Research: The liberating practices of the scout movement can inspire transformative change in schools

Friday, March 1, 2024 - 09:35

A new study by the Research Centre for Human Development (CEDH) of the Faculty of Education and Psychology (FEP) of the Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP) has concluded that the learning experiences of young people involved in scout movements can be used to inspire transformative changes in the pedagogical practices of schools (formal education system).

The study, entitled Scouts’ Perspectives on Learning Experiences from a Pedagogical Innovation Scope and published in the journal Education Sciences, analysed the learning experiences of young adults, aged between 18 and 22 who had been members of the National Scout Corps (CNE) for around 12 years.

Participants were asked about their learning experiences in the CNE - the largest Portuguese Scout movement - and how these experiences could help transform the formal education system.

According to José Matias Alves, coordinator of the research, whose first author is student José Sinde, "the research project aimed to find out how the participants described their learning experiences in the context of the largest Portuguese scout movement, trying to identify different indicators of pedagogical innovation in their narratives, the subjective value they attached to these indicators, and what they thought about how the formal education system could rethink education based on some of the liberating and emancipatory practices of Portuguese scouting".


The Scout movement as a unique and valuable learning experience

The results found in the participants' discourse strongly suggest that the Scout movement offers a unique and valuable learning experience and that it can provide ideas for transformative changes in the formal education system.

Participants highlighted the importance of teamwork, experiential learning, leadership and contact with nature as very important aspects of their learning. Young people also reported that the Scout movement helped them to develop important life skills such as autonomy, resilience and social responsibility.

The research thus shows that schools can make their pedagogical practices more innovative by incorporating elements of scouting pedagogy. This movement emphasises active learning, in which young people are the protagonists of their own learning process, which is consistent with several indicators of pedagogical innovation. Furthermore, these practices contribute to the integral development of the individual, going beyond mere curricular content.

Given the learning experiences reported by the participants in the research, schools could invest in "more freedom to learn, more personalisation of teaching, more flexibility in the way students are grouped, more use of open and social spaces, and more flexibility in the use of time (depending on the characteristics of the students)", says Matias Alves.

For the FEP Professor and CEDH researcher, the paper proves that "a different education is possible, as we have repeatedly shown".


The need for more in-depth research into the pedagogical work of the National Scout Corps

The authors of the study advocate a more in-depth exploration of the pedagogical workings of the CNE and its potential to inspire transformative change in educational systems around the world, as suggested by the reflections of the young people interviewed in the paper.