emerged of a versatile and very varied practice, where the teachers worked with broad educational goals that went beyond what is usually tested for in primary school.

A transversal, thematic analysis of the interviews showed that the teachers felt that udeskole gave them the opportunity to develop their teaching competence, but at the same time was a large and often lonely workload. A workload that was worth taking on, as the teaching came to include both the goal-directed part and a more educational qualification that was in line with the teachers' values.

The work with the analysis of practice observations of five experienced teachers points to the fact that udeskole practice of these five teachers involves inquiry-based forms of work in mathematics and nature/technology for the pupils. The teaching also contains several elements of more closed activities with a focus on training task types or skills. It is thus apparently not only about problem-based, sensual and playful approaches to teaching in udeskole. Further, analyzes could compare forms of practice outside and inside. A work with conversation analysis of the teaching could be interesting to get even closer to what is the peculiarity of the extracurricular teaching.

Teaching outside the classroom increases the physical activity of boys in particular

In his PhD project, Mikkel Bo Schneller has investigated 16 outdoor school classes in the years 3rd-6th grade. Each class was paired with a parallel class in the same year and at the same school. One class had to have extracurricular lessons on selected days, while the parallel class had to continue teaching as normal.

Along the way, their physical activity was measured. Physical activity was measured using a motion sensor called an accelerometer that was attached to the skin with tape. In the project, we were very successful in developing a new method for this, which meant that we obtained 24-hour measurements of physical activity with very high quality for many children during the week that the measurement period lasted.

A total of 361 children had their physical activity measured in a continuous week, on days with udeskole, days with physical education, days without udeskole and physical education and weekends.

Extracurricular activities led to more physical activity for the students compared to a regular teaching day at school (without physical education). For the boys, moderate to hard physical activity was significantly higher compared to boys in the comparison classes, i.e., 20 minutes daily measured over 24 hours a day and 7 full days. For the girls, no difference was found in terms of moderate to hard physical activity seen over a whole week, but if the out-of-school days are compared to a normal teaching day, a significant increase in light physical activity was found. Use of nature and green areas stimulate to a higher level of physical activity among both sexes.

The effect of extracurricular activities on students' well-being, social relations and school motivation

In his PhD project, Mads Bølling has investigated the effect regular outdoor schooling has on pupils' general psychosocial well-being, friendships in the class and motivation for schoolwork. Several studies have concluded that outdoor schools and similar forms of education in other countries have the potential to give pupils in primary school a positive experience of going to school - both socially and academically.

Few studies have investigated the effect of extracurricular activities on pupils' friendships. For example, the Danish Rødkilde project showed that pupils in a nature class had more and more versatile friendships over the course of three years. Only one study has examined the effect of udeskole on pupils' psychosocial well-being and showed that udeskole had a positive effect, but only for boys. Conclusions about the effect of udeskole on pupils' well-being, social relations and school motivation are generally based on individual intervention studies lasting a few days or weeks or case studies with relatively few pupils.

The purpose of the PhD project has therefore been to investigate the long-term effect of being taught regularly outside the school buildings in relation to pupils' psychosocial well-being, friendships in the class and motivation for schoolwork.

Pupils from 27 classes in grades 3 to 6 were taught regularly outside the school buildings throughout the 2014/15 school year (5 hours). At the same time, pupils from seven of their parallel classes were taught as usual with minimal use of udeskole (about 1 hour). All students had their psychosocial well-being, school motivation and social friendships measured in the classes at the start and end of the school year. The actual extent of extracurricular activities in the 34 classes was reported daily by the class teachers.

The results show that pupils' internal motivation for schoolwork increases, that is, that their school activities are motivating in themselves and thus the pupils' well-being. Furthermore, teaching outside the school buildings seems to have a weak - but positive - effect on pupils' social friendships.

Teacher processes in udeskole

In her PhD project, Camilla Roed Otte has investigated whether there is a correlation between regular outdoor education and school pupils' reading results, whether there is a correlation between outdoor education and school pupils' mathematics results, and whether outdoor education promotes motivation for learning. Earlier studies point out that out-of-school education has the potential to promote professionalism and pupils' motivation for learning, but few studies have investigated this through academic tests, and the studies are often smaller case studies.

Therefore, the purpose of this PhD project is to investigate the two major academic areas in the primary school, namely reading and basic mathematical skills, in order to examine the professionalism after a long-term and continuous extracurricular course, where udeskole classes are compared with parallel classes that have not been in outside the school buildings to the same extent.

To test reading and basic mathematical skills, valid and recognized tests from Hogrefe have been used. Motivation for learning is measured via the test instrument: Academic Self-Regulation Questionnaire (SRQ-A), which is based on Self-determination theory.

What is interesting here is whether udeskole actually promotes pupils' skills in reading and mathematics, whether their motivation for learning is strengthened, and which mechanisms can explain any improvement or decline. Results show that udeskole strengthens pupils' reading skills and motivation for learning. However, no significant difference can be found in pupils' competences in mathematics when you compare the pupils who have had some of their mathematics in udeskole with students who have not had mathematics in udeskole.



The teacher's role in an outdoor school

Increased provision of udeskole in Danish schools: an updated national population surveyUrban Forestry & Urban Greening, 20(1), 277-281. Barfod, K., Ejbye-Ernst, N., Mygind, L. & Bentsen, P. (2016).

Potentials in Udeskole: Inquiry-Based Teaching Outside the ClassroomFrontiers in Education3. Barfod, K. S., & Daugbjerg, P. (2018). 

Maintaining mastery but feeling professionally isolated: experienced teachers’ perceptions of teaching outside the classroomJournal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 1–13. Barfod, K. S. (2017). 

Outdoor school and its importance for motivation and well-being

Education outside the classroom and pupils’ social relations? A one-year quasi-experimentInternational Journal of Educational Research94, 29-41. Bølling, M., Pfister, G. U., Mygind, E., & Nielsen, G. (2019). 

Association of Education Outside the Classroom and Pupils' Psychosocial Well‐Being: Results From a School Year ImplementationJournal of school health89 (3), 210-218. Bølling, M., Niclasen, J., Bentsen, P., & Nielsen, G. (2019).

The association between education outside the classroom and students’ school motivation: Results from a one-school-year quasi-experimentInternational Journal of Educational Research, 89, 2235. Bølling, M., Otte, C. R.1, Elsborg, P., Nielsen, G., & Bentsen, P. (2018).

Pupils' experience with outdoor school

Swings and roundabouts? Pupils’ experiences of social and academic well-being in education outside the classroomEducation 3-13, 0(0), 1–16. Jørring, A.H., Bølling, M., Nielsen, G., Stevenson, M.P., & Bentsen, P. (2019).

Teachers' experience with outdoor school

Mygind, E., Bølling, M., & Barfod, K. (2018). Primary teachers’ experiences with weekly education outside the classroom during a yearEducation 3-13, International Journal of Primary, Elementary and Early Years Education.

The TEACHOUT project's design and possible impact on stress and cognitive abilities

Mygind, L.; Stevenson, M.P.; Liebst, L.S.; Konvalinka, I.; Bentsen, P. (2018) Stress Response and Cognitive Performance Modulation in Classroom versus Natural Environments: A Quasi-Experimental Pilot Study with ChildrenInt. J. Environ. Res. Public Health15, 1098.

A quasi-experimental cross-disciplinary evaluation of the impacts of Education Outside the Classroom on pupils’ physical activity, well-being and learning: the TEACHOUT study protocolBMC Public Health, 16, 1117. Nielsen, G., Mygind, E., Bølling, M., Otte, C.R., Schneller, M.B., Ejbye-Ernst, N., Schipperijn, J., & Bentsen, P. (2016). 

Pupils' learning of Danish and mathematics in outdoor school

Education outside the classroom increases children's reading performance: Results from a one-year quasi-experimental studyInternational Journal of Educational Research94, 42-51. Otte, C. R., Bølling, M., Stevenson, M. P., Ejbye-Ernst, N., Nielsen, G., & Bentsen, P. (2019). 

Teaching maths outside the classroom: does it make a difference? Educational Research61 (1), 38-52. Otte, C. R., Bølling, M., Elsborg, P., Nielsen, G., & Bentsen, P. (2019)

Pupils' physical activity in outdoor school

Measuring Children's Physical Activity: Compliance Using Skin-taped AccelerometersMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 49(6), 1261-1269. Schneller, M.B., Bentsen, P., Nielsen, G., Brønd, J.C., Ried-Larsen, M., Mygind, E., & Schipperijn, J. (2017).

Are children participating in a quasi-experimental education outside the classroom intervention more physically active? BMC Public Health, 17(1), 523. Schneller, M.B., Duncan, S., Schipperijn, J., Nielsen, G., & Mygind, E., & Bentsen, P. (2017). 

Children’s physical activity during a segmented school week: results from a quasi-experimental education outside the classroom interventionInternational Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14(1), 80. Schneller, M.B., Schipperijn, J., Nielsen, G., & Bentsen, P. (2017). 

The book that collects all the results of the TEACHOUT study in Danish

Antologi. TEACHOUT - projektets resultater (2020). 9 kapitler. 231 sider. Forlaget Frydenlund. Erik Mygind (red.)