Learning Outside Formal Education montage
Learning Outside Formal Education (LOFE) is a ground-breaking research and scholarship group within Plymouth Institute of Education that has a critical interdisciplinary focus on learning in its widest sense. There are many possible definitions of learning outside formal education, and we are particularly interested in how learning takes place in spaces such as communities, cultures, families and outdoors. We also critique the normative assumptions, concepts and practices of formal education. 

Our themes


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.


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.


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.


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.

LOFE critique

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.

Mayflower Community Impact Day when the community comes together to do a bit of a grounds makeover to help improve the school campus and outdoor learning environment for the benefit of the children.

Selected publications

Anderson, J., & Gristy, C. (2014). Coaching of staff in schools: What can we learn from the new role of the masters in teaching and learning in-school coach for schools and the higher education tutors working alongside them? In L. La Velle (Ed) Masterliness in the Teaching Profession (1st ed), London: Routledge (pp. 106-121).
Edwards-Jones, A., Waite, S. & Passy, R. (2016) Falling into LINE: school strategies for overcoming challenges associated with learning in natural environments (LINE), Education 3-13, DOI: 10.1080/03004279.2016.1176066.
Gilchrist, M. & Passy, R. (2018) Natural Connections Demonstration Project: Sustainability Project January 2018.
Gilchrist, M., Passy, R., Waite, S., Lewis, J., Hunt, A. & Blackwell, I. (2017) Natural Connections Demonstration Project, 2012-2016: Analysis of the Key Evaluation Questions, Natural England.
Gilchrist, M., Passy, R., Waite, S. & Cook, R. (2016) Exploring schools’ use of natural spaces, in Freeman, C. & Tranter, P. (eds) Risk, Protection, Provision and Policy, Vol. 12 of Skelton, T. (Ed) Geographies of Children and Young People. Springer, Singapore. doi:10.1007/978-981-4585-99-6_18-1.
Gristy, C., Letherby, G., & Watkins, R. (2019). Schooling, selection and social mobility over the last 50 years: An exploration through stories of lifelong learning journeys. British Journal of Educational Studies, 1-17. doi:10.1080/00071005.2019.1589416.
Gristy, C., & Johnson, R. (2017). Home-to-school transport in contemporary schooling contexts: an irony in motion. British Journal of Educational Studies, 1-19. doi:10.1080/00071005.2017.1346229.
Morgan, A. (2019) ‘Salting’: preserving, seasoning, savouring, purifying and transforming through ‘marine adventuring’, Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, Vol.19 Issue 2 (pp140-158), DOI: 10.1080/14729679.2019.1568894.
Morgan, A. (2018) Culturing the fruits of the forest: realising the multifunctional potential of space and place in the context of woodland and/or Forest Schools, Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, Vol. 21 Issue 1. (pp117-130).
Morgan, A. and Waite, S. (2018) Nestling into the World: The Importance of Place and Mutuality in the Early Years in Huggins, V. and Evans, D. (Eds)(2018) Early Childhood Care and Education for Sustainability: International Perspectives. London: Routledge (pp51-66).
Page, A., Bremner, M. & Passy, R. (2017) School Gardens and the School Food Plan: contributing to a culture of healthy living, in Waite, S. (ed) Children Learning Outside from Birth to Eleven (second edition), London: Sage.