4 mistakes you can make with school trip teaching

Date Posted: 10/12/2014

How you can use the Real World Learning Network’s hand model to avoid a few pitfalls in field studies.

The Real World Learning Network has its finger in quite a specific pie. Its overall aim is to explore approaches to real world learning that lead to sustainable development.

However, having carried out research across Europe – from the UK to Slovenia – and pursued leads in areas from cognitive psychology to philosophy, the RWLN has amassed vaults full of research into the concept of learning outside the classroom.

Its model for thinking and assessing the practice of outdoor learning for sustainability can also be drawn upon for insight into field trips in general.

Its blue hand model in particular can be used to identify mistakes that you might easily make when teaching children in the field. Here are a few…

1.You’re not looking at the bigger picture

According to the RWLN, real world learning should be experienced as part of a ‘frame’.

So for example, if you’re taking your class climbing, you shouldn’t just teach them how to climb, you should also integrate teaching about how the mountains they are climbing are formed, which muscles they are using, how to fuel those muscles, and how not to waste food etc.

2.You’re not thinking about the values behind your lesson

The RWLN has identified two types of values that influence the way a child approaches a subject. The first type of values are self-focused and include things like the attainment of power and self-interests.

The second type are known as self-transcendence values and include thinking about others and so on. According to the RWLN, the most powerful learning outside the classroom experiences occur when children are motivated by the second type of values.

When taking children into the field, you can keep their focus in the right direction by asking questions concerning these values – for example ask questions such as ‘how is the action you are taking now going to affect the other pupils in your group’ and ‘what has your partner learned through this task?’

3.You’re doing too much yourself

It’s easy to want to micromanage everything on a school trip, to make sure nothing goes wrong. However, the RWLN’s research suggests that the best learning takes place when children take responsibility for their own progression.

Give them the chance to ask questions and take the session to the next stage. Ask them what they think is the best thing or task to do next – and again, bear in mind the impact these decision will have on the rest of the group. 

4. You’re forgetting about transferability

According to the RWLN, the most powerful learning experiences occur when children connect their experiences to what they experience at home.

So, keep asking questions and getting children to connect what they are learning to their wider communities, the non-natural environment, and even global society as a whole.

For example, if you’re taking your students on a bush craft course and they are learning about lighting a fire – ask them questions about how they keep warm at home. Even stretch the topic further to ask what might happen to their neighbours and friends if the world ran out of firewood etc.

To find out more about the Real World Learning Network visit www.rwlnetwork.org

School Travel Organiser's Guide