Developing a coherent theoretical framework for Forest School in the UK

Knight, Sara Ann (2022) Developing a coherent theoretical framework for Forest School in the UK. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


As an early leader in the development of Forest School (FS) in the UK, I published four books, eight book chapters and three academic papers between 2009 and 2019. This work is set within the context of other research on FS, an examination of which leads to the proposition that what is missing from this whole body of research is a coherent theoretical framework. This thesis draws out that framework and presents it as a systematic and synthesised interdisciplinary whole. I describe my ethnographic journey, and explore the development of FS in the UK through related research. Participant observation, reflective accounts and interactive methodologies have led to an embedded understanding of the theories that underpin Forest School. Drawing on my publications and existing research, my reflective analysis shows how my understanding of the complex theoretical structure of Forest School grew over time, expressed in my published work. Research is included which indicates the benefits of FS to participants: social, emotional and personal growth, a sense of place and time, mindfulness and mental health, practical skills and knowledge, and awareness of sustainability. The existing research shows how academics have considered the theoretical roots of Forest School yet these explorations are incomplete, leading to the need for a coherent theoretical framework to support FS.

This framework synthesises pedagogical and practical approaches originating in different academic disciplines to create an interdisciplinary foundation for FS in the UK Theoretical themes form the framework: play, social constructionism and social constructivism, cultural context, attachment and evolutionary biology, which are held together by Six Principles devised by the FS community. These ensure the quality of FS delivery and thus the achievement of the identified outcomes. Lastly, I show the importance of Forest School as an intervention for a modern multicultural society, post-Covid and in a climate emergency.

KnightSara-Ann_Amended-Commentary.pdf - Published Version

Download (1MB) | Preview


Downloads per month over past year

Downloads each year

View Item View Item