The Learning Theories & Application

A summary of 2 recognised learning theories and their relevance to a Forest School Programme

Zone of Proximal Development

Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) is defined as the differences between a children ability to carry out activity independently and with structured assistance.

In the development of ZPD, there are 3 zones, (1) can do, unaided, (2) can do with guidance/help, (3) cannot do. ZPD represents the area under (2), where by children requires scaffolding to achieve the task, he/she has to be assisted via breaking down the process of the task, and concentrating on the task their competent, and gradually building to the complete task/activity.


This process than leads to internalisation and automation, where the child will adopt learning via experience. They will apply those learning, and reinforce or adapt the experience to further learning.

From there, they will arrive at de-automation, where they will re-examine new situation to apply the learning, that will broaden the deepen their ability, making it more adaptable to new situation. The end of that process, will be guiding a child from (3) to (1).

In the Forest School Programme setting, being able to understand ZPD, will give the leader the opportunity and right moment to step in and assist the child to gain the competency.

These will also allow the leader to recognise when to step away to allow the child to carry out the task independently so as to reinforce their own learning.

Mulitple Intelligence

The multiple intelligence model developed by Gardner [16]-image http://thedailynewnation.com.


Multiple Intelligences is defined as a kind of categorisation to represent the different kind of smart that every child would have. Some children will have more than one smart, while some maybe show stronger inclination towards some of their smarts. There are 8 kind of smart in theory.

There is the People Smart, define as children who have a excellent sense of people to people relationships and interaction, they show much care and share, and are really good at making friend.

Then there is the Nature Smart, define as children who are at ease with nature, loves the outdoor and really finds joy in exploring the outdoor environment.

There are also children who are Self Smart, and those are the ones, who work independently, loves quiet space and time, likes to think and imagine, and really enjoys being alone.


There are 5 other Smarts, Music, Body, Maths/Logic, Words, Picture. They all showed traits of extra edge in those field, as well as a strong interest and enjoyment in those fields.

In understanding the multiple intelligence of the children we have in Forest School, we can then observe with a clearer perspective, whenever children carries out a particular activities of their interest, this allows us to understand them.

For our children, the moments of being understood (Considering many people do not understand the words and action of a child), are valuable to their well-being and self-esteem, that they are important.

This will also help in the explanation and facilitation of the learning during the session, as an understanding of M.I. will allow the leader to know from which angle or expression is better for our children to absorb and digest the realisations.

How has learning theory been applied to own Forest School Programme?

Learning theory are like the guidelines for conducting Forest School Programme. They are applied in the facilitation approach, the set up and selection of the environment and the activities for the programme.

In the facilitation approach, observation and reflection will be done, with the learning theory as the guideline, leading to much clearer awareness of the behavioural and cognitive state of the learners, therefore allowing for a more focus learning for the learners on their level of “digestion” and interest.

In the selection of the environment, the theories will serve as the pre-requisite. The environment has to be able to provide a safe and conducive space for learning to occur comfortably, at the same time provide challenges that will lead to the ZPD and engage their multiple intelligence

In the activities, the theories will help shape the intensity and the content of what is delivered, based on the level of ZPD and the interest from the different SMARTS that the learner possess.

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