Introducing Dr John Allan

Introducing Dr John Allan

An introductory Q&A with our Head of Learning and Impact

We are delighted to welcome Dr John Allan to the team at Skern Lodge. John joins us as our new Head of Learning and Impact.

This role really brings to life the importance of adventure learning, and its impact on character development; a key requirement in Ofsted’s framework. Find out more about Dr John Allan in our Q&A.

Q: What experience do you have in the field of education?
A: For the past 25 years, I have worked across the education sector, leading ‘teaching and learning’ in schools, and heading up the Sport and Leisure provision in Further Education, before going on to become a lead academic in Sports Pedagogy, Psychology and Adventure Education in Higher Education. I have a Doctorate (PhD) in Positive Psychology and Building Psychological Resilience through Outdoor Adventure; an area I am very passionate about. I am also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy(SFHEA), and a qualified outdoor practitioner.

Q: Tell us more aboutyour area of expertise
A: My expertise is centred in sports pedagogy (teaching and learning) in the area of positive psychology and outdoor adventure. I have designed and lead range of positive psychology intervention programmes with elite mountaineers, school children, business leaders, asylum seekers and refugees. My research includes international and national journal publications, book chapters, keynote addresses, conference symposiums, presentations and on-line teaching and learning packages.  

Q: What is positive psychology?
A: Positive psychology empowers individuals to thrive rather than focusing on their limitations. This includes; changing individual’s self-perceptions, creating pro-social attitudes, building resilience and enhancing health and well-being. When purposefully applied, outdoor adventure learning can develop a range of strength-based behaviours in people of all backgrounds; which is something Skern Lodge strives to facilitate as part of their adventure programmes.

Q: How is your work used in practice?
A: Specifically for Skern Lodge, my work aligns perfectly to help educators identify the demonstrable, wide-ranging impact of experiential learning across their activity programmes.

I firmly believe research should make real-life constructive differences to people in health and education, by supporting commercial enterprise and informing strategic policies locally, nationally and internationally. This evidence-based practice approach is exemplified in my recent research within the 2021 books Health and Wellbeing in an Outdoor and Adventurous Sports Context, Nature and Health, Physical Activity in Nature in the 2022 peer-reviewed journal Psychiatry International

Q: What is adventure learning and why is it important?
A: Adventure learning is central to any understanding of human development, namely the importance of powerful first-hand learning. By actively engaging in nature-based activities, which are both emotionally stimulating and test our preconceived ideas of our capabilities, we invariably discover new adaptive approaches in how we think, feel and act.

Well-delivered outdoor learning programmes, such as those available at Skern Lodge, allow people to discover their strengths and learn from mistakes; counter the restrictions of traditional educational practices and create opportunities for people to think critically, manage their stress and work effectively with others. These skills are the vital building blocks for wider, holistic educational attainment in life in general. As over half of all lifetime mental disorders have been diagnosed by mid-teens, it is important for young people to practice managing everyday stress. Without this, young people are facing a pathway into poor mental health as middle-aged adults. I really believe in the impact of learning through residential adventures and the benefits of being exposed to positive, real-life experiences from a young age.