Cannot See the Forest for the Trees? Comparing Learning Outcomes of a Field Trip vs. a Classroom Approach
Anthropogenically induced environmental changes, such as the persistent loss of biodiversity and decline in global forest stocks, require comprehensive, societal change towards sustainable behavior. Education is considered the key to empowering sustainable decision-making, cooperative participation, high levels of commitment, and motivation to support environmental protection. Holistic Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) approaches aim to foster eco-friendly behavior by combining
... ge acquisition with the promotion of affective drivers. The present study focuses on monitoring the individual interplay between ecological knowledge and environmental values. We compared learning outcomes within two environments: a nature-based, out-of-school setting at a local forest (study 1) and a classroom setting (study 2). Overall, 444 German 7th grade students participated in learner-centered activities on the topic of the forest ecosystem under anthropogenic influences. Following a quasi-experimental study design, we monitored pro-environmental and anthropogenic values (Preservation and Utilization) and knowledge at three test times: before (T1), directly after (T1) and six weeks after (T2) participation in the learning program. Students in both treatments acquired short- and long-term environmental knowledge regardless of the learning environment but in neither case did the learning activities intervene with individual environmental values. However, Preservation showed a positive correlation with the mean knowledge scores in both studies, while for Utilization, this relationship was reversed. A comparison of extreme groups revealed that, in both treatment groups, students with high pro-environmental values and low anthropogenic values showed a significantly better performance than their counterparts. Our findings highlight the importance of monitoring pro-environmental values when preparing educational modules for student groups independent from the learning environment.