Checking in in the outdoors

Since beginning my teaching career I have always endeavoured to be a reflective practitioner; considering my practice and how effective it was for the learners in my care.  In order to be able to do this effectively you of course need to self-assess but you should also seek feedback from your group/class.  Planning in this sort of reflective evaluation time into lessons and/or CPD gives you an opportunity to reassess how you would do things differently next time AND encourages participants to be self-aware.  Here are some of the techniques that I regularly use outdoors:


Head Heart Bin (Bag)

  • Have three posters with a head, heart and bin drawn in the centre of each
  • Participants write feedback on post it notes and stick to corresponding poster
  • Head: things you learned (about yourself, knowledge, skills, contacts)
  • Bin: things you would rather have done less of or things that didn’t go so well
  • Heart: things you loved or things that made you feel happy

People in the tree

  • Print and laminate a set of ‘people in a tree evaluation’ drawings
  • Before and after an experience you ask participants to choose a figure that represents how they are feeling
  • Participants explain to a partner which character they chose and why
  • Can be repeated after the experience to gain an idea of ‘distance travelled’

Mood landscape

  • Similar to People in the tree above but instead participants are presented with a drawing of a landscape and asked to draw themselves into the landscape
  • They must explain why the location they chose represents how they are feeling about their current learning

Voting pebbles

  • You can use pebbles, conkers or pine cones for these evaluation activities. Or any natural materials that is abundant locally.
  • Zones of relevance: Draw a target of concentric circles and ask participants to place pebble in the most appropriate place for them with bullseye being ‘agree’  and outer circles being disagree
  • Ballot: have ice cream tubs with slots cut in their lids and happy, sad and neutral faces on.  Pose a question to participants and ask them to vote with their pebble
  • Questions: take some flip chart paper and make a grid of questions and spaces for happy, sad or neutral answers.  Participants place their pebble in the most relevant space.
  • All outcomes can be photographed as a record of the pupils’ feelings.

Diamond ranking

  • Used as a way of prioritising
  • Choose top 9 ‘things’ (experiences, moments, learning, statements….) and arrange them into a diamond shaped formation with most important/relevant at the top and least at the bottom

I use these strategies regularly in my training and have used them during outdoor learning sessions with children and young people.  These techniques can all be used effectively for assessment purposes; either for an individual lesson, an outdoor experience, a school-grounds development, a residential visit or a whole scheme of work.  Versatile and straightforward!

NB: for more info on these and other evaluative techniques you can visit the brand new ACEWild website which is a result of a 2 year UK/Dutch/German Erasmus+ Project.