Residentials are often the most memorable experience of students’ school days. Learning Away’s research has declared them as “providing opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting. The combination of activities and shared experience of living and learning with others makes a residential a unique learning opportunity.” They have been described by teachers as “worth half a term in school”.
Learning Away’s compelling action research, spanning five years with 60 schools discovered that the impact of a residential is even greater when schools follow a set of guiding principles which can transform residentials into highly effective, ‘Brilliant Residentials’ (find out more at learningaway.org. uk/residentials). It’s easy to see the benefits for your students, then - but what is in it for you? You may be thinking that dealing with your students’ travel sickness, sleep walking or leaking shower gel is not the career high you’ve been looking for – but actually, residentials have been proven to play a transformational role for the staff involved too. Here are five reasons to say ‘yes’ next time your HoD is looking for volunteers:.
1. Widen and develop your pedagogical skills
Residentials give you time to reflect on your practice and your teaching, to become more experimental and flexible. In the Learning Away programme, teachers were more willing and confident to take risks and try new methods. Teachers were also more trusting of their students and linked this to the improved relationships developed on residentials.
“My teaching is much more kinaesthetic, more practical, more moving around, it’s trusting the kids a little bit more. Before the residential, I was probably a little bit afraid about doing that sort of thing, whereas now I know I can handle it, it’s fine and I’m getting much more positive results from it.” (Staff Focus Group)
2. Grow your professional development opportunities
Teaching assistants, teachers and school managers widely agree that residentials play a significant role in their professional development, in particular through the opportunities to take on additional responsibility. They also present the opportunity to develop planning and organisation, evaluation and volunteer management skills.
3. Boost your understanding of your students
Residentials give you space to discover things about your students you cannot see in the classroom. The more trusting relationships that develop between staff and students mean that students often share more about themselves, which enables staff to better understand their behaviours.
4. Enhance your relationships with staff
The high-trust relationships built between staff on residentials have l ong-lasting impacts at both professional and personal levels. Residentials give staff the opportunity to work with colleagues from other subject areas and/ or year groups as well as spend extended time with each other both during planning sessions – within and across schools – and on residentials themselves.
“When does an art teacher get to hang out with a maths teacher? You get to know all these different members of staff on a whole different level and… build friendships. It makes you think ‘I quite like work because I quite like the people I work with,’ and that makes you happier, which makes you enjoy your job, which is fed through to the kids.” (Staff focus group)
5. Increase cohesion and sense of belonging
The sense of community and the memorability of experiences on residentials help to boost your cohesion and a sense of belonging in your school both during the residential and afterwards. On the Learning Away programme, staff and students put this down to teamwork, stronger relationships and getting to know people with whom they did not normally work.
“You feel more part of the school now you know more people.” (Secondary student focus group)
About the author
Kim Somerville is campaign coordinator for Learning Away - find out more at learningaway.org.uk