COUNCIL of OUTDOOR LEARNING CoOL Toolkit: PLAN - Surveys
CoOL Toolkit: PLAN Part 1 - Surveys ASK! Conduct Surveys about Outdoor Learning
Conducting a survey is a good way to find out what educators think about teaching outdoors. Survey results can be used to identify needs, prioritize projects, understand potential challenges, and generate interest in taking students outdoors. Engaging teachers (as well as administrators, planners, students and the community) in the planning can inform the process and - equally as important - can generate interest and buy-in.
Survey Instruments Survey Monkey offers free online surveys with up to 10 questions for no more than 40 respondents. The free plan does not offer special features, such as conditional logic (which targets respondents based on previous answers or offers a way to track survey answers by certain characteristics of the respondents). If, for instance, it is important to distinguish teacher priorities from those of parents, or to sort science teachers' preferences apart from all other teachers, an easy work-around is to make duplicates of the survey and provide different groups with links to different survey versions. This also avoids the possibility of exceeding 40 responses per survey and the results can be easily aggregated, when necessary.
Google Forms is another free resource for conducting surveys. As with the free version of Survey Monkey, you can create duplicate versions to provide to teachers, administrators, maintenance staff, parents, students or any groups for which you want separate results.
Results and Analysis Most online survey instruments provide built-in analytics and display results in charts or graphs. Because the act of completing a survey generates hope, it is important share to results and be transparent about how data will be used. Surveys can reveal teachers' professional learning needs, lead to creation of a Schoolyard Master Plan, provide insights that will help in overcoming obstacles, and enable a school to recognize and take advantage of it assets. Publishing an update or actual survey results and showing how data was used to set priorities, helps keep the faith with respondents and builds enthusiasm while resources are sought. Building infrastructure or scheduling a training program without having ascertained the need or interest for it in advance, often engenders resistance. But it is very powerful to say, "You asked for it - you've got it!"
Surveys such as this sample focus on finding out what prevents teachers from taking students outside to learn. It also gives teachers a chance to voice concerns and to propose projects, improvements, resources or support that would make it easier to teach outdoors. Surveys can also identify teachers and parents who would be willing to serve on a planning committee or volunteer to help implement a plan.
What is CoOL? The Council of Outdoor Learning (CoOL) is an initiative of the Environmental Education Alliance (EEA) that focuses on the design, development, use, and sustainability of outdoor learning environments on school campuses. CoOL provides tips and techniques for those who want to create outdoor classrooms or learning stations, hosts an annual symposium to share resources and strategies for teaching outdoors, curates a collection of outdoor learning activities that are integrated with state standards, and provides professional learning workshops, resources and webinars for teachers and non-formal educators