Learning Outside Formal Education

Learning Outside Formal Education (LOFE) is a ground-breaking research and scholarship groups within Plymouth Institute of Education with a critical interdisciplinary focus on education and learning in its widest sense. We are particularly interested in how learning takes place in spaces beyond formal education: in nature, communities, cultures and families. We also critique the normative assumptions, concepts and practices of formal education.

Our themes


Our research has influenced schools across the world to employ the outdoors to transform curriculum and pedagogy. We also take a broader perspective with projects including Forest Schools, place centred play, marginalised young people learning in nature, and the benefits of camping for learning and wellbeing. We also have a strong interest in post human theory and methodologies.


Our research explores how education and learning shapes and is shaped by diverse communities both locally and globally. We take an interdisciplinary approach working across the arts, social care, and youth provision to understand and have a positive impact on practice. We are also interested in alternative communities and the ways in which learning takes place there. This includes eco-communities and alternative universities. Our research develops new concepts around how we define community and learning.


We are strong in comparative research which explores how educational pedagogies and curricula in schools and universities are shaped by cultural norms, practices and philosophies. This includes research in early years in Ethiopia, in schools across Germany, Denmark and UK and in universities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We also explore how learning takes place through cultural forms such as music and in cultural spaces like museums. We have taken a lead role in theorising Education and Culture


The family, in all its multiple forms is where much of our learning either happens or is supported. Our interests range from how babies learn, how families support transitions into schooling, digital learning in the home, and the role families play in supporting first generation students in HE.


All our research takes a critical approach to normative practices and concepts within the field of education and learning. This includes analysis of national education policy and its impact on social justice, critiques of the role of assessment in schools and deconstruction of the concept of inclusion in universities.

Learning Outside Formal Education: research networks

We work closely with research networks to enhance our knowledge and expertise in education

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